By Jacelyn Nesmith | Content Development Specialist on February 19, 2021 at 1:38 PM
Each month, we spotlight a teacher who equips students with tools and skills to be successful using innovative and outstanding teaching methods. In honor of CTE Month, we are excited to recognize two outstanding teachers as the iCEV Teacher of the Month.
Agricultural teachers at Westminster High School, located in Westminster, Colorado, Heather Crabtree and Lucas Naeger, are a dynamic duo. Located just eight miles from downtown Denver in Westminster Colorado, Crabtree and Naeger have built a well-respected agricultural program over the last few years.
Originally from Indiana, Crabtree earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from Purdue University. Upon graduating college, Crabtree began working in the hospitality industry, and later began planning events for corporations and youth organizations. At National FFA Convention in 2016, Crabtree decided to pursue a career as agricultural educator after hearing of an open position at Westminster High School.
Similar to Crabtree, Naeger received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Missouri. He also began working in the hospitality industry upon graduating. Crabtree and Naeger’s paths crossed 12 years ago while working a tennis tournament in California. While working together, Naeger shared he has always had an interest in teaching. Once a position opened at Westminster High School, Naeger took the opportunity to work with Crabtree again.
Crabtree and Naeger have transformed the Westminster program into all-encompassing agricultural pathways. Today, the Westminster agricultural department offers three pathways to students, including animal science, plant science and power structure technical systems (PSTS). Each year, there are between 200-220 students enrolled in the Westminster agricultural program.
Majority of the students at Westminster High School do not have an agricultural background. Therefore, Crabtree and Naeger have designed their program to focus on non-traditional agricultural practices. Through innovative and creative means, Crabtree and Naeger have structured their courses to highlight careers students are interested in.
“We don’t just teach production agriculture here,” said Crabtree. “Instead, we have structured our program to meet the wants of our students. We show them there is a lot more to agriculture than people think there is.”
Crabtree and Naeger’s classes rely on in-class lectures and hands-on experiences. The two agricultural teachers believe students should have both experience performing skills and the technical knowledge to be successful in any field. Using iCEV, Crabtree and Naeger introduce concepts to students followed by hands-on activities and experiences to put their knowledge into practice.
“iCEV has really allowed us to provide that foundation for the kids, and they can travel in and out of the playlists to fit their needs,” said Naeger. “I think it has really helped students to stay on their path and stay on track. iCEV has really been beneficial for us.”
One of the many hands-on experiences offered in Naeger’s courses is a school-based enterprise experience. Each year, students organize and execute a lawn mower clinic within the Westminster community. The clinic provides students insights to a career in the power and technology industry. Students are provided the opportunity to earn the Equipment and Engine Technology Council (EETC) Principles of Small Engine Technology Certification, which verifies students have the competencies and knowledge to service lawn mowers.
In addition to the EETC industry certification, Crabtree and Naeger offer multiple industry certifications to students. Industry certifications are optional to students. They believe this helps students understand the importance and value of becoming certified.
“Certifications are imaginable, obtainable goal students can achieve,” said Naeger. “They are recognized in the industry and across the board. These are their interests. It is something they are looking forward to and wanting to achieve after high school.”
Crabtree notes she has students who are not even enrolled in her courses who are studying and taking industry certification exams in their free time. Using iCEV’s online platform, students can learn at their own pace without being enrolled in the agricultural courses.
Through projects, activities, competitions and classroom content, Crabtree and Naeger lead the Westminster agricultural students to a path of success. In the recent years, students have done well at competitions, become leaders of their communities and earned industry certifications. The Westminster agricultural teachers note they have seen countless students pursue successful careers, especially in the agricultural industry over the years.
Crabtree and Naeger exemplify the mission of CTE by providing students unique learning experiences and showcasing the importance of service learning in their classes. Due to Crabtree and Naeger’s dedication and hard work, students are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the workplace.
At iCEV, we want to recognize teachers like Crabtree and Naeger, who work tirelessly to set their students up for educational and career success. If you know a teacher who deserves to be recognized, nominate them for iCEV Teacher of the Month by contacting Jacelyn Nesmith at firstname.lastname@example.org.