Vaccine Mandate for California Students Announced

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

At the beginning of October, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a COVID vaccine mandate for California students 12 years of age and up.

The Governor’s office also stated that teachers and school staff would be held to the same vaccination standard and timeline under the new requirement. Currently, teachers and staff can provide proof of vaccination or submit a weekly COVID test (Gutierrez, 2021)

First, the mandate cannot go into effect until COVID vaccines are fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently, vaccines for students 12-15 only have emergency authorization by the FDA. Therefore, the mandate would not go into effect until the next term after approval. Terms are either January 1st or July 1st. Most experts predict that won’t happen until July 2022 (Gutierrez, 2021)

The mandate will apply to all students at public or private schools in California. A student not vaccinated may participate in independent study but may not participate in in-person instruction (Gov.Ca.Gov).

The mandate from the Governor includes exemptions for medical and personal beliefs. As stated on the ‘California Get Vaccinated’ page, “Requirements established by regulation, not legislation, must be subject to the exemption for both medical reasons and personal beliefs” pursuant to HSC section 120338. Therefore, simply stated because the mandate was established by regulation instead of legislation, it must allow for personal exemption (Gov.Ca.Gov)

Legislation passed by the Assembly and Senate and signed by the Governor could be more restrictive. The California legislature reconvenes on January 3, 2022, to start the next legislative cycle. Several lawmakers are considering legislation to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of school-required shots that qualify only for medical exemptions. 

Currently, students are required to have the following immunizations to attend school in California: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Varicella (Chickenpox), Mumps, Rubella, Hepatitis B, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type B, and Measles (  

Five California districts have approved a student vaccination mandate on their own. Those districts include: Culver City Unified, L.A. Unified, Oakland Unified, Piedmont Unified, and San Diego Unified (Gov.Ca.Gov). Several lawsuits have already been filed against districts in response to the mandates.   

Many details of the mandate have yet to be determined, and the landscape of education has constantly changed during the last two years due to the pandemic. The FDA and the California State Legislature have yet to weigh in on the topic of vaccinating California students. It will likely be the summer of 2022 before the specifics are worked out. 

Lessons from the RAT Pack

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

I recently crashed a, self named, RAT (Retired Ag Teachers) Pack breakfast. In October, the group met for breakfast in an out-of-the-way diner in central California.  Mid-morning at a large table in the back of the restaurant sat nine stalwarts of our profession, all legendary figures of CATA. The group meets every month or so to reconnect. As far as anyone knows, there is no official membership list and no formal invitations. They are simply a group of retirees with a shared passion for ag education summoned by word of mouth. They carpool Highway 99 and Interstate 5 in the dark to some predetermined diner, picking up members at each town along the way.

If anyone was to calculate the number of silver bowls represented by the group, the number would be in the triple digits. The State Degree count accumulated by the table would be in the thousands. The miles traveled to fairs, field days, and project visits would reach a million. But their conversations were not of past glory or the good old days.

Intertwined amid complaining about politics (the 2021 recall came up frequently), discussing California’s current state of affairs (outlawing gas-powered lawnmowers was a hot topic), and the lack of rain emerged three main themes.

The first theme was that each member of the group was still connected to their former ag program in some way. Some were still teaching a class or two, others were subbing, and many continued volunteering at FFA and community events. They stayed connected by judging career development and leadership development events, barbecuing for fundraisers, serving on boards, and “consulting” the next generation of ag teachers.   

The next theme revolved around family and friends and the importance of community. Stories were told about holiday gatherings and local events, and they all showed pictures of children and grandchildren.

The final commonality was that all the members of the group had hobbies. Activities like woodworking, hunting, pottery, biking, running, fishing, fantasy football, and camping were common. They shared anecdotes of completed projects, competitions, and shared passions. Some RAT Packers commented about the importance of developing interests outside of the profession.

Prior to the event, I expected to hear a how-to on ag teaching, but instead learned a more powerful lesson. As a result, I left breakfast pondering the following questions: 

As ag teachers, what are we doing right now to build connections to our programs and community that will outlive our careers?

What are we doing to cultivate lifelong hobbies that bring us joy and keep us mentally and physically active?

What are we doing to strengthen our relationships with family and friends to help us stay connected after leaving the classroom?

State Championships, American Degrees, and champion banners are important and reflect the hard work and dedication of the students and teachers that achieve them, but reminders of those accomplishments sit on a shelf or hang on a wall and collect dust years later. However, the community connections made, the relationships built and maintained, and the interests outside of work will be around long after the job.

A special thanks to Dave Segna, Warren Weaver, Joe DiGrazia, Carl Wright, Darol Fishman, Larry Tosta, Mark Feuerbach, Dale Pollard, and Richard Regalo for allowing me to sit and talk. It is not something I will soon forget. Please know you are forever and always a part of the CATA family and welcome at any event. 

2021-2022 Golden Owl Nominations Are Open!


Nationwide® is proud of its agricultural heritage and long-standing support of the greater agricultural community, including the National FFA Organization and FFA chapters across the country. The Golden Owl Award® allows us to also extend our support to agricultural educators who devote countless hours, and often their own resources, to positively impact the lives of their students.


The Golden Owl award program recognizes chapter FFA Advisors who demonstrate commitment to the local program. The award is designed to recognize teachers who go above and beyond to provide opportunities for their students and their chapter to grow and improve.

With the Golden Owl Award, students, fellow teachers, and other supporters can nominate their favorite agricultural teacher and summarize what makes him or her the best in their state. Nominees can win the distinction of being their state’s Agricultural Educator of the Year and the following prizes:

  • $500 and an engraved plaque to each honoree
  • $3,000 and the coveted Golden Owl Award trophy to each state’s grand prize winner (Agricultural Educator of the Year)

In conjunction with the Golden Owl Award, Nationwide is donating $5,000 to each participating state’s FFA to further support the personal and professional growth of students, teachers, and advisors alike.


Applicants must be a current Agriculture Teacher in the state of California.


  1. Nominee must agree to attend the State Award Interview Process if selected as the Regional Finalist from their region.
  2. Nominee must agree to be in attendance at the Regional and State Award Ceremonies if nominated as a finalist in those areas.

Due Date:

*Submitted by Dec. 31 by 11:59pm

Click here to submit an application.

California Ag Teachers Recognized at the National Level

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

Jessica Fernandes Honored by National Association of Agricultural Educators

The National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) National Teach Ag Campaign honored Buena Park High School agricultural educator Jessica Fernandes during the 2021 National Teach Ag Day. 

Every year the NAAE National Teach Ag Campaign selects individuals and/or organizations who have contributed significantly to the Teach Ag mission of ensuring a quality and diverse supply of agricultural teachers. Jessica is more than deserving of this honor due to her steadfast commitment to agricultural teacher recruitment and retention in California, Region I, and across the nation.

Jessica was selected as a 2021 NAAE National Teach Ag Champions as a result of her passion and dedication for transforming agricultural education into a more inclusive and diverse profession, increasing educators involvement in NAAE, and emphasizing the important work agricultural educators do every day to make their classrooms, schools, and communities more inclusive and equitable places for all students.

Congratulations, Jessica, well deserved!

California Ag Teachers selected as National Teacher Ambassadors for FFA

Amanda Ferguson, Cara Parlato-Butler, and Jason Ferreira from California were selected as National Teacher Ambassadors for FFA for the 2021-2022 school year. 

The National Teacher Ambassadors for FFA program provides ambassadors with professional development experience, more specifically addressing combating factors that lead to teacher burnout, such as tedium, volume, environment, work-life balance, and low levels of professional development at the midpoint of the career. In addition, the program educates ambassadors and their peers on time-saving educator resources.  In its fifth year, the program allows ambassadors to connect with their peers through workshops, giving them the tools to manage the challenges of being an agriculture teacher. The program is also a direct connection between National FFA staff and agricultural educators.

Great Job, Amanda, Cara, and Jason! Enjoy the journey.

Proficiency Awards

By: Shay Williams-Hopper, Agriculture Education Consultant, San Joaquin Region

This year, California has 29 members representing us as finalists in the National Proficiency Awards Program in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Hours of hard work in SAE development, application revisions, and interview preparation can truly be seen by not only these individuals but all of the students who completed proficiency award applications last year!

As we prepare for this year’s application process, I wanted to give a few tips to help your students be successful with their applications.

1. Choosing the appropriate category: One of the hardest parts of the whole application is determining if your student is in the correct category.  National FFA updates categories every year and those descriptions can be found here:  One thing to keep in mind as you are determining the correct placement is that with 48 categories, some of the hours and finances accrued in an SAE project will not fit perfectly into one category.  For example, a student who owns dairy cattle and milks those cows and produces butter to sell at a farmers market, cannot include the sale of butter or the time invested in producing that butter on a Dairy Entrepreneurship Application.  Those dollars and hours would need to be pulled out into a separate SAE for Ag Processing.  Also, all skills must be applicable to the Agriculture Industry Sector.  Information that can be deemed part of another industry is subject to disqualification.  Please check in with your regional supervisor if you have questions or feel free to contact me to assist with proper placement.

2. Compare the application to the rubric:  The rubric is followed at both the State and National levels.  While some areas are worth fewer points than others, you should be striving to earn as many points as possible in ALL areas.  You are likely giving up “free” points if you are not reviewing the rubric. Better yet, find a friend in the English department and have them read the application and score it on the rubric. They will give you honest feedback for grammar, spelling, point deductions, and questions they have after reading the application!

3. Have your student tell their SAE Story:  We say this repeatedly, but agriculture in California is extremely different from anywhere else in our country.  Your student will need to explain as much of their project as they can. Things that seem common sense here are not so common in other places.  Try to vary the application and use as many different examples as possible. Repetition of the same skills makes for a less interesting read.  Connect to industry practices if possible. Also, make sure the student’s voice is heard in the application.  Interviewers can tell when the student has had assistance writing the application, and when they have not.

4. Keep accurate records:  As students are entering financial and journal entries, be sure that they are accurately documenting how those hours have been earned and categorizing finances correctly.  Students with an entrepreneurship/research project must have financial entries.  Entrepreneurship projects should also have some type of inventory entries.  If they do not, then that needs to be explained in Question A1.  For example, why does that student own a tractor if they are farming 50 acres of cotton?  Placement projects need to record hours and income earned on their financial entries pages.  Hours from the journal will not transfer over to the application on placement applications.

5. Be sure that SAE Plans are complete: This is a disqualification area at the State Level if they are not complete!

6. Do NOT include information from 2022 on the application: Applications are closed as of December 31, 2021.  Plans can be mentioned for the future, but you cannot say, “In January 2022, I … with my project.”  Leave 2022 for next year’s application! This is also the same for that student’s resume.  Awards earned in 2022, such as a Sectional Proficiency Award Winner, cannot be included.  The resume will be awarded zero points!

7. The “clipboard” is your student moneymaker:  This is the largest amount of points on the entire application.  Make it count.  The clipboard, which can be found on the student’s SAE Program Manager, allows for students to briefly describe their project.  Please coach your students to explain what the project was, what skills they learned, and make sure they are showing growth from year to year in their skill attainment.  Fill in all the space provided.

8. Pictures:  Use the pictures to highlight the awesome skill attainment these students have acquired.  Stay away from “posed” pictures with groups of people.  Make sure that the skill being showcased and the student can be seen in the photo.  Start collecting photos now!  Do not wait until January when the application is due.  Remember that as you are doing SAE visits and you are documenting those visits in AET, you can add a picture from that visit that then drops into the student’s AET files for easy access later!  Start collecting these pictures when they are freshmen. Try to stay away from “showing” livestock pictures.  Your descriptions need to describe what I can’t see in the picture.  I can see you giving an injection; tell me why we are administering the vaccination.  What does it prevent? What method are you using to administer it and why?

I hope that these hints will help your students to be successful as they are moving forward. I am always willing to help should you have a question and so are your regional supervisors. 

Are you Next?

By: Matt Patton, CATA Executive Director

Agricultural Education has consistently grown our own. For the most part, CATA leadership, California Department of Education (CDE) state staff, and university educators, at one time, all taught at the high school level. In addition, many community college instructors cut their teeth at the secondary level. Therefore, intrinsic knowledge of secondary agricultural education is advantageous to excel in such positions.

Traditionally, people who fill those positions have made a conscious decision and sacrificed to qualify for those jobs.

43% of current CDE state staff will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. The last five years have seen the retirement or Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP) of five university professors and the expansion of almost the same number of positions.

CATA needs annual leaders to step up at the state, regional, and sectional levels.

The question is, who among us will be next to answer the call to help lead our profession into the next decade? 

The vast majority of positions mentioned above require prerequisite qualifications. Therefore, planning is needed to be eligible to apply for such a position.

CATA office at all levels requires that members have at least two years of paid membership and be in good standing. CATA state officer candidates must have served on the governing board as a Regional President, Division Chair, or Division Chair-Elect. 

Joining the California Department of Education is a time-consuming endeavor. Applicants must take an assessment and be vetted. Assessment tests are reviewed on the 20th of every month, and results are generally posted at the beginning of the following month. If an applicant’s assessment needs to be modified or adjusted, more time is required. To be considered for a state staff job, the process must be initiated a month before posting. If working at the state staff level is something that you are remotely interested in, get on the list and maintain eligibility just in case.

Foreseeably with the expansion of free community college for all, enrollment will also increase. As a result, the demand for qualified instructors will also increase. Typically, some iteration of a master’s degree is required to teach at the post-secondary level. Online programs, night classes, and summer programs are good ways to obtain a master’s degree and maintain current employment.

Most university tenure track positions require doctorate work for eligibility. Fortunately, there are now several options for distant learning to earn doctoral degrees. Numerous individuals in our ranks have recently received their doctorates, many of whom did so without relocating or changing their day jobs. Big kudos to those individuals for investing in themselves and making sacrifices that will benefit ag education for years to come. With retirements and expansions looming, more high school and community college agricultural teachers will need to obtain additional degrees to ensure teacher training at the university is based on actual classroom experience.

Anyone with any interest in any of the careers mentioned above should reach out to someone currently in one of those positions. People that have successfully navigated the process are a great resource to determine a path forward. Meeting the criteria for some of these jobs can take years. Prior planning is essential to be ready when the opportunity presents itself.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

Opening the Door

By: Charles Parker, California Department of Education, State FFA Advisor

It is exciting that we are, in some places, once again being allowed to join together. I know those conversations around the table, in the hallway, and outside the room are often the most valuable. I applaud the teachers for making the effort to provide opportunities to meet in-person as well as a venue for those that are not yet comfortable with in-person meetings. 

As an educator, our goal is to provide an opportunity for ALL students to learn and grow. I personally believe that through agricultural education and the FFA, we have the best delivery method for all students to experience success. It is through the many opportunities that you, agricultural teachers, provide to students that they feel welcome.

I remember, a few years ago, being confronted by teachers who were disappointed in a decision I had made. I know, this is not uncommon. But, nonetheless, earlier a teacher had called wanting to provide a meaningful experience for a particular student. This student, based on their religious beliefs, could not wear a logo. Thus, they could not wear what I coveted, the blue and gold jacket. As much as I wanted to require the student to wear the jacket, I knew deep down that was not what was best for the student or the program. In the end, I shared with the teachers that the activity was about engaging the student, allowing them to do their part in that particular activity, and in the end, to feel part of a team and welcomed. Wearing the jacket was important to me, but it was not as important as that individual student.

For those that know me, you know I bleed blue and gold, but, that evening, watching that student recite their part, I could not help but feel the right decision was made. It was most certainly an individual incident, but it began, in my mind, to set the value of being inclusive. 

Over the years, I have had to continue to make decisions similar to the one made regarding the logo. Allowing a student who was too big to fit into the largest FFA jacket made to stand on stage with the choir at the State FFA Leadership Conference and share her lovely voice, permitting a Hispanic student to recite the FFA Creed in Spanish, and letting a student wear a hat while competing on a judging team because of a medical concern are other incidents that I remember. Not because it was a popular decision, but because it was the right decision for the student. 

California has always been at the forefront of change. At the time, often the change was met with loud criticism. We know that change is not easy, but it is important. We must always look ahead at what we can be, not what we are.

As I reflect back, I am honored to be part of an agriculture tradition that has found ways to be inclusive, even when it was not popular. In 1952, Leo Clark, a black student from Foothill High School in Hayward, was elected to serve as the State President for the California Association. This was some twelve years prior to the merger of the NFA and the FFA. In fact, in 1962, Dan Chatman, another black student from Madera, was elected as the State Sentinel. Dan went on the next year to serve as the State President and even participated in the National Prepared Public Speaking event.

It is also commonly known, at least in the California journals, that girls were in agricultural education programs long before 1969. The story goes that prior to girls being admitted into FFA, advisors that believed the organization was for all students simply used the first initial of the first name along with the complete last name in filling out membership rosters. This technique allowed young ladies to participate, at least locally, long before a change was instituted at the national level. Although I was not teaching at that time, I can assure you that not all teachers nor fellow members were enthusiastic about girls being allowed to be members.

Then, in the late 1980s, a movement began to ensure that every student enrolled in an agriculture class was an FFA member. Wow – at sectional and regional meetings you would have thought that such an idea would be the downfall of the organization. Remarks such as “not all students want to be in FFA” or “why pay dues when they are not competitive” were quickly shared. 

In each of these instances, if the majority ruled, the change would not have occurred. But, through the leadership of CATA, our industry partners, and the Agricultural Education State Staff, the change did take place and our organization is better because of it.

I know we are in difficult times and each day we, you, and I, have to make tough decisions. I often get asked, when will it stop? Simple answer, never! We will always be confronted with a different idea, circumstance, or social issue. It is up to us, as educators of our youth, to find ways to include everyone in the conversation.

National FFA is embarking on a discussion on modifications to the various ceremonies so that they can be more inclusive. The delegates at the 2021 National FFA Convention will have a subcommittee that will develop recommendations for consideration by the National FFA Board. 

What other discussions should we be having? Are there other traditions that we have that tend to be exclusive rather than inclusive? Do we even understand what our students need?

Look at your classroom and the students that enter it every day. Each one is different and is looking for how to belong. Are we asking the right questions? Are we being observant of their traditions? 

A few sections and regions recently have begun to allow students to recite the FFA Creed and conduct the Opening and Closing Ceremony in Spanish. What else can we do to include all students?

I know, deep down, that we all believe that what we do in agricultural education and the FFA is for all students. That, if allowed, every individual that enters our doors will find a niche in our organization that will enable them to be successful and become a contributing member to our local community.

We can no longer simply state that our door is open. Through our actions, we must demonstrate that we care about the person, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what their personal views are, that they are welcome and encouraged to be part of our community.

This is not the first time a tough decision is made, nor will it be the last. Even an old dog like me continues to learn every day. As I stated in a previous article, you are my superheroes! You are there for everyone, no matter the circumstance. Continue to wear your cape with pride, being there for ALL who need you.

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

Factors Contributing to the Decline of Males Entering the Agriculture Teaching Profession

By: Dr. John Williams, Fresno State University, State CATA Secretary

Most of you are aware that I have recently completed a Doctorate of Education this past May. The process of earning a doctorate has been both stressful and rewarding, as I feel that I have learned many new things about myself and the students we all teach. This article is a brief summary of my research that I used to write my dissertation. I did not want to submit all 80 pages to the Golden Slate as it is incredibly boring to read about the methodologies, theories, and relevant research that is included throughout each chapter.  In this article, I am sharing with you the abstract from my dissertation. The abstract is a brief summary that explains the study and some of the findings. A brief explanation after the abstract is also included in this article. I am interested to hear feedback from all of you and am hopeful for future discussions on how we can address the male teacher shortage in agricultural education.  


This phenomenological qualitative study examines the factors contributing to why males are not entering the agriculture teaching profession. This study also illustrates the value of the agriculture education three-component model and its impact on college and career choice of secondary agriculture education students. The agriculture teacher shortage in California is also addressed in this study. Fifteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with three subgroups of participants that included males who earned a degree in agriculture education but did not become teachers, current students enrolled in a mechanized agriculture course, and leaders within agriculture education in California.

Six themes were found throughout the research: Agriculture Teachers Influence on Career Choice, Career Choice Dissatisfaction, Hands-On Learning through SAE, Personal Goals, FFA Involvement Sparks Interests, and No Shortage. These themes were developed through the coding processes which also reported twenty-eight subthemes. Findings of the study suggest the males do not like the extra responsibilities of agriculture teachers. The SAE component was most impactful on career choice reported by participants. The agriculture teacher shortage in California is not a current issue as has been reported in previous years. The study also identified the FFA impacts a student’s decision to be active in agriculture education, but does not make an impact on the decision to go to college. Agriculture teachers motivate students and are a positive factor in why students choose the agriculture teaching profession. 


This study was based upon phenomena of the lived experiences of agriculture students whose career goal was to become high school agriculture teachers.  Other participants of the study included leaders of agricultural education and alumni of agricultural education majors who were male and chose not to become agriculture teachers. The study gives us an opportunity to look at our rewarding careers and determine if there is a need to change the way we do things.  It is important to know that I love the fact that a majority of our profession is female and all the great things all teachers in our association do for students.  The purpose of why I chose this topic is because we are at risk of losing positive male role models for students. If we continue on the trend we are seeing now, it will become much harder to recruit and retain males in our profession, which may make it hard for us to recruit and retain male students in our programs.  

Agricultural education is diverse, from the students who participate to the teachers in our classrooms and to the members of our organization. That is a fantastic highlight to our profession and something we need to continue to build. Forty years ago our profession was much different and we are constantly pushing the limits of ourselves and our students, and students see the time we put in, which may be a detriment for many students who thought they wanted to be a teacher.  

The other aspects of the study dissected the three-component model and tried to determine which of the three components was the most impactful on student success. Most people I have talked to have said they thought the FFA component made the most impact, but responses in this study highlighted that the FFA was a contributing factor in being active in agricultural education, not necessarily an impact on career choice or the decision to go to college. The findings outline that the SAE component is the most impactful on career choice and weigh heavily on a student’s decision to attend college. For those of you who do not stress the importance of SAE projects, you may want to change your perception as research, in this case, reports that the SAE component has a much higher impact on student success than the two other components of the model.  

Lastly, the classroom component was very rarely referenced in the participant interviews, but the impact a teacher has on success was reported in almost every participant’s explanation on why they chose to become an agricultural teacher. This confirms that we as teachers are doing a great job.  It is my hope that those of you reading this know that you are doing great and you are making an impact.  The relationships we build with students have a long-lasting effect and it is something our students carry with them for a long time.  If you have any questions or comments on this article, or on my research, please let me know. 

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

How to Avoid the Five Dysfunctions of a Team in Agricultural Education

By: Helene Dondero, Student Teacher, Coast Union High School 

In some organizations, teams can function and reach common goals, while others can have highly skilled teams that fail to reach their potential and goals. While this idea of dysfunctional teams was originally presented as a corporate problem, I can see how these five dysfunctions can apply to education and agricultural education. Within agricultural education, I see two main groups, or teams, that agricultural educators work closely with. The first is the other agriculture teachers in their department, and the second includes other teachers at the school site and the administration. For these teams to function efficiently to reach common goals, there are a few roadblocks that may occur that everyone needs to be aware of. Throughout this article, we will explore the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and how it relates to agricultural education. These five dysfunctions all build on one another, and if you cannot master the previous dysfunction, you will not be able to master the future dysfunctions. 

The first dysfunction of a team, according to Patrick Lencioni, is the absence of trust. When it comes to the absence of trust, teams that experience this often have an unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. When teams or groups are not vulnerable to one other, they cannot genuinely open up about their mistakes and weaknesses. In agricultural education, if we cannot be vulnerable with our co-teachers about our strengths and weaknesses, it will be hard to build a foundation of trust within our department. When trust is not present, it can affect communication and the team’s ability to get the task done. Trust within a department allows confidence among the team members that their co-teachers are good and that there is no reason for the group to be protective. To overcome this dysfunction requires members of the department to understand one another and understand what each member brings to the team. 

The second dysfunction is the fear of conflict. When agricultural departments lack trust, it can hinder their ability to participate and engage in an unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. If agricultural departments do not have trust and are not open and willing to debate what is best for the future of their programs, it can lead to a vague discussion that ultimately leads nowhere. If the team can have “conflict,” meaning debate passionately on what they view as the next steps for the program, it can lead to program growth and strengthening because the team is willing to talk and discuss what is best for the future. Overcoming dysfunction to a department must acknowledge that conflict can be productive, it must remain respectful, and, if this is accomplished, the department will reach a resolution naturally. 

The third dysfunction in the lack of commitment. You may think, wait, I’m committed to my students and providing them with the best education, but the type of commitment that I am referring to is the commitment to the department’s common goals. When departments are unable to discuss the next steps for a program freely and openly with the other department members, it can lead to the team members rarely buying in and committing to a decision even though they may “agree” during the meeting. For departments to overcome this, they must have clarity and buy-in from all team members. Teams must not always be in pursuit of consensus and certainty because they can often hinder department members’ buy-in. Focusing too much on having a consensus and having everyone agree can halt decision-making. Certainty can also prevent departments from creating goals and outcomes. To overcome this, departments must be willing to take risks. 

The fourth dysfunction is avoidance of accountability. When departments have a lack of buy-in or there is not a clear plan of action, it can cause progress to be halted, and team members may be scared to call each other out on their actions and behavior. Accountability is a word that can have multiple meanings in terms of working as a team or in a department. Accountability means that members are willing to call out their department members on their performance or behaviors that may hurt the team or prevent them from reaching their common goal. To overcome department members’ fears of holding others accountable there must be publication of goals and standards of the team, simple and regular team reviews and when a goal or checkpoint is reached the team members must be allowed some sort of reward. When these three steps are taken it can help build the success of the department. 

The fifth dysfunction is inattention to results. Within a department, this occurs when members put their individual needs or the needs of their special area over the needs of the department/program to help reach the collective goals of a team. This final dysfunction is considered to be the ultimate dysfunction and can derail teams from reaching their goals. To overcome this, departments must minimize individual behaviors, avoid distractions, and enjoy the successes and failures as a team.

After learning about the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, I encourage you to look inside yourself and evaluate how much trust you feel in your department or other members of the team in your life and see if more trust can be built to help better the other areas of dysfunction as well. 

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

My Superhero is an Agriculture Teacher

By: Charles Parker, California Department of Education, State FFA Advisor

It seems today there are a number of characters that have the distinction of being called a superhero. From Superman to Batman, Wonder Woman to Elektra, and from the Black Panther to Doctor Strange, you can take your pick; everyone has their favorite.

According to Passionate Views, there are seven characteristics found in superheroes. These are: 

  1. Super-Factor – what powers define them.
  2. Courage – bravery is the central part of the job.
  3. Sacrifice – puts others before them.
  4. Strong Moral Code – provides justice.
  5. Inspiration – motivates others to do good in life.
  6. Good Character – not what they want, but what others need.
  7. Flaws – no one is perfect, even superheroes have their weaknesses.

The more effort you put in, the more you become like your favorite character, not in the costume, but in your everyday actions.

When I look at agriculture teachers, I see a modern-day hero. They leap tall fences with a single push, are faster than a bull that sees red, and are more powerful than the local superintendent. A glance at the seven characteristics and you will find, in a watermark, the simple statement, agriculture teacher.

  1. Super-Factor – Agriculture teachers are highly trained to not only be a teacher, but also to be a counselor, a travel agent, and, in many instances, a parent. They are often found jumping from one task to another by simply entering their pickup wearing pressed shirts and slacks and exiting in coveralls. agriculture teachers drive trucks, vans, tractors, pull livestock trailers, and load portable scales with one arm.
  2. Courage – Have you been on an overnight trip with a few excited teenagers? Agriculture teachers step into the lives of students and risk everything to help them become real contributors to their communities. 
  3. Sacrifice – When the calendar turns to a new year, agriculture teachers begin the annual migration from one field day to the next. Every weekend is spent in a van with a group of students in search of perfection. The agriculture teachers put off family vacations, reunions, coaching their son or daughter’s team, and those evening dates. 
  4. Strong Moral Code – Fairness is the code for all agriculture teachers. When in the moment, they are as competitive as any athlete. They work hard and prepare and compete with vigor and determination. But, when the competition is over, you will find them having breakfast together. Agriculture teachers, even the most competitive, are eager to share their knowledge in hopes of stimulating others. They want to win, but the desire to win does not outweigh the desire to be fair and see the right students in the winner’s circle.
  5. Inspiration – Agriculture teachers, through personal stories (and a few that are made up), create an environment for students to see success. It is through their daily actions that their students find the desire to do well and to rise to the expectations of their teachers. The job of an agriculture teacher may be long, but what the students see is a committed person who makes time for them and truly wants them to succeed.
  6. Good Character – Agriculture teachers help at the church social on Sunday, drive the rooters bus to the Friday football game, set up for the 7 a.m. Monday teachers meeting, have coffee every Wednesday at the local breakfast diner with the farmers, build the Sophomore Class float Thursday nights, and find time to stop by the Tuesday City Council meeting in search of new projects. In each instance, the agriculture teacher is not looking for glory, they are simply fitting into their community and finding ways to help.
  7. Flaws – As with our superheroes, agriculture teachers also have their flaws. For many, they have never learned to say “NO!” They are notoriously ineffective in delegating work. They easily add to their calendar but rarely remove anything. Agriculture teachers give up their lunchtime to listen to students.

It is easy to see why agriculture teachers are my superheroes. Through it all, no matter the situation, when a fellow teacher lets out a simple cry, hundreds of agriculture teachers dawn their capes and soar to the rescue. In the past few years, we have seen these superheroes at work. They have found ways to stimulate student learning, create alternatives to in-class instruction and develop new avenues to allow students to grow in their leadership.

Thank you to those that have selected ag teaching as your career. Know that I see you for who you are. You may not wear your cape in public, but I see it tucked away, only to come out when needed. May 2021-2022 be a year for you to showcase your superhero characteristics.

Thank you for being my SUPERHERO!

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit