Middle school to host ag teacher conference

By Ryan Cornell

Peter Muhlenberg Middle School is hosting a conference this weekend that will draw in agriculture teachers from all over Virginia.

The Virginia Middle School Agriculture Teachers Conference, slated for Friday and Saturday, will give teachers an opportunity to learn and share innovative ideas.

Discussion topics include supervising student agriscience research projects, meeting the needs of exceptional learners and shop machinery maintenance and safety. The two-day conference is open to all Virginia middle school agriculture teachers and student teachers.

Derek Ritenour, agriculture education teacher and FFA adviser at Peter Muhlenberg, said the conferences were once an annual event in Virginia, but had not been held in about four years due to funding shortfalls.

“Ag teachers in Shenandoah and Frederick [counties] decided we wanted to revitalize the idea,” he said. “Peter Muhlenberg is centrally located here, we use a lot of technology and wanted to showcase that.”

Conference speakers include Virginia Tech faculty, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, the MidAtlantic Farm Credit and two Powermatic-certified technicians.

Ritenour said another workshop will focus on STEM and inquiry-based learning in agriculture classes.

“Every school has a couple math teachers and science teachers and English teachers,” he said. “We don’t get to network as much because we’re kind of the lone rangers in our building.”

Funding for the conference was secured from the two private donors: the Florida Farm Bureau fundraising division — Ritenour said the middle school regularly buys citrus for its fundraisers — and the MidAtlantic Farm Credit.

“We want teachers to take away from this a reminder that we are an important curriculum,” he said.

“We want to remind the ag community that we are important in the lives of our students and that we go hand-in-hand with the subjects they learn.”

Currently, 25 teachers from across Virginia are registered for the conference. It will be held at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in Woodstock from 2 to 8:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com