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Phoenix High ag teacher is tops in state

PHOENIX — Phoenix High School teacher Jeremy Kennedy has been named Oregon's Agriculture Teacher of the Year.

The National Association of Agricultural Educators announced the honor at its conference earlier this summer.

Megan Tooezo, a senior who is president of the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter, says she and others have learned from the emphasis Kennedy puts on speech in an agricultural leadership class.

“It has been so beneficial to all of us. My fellow FFA friends have seen how well we have benefited, not only in public speaking, but in speaking generally,” said Tooezo. “He cares about students' well-being more than just teaching them. He cares about what is going on in our lives.”

Kennedy has also made an impression on his professional colleagues.

“He is just one of the teachers everyone sort of goes to. He always has a willing-to-help attitude,” said Meghan Biggs, secretary/treasurer of the state association. “He has always been very encouraging and will try new things, which can be difficult with an agricultural community.”

Kennedy has taught at Phoenix High for 10 years and was at Crater High School in Central Point for three years. He teaches two levels of welding, a metal-fabrication class, agricultural leadership and maintenance of natural resources.

Kennedy focuses on speech in the leadership class, because students can earn college-level speech credit for the course at Klamath Community College. Students in welding classes can earn credits at Rogue Community College.

“We have former students who are employed at quite a few different shops around town: Medford Fabrication, Erickson Air Crane, Croman Corporation, ” said Kennedy. “It’s been a pretty good skill. They usually have to go to RCC to get a welding or manufacturing certificate. We teach them the basics for sure.

“Above and beyond (course curriculum) , I hope they learn some employment skills: being on time, working really hard, being honest and having some integrity,” he said. “Some of those life skills they really need a lot of, they don’t get in other places.”

Kennedy and his wife live and work on a ranch her family runs near Eagle Point, where they have 20 head of their own cattle. As a kid, he worked cattle on his family's hobby farms, first in Molalla, then in Vail.

“He is very interested in the agricultural world, not just the classroom,” said Biggs. “He goes home and lives in agriculture.”

Kennedy is also good at getting the community involved with FFA programs at Phoenix and other schools in the Rogue Valley, said Biggs. For example, he recruits judges for FFA contests.

Kennedy has a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a minor in general agriculture from Oregon State University, where he also earned a master’s in teaching.

Kennedy was nominated by his association district, one of 12 in the state, for the top statewide honor. In May, he will be able to submit an application to be considered the top ag teacher in the 10-state Western region of the National Association of Agricultural Teachers.

“I really enjoy it. I get to bring my passion for farming and teaching,” said Kennedy. “In teaching … the one thing is to share personal experience and help (students) find out how it relates to them, those ‘ah-ha’ moments.” 

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com

Jeremy Kennedy