New teaching team to lead LHHS agriculture program
By SARAH SILBERSTEIN
All roads lead to Liberty Hill— at least for Jaycee Thompson and Zachary Brown, two new teachers joining the Liberty Hill High School faculty this month.
Brown grew up in Marble Falls and graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos. He taught at Seguin High School for several years before making the move to Liberty Hill to be closer to family.
“I put my feelers out in June to see what I could find and this was a good fit,” Brown said. “I wanted somewhere where I could come and build a very successful program like I built in Seguin.”
Thompson worked as a veterinary technician with large and small animals for four years and as a horseback riding instructor, which began her love of teaching and inspired her decision to become an educator.
“The vet science side of Ag and FFA was not around when I was in high school,” Thompson said, “so when I heard about it, I was like ‘I want to get in on that.’”
Thompson, who taught at Temple High School for two years, has been living in Liberty Hill for the last seven years and jumped at the opportunity to teach at Liberty Hill High School when a position became available.
“I’ve always heard great things about Liberty Hill ISD and when you hear good things about a school district, it draws you in,” Thompson said. “I heard that the students here are amazing and with the few students that I have met, I have been very impressed.”
Thompson will teach Wildlife Management, Principals of Agriculture, Veterinary Medical Applications, and Advanced Animal Science classes and will oversee the veterinary science certificate program.
The certificate program is a good introduction for students interested in the field of veterinary science.
“A lot of kids go to high school and are like ‘I want to be a vet’ but they don’t realize what goes into that,” Thompson said.
Brown, a certified welder and certified welding inspector, will teach the Introduction to Agriculture Mechanics and Agriculture Fabrication classes.
The students in the upper-level welding class will have the opportunity to receive various certification levels by the completion of the course and will have the opportunity to showcase their work — anything from trailers to barbecue pits to deer blinds — at stock shows and competitions throughout the year.
With these projects, the students have to do absolutely everything.
“They make the plans and have to have scale drawings, computerized drawings, build materials, cut lists — the whole nine yards,” Brown said.
In addition to their classroom obligations, Brown and Thompson will co-lead the high school’s FFA program.
Brown is the advisor for the swine and cattle programs. Thompson is the advisor for the sheep, goat and rabbit programs and will lead the horse judging and veterinary science judging teams.
“The things that have been strong here, we’re definitely going to keep those things going and then we’re going to find other strengths and build off of that,” Brown said. “We are going to try to build a very well-rounded program.”
Part of the team’s plans to creating a well-rounded program is through involving students not normally interested in FFA programs.
“When most people think of FFA, they think of showing animals — that’s just the tiniest little bit, there’s so much more. There’s speaking opportunities, judging teams, leadership opportunities, and millions of dollars in scholarships available,” Brown said. “There is something in FFA for every kid.”
Brown and Thompson say they are bringing a lot of good changes and new ideas to the Liberty Hill FFA program. Some of these changes include new programs, revamped by-laws, and increased parental and community involvement.
“We have been getting a lot of good feedback from parents about our communication with them, organization, and structure,” Thompson said.
In July, Thompson, Brown, and the 2016-2017 LHHS officers team traveled to Dallas to attended the FFA State Convention.
“When the students go to state convention for the first time, it’s like they’re coming out of their shell,” Thompson said. “They learn who they are and what their passions are.”
This weekend, Brown and Thompson will travel with the FFA officers to Lake Buchanan for the officers’ retreat. At the retreat, officers and advisors will get to know one another better and create plans for the upcoming school year.
“It’s been a couple years since they’ve had an officers retreat,” Brown said. “It’s a great time for the officer team to bond and become a better team.”
Brown, Thompson and the FFA officers will host a Greenhand Camp in the evening of Aug 30. The camp is an opportunity for Thompson and Brown to meet with the freshman parents and to talk to them about the FFA program and for the FFA officers to meet with the incoming students to get them excited about the different opportunities available to them through their involvement with FFA.
“The opportunities of Ag in the classroom and what FFA does for kids, there’s no other program like it,” Brown said.
“Everything is related to agriculture,” Thompson echoed. “If we didn’t have Ag, you wouldn’t have clothes, you wouldn’t have food, you wouldn’t have anything.”