Elise Hackett grew up on a farm in Tuscola, where her family grew soybeans and corn and raised Hereford cattle. She showed cattle at the age of 7 and, after high school, traveled all over the country as a director on the National Junior Hereford Board.
Hackett said there was no doubt she would have a career in the agriculture field and will graduate May 2018 from the University of Illinois with her masters of arts degree in agriculture education. She holds a bachelor of science in animal science and a minor in agriculture economy and law.
In the fall of 2018, she will become the Grundy Area Vocational Center agriculture teacher and FFA (Future Farmers of America) sponsor. GAVC has not had an agriculture program since the 1980’s according to GAVC Assistant Director Jeanne Skube.
Skube said the Agriculture I class was created out of recommendation of an advisory group which meets regularly to discuss programs within the GAVC. She then went to surrounding FFA advisors and the Grundy County Farm Bureau to inquire what would be best to include on the curriculum. The school board approved the program at the September 2017 meeting.
GAVC Director Lance Copes said there were four applicants for the position, and interviewed two of the candidates. He said Hackett’s knowledge and energy were what set her apart from the other candidate and due to her being a recent student, she comes to the GAVC with a greater knowledge of current trends and technology.
The classes will take place at Coal City High School classrooms and farmland space which the district owns and leases to a local farmer. The farmer has agreed to set aside a portion of the property for the students to use as a hands-on classroom.
Registration has yet to begin, but Skube said she would like to see 30 children enrolled. The class will be for juniors and seniors at Minooka Community High School, Morris Community High School, Coal City High School, Gardner-South Wilmington, Wilmington High School and Reed-Custer High School.
The basic agronomy curriculum outline will explore the scientific method, cellular biology, genetics, biotechnology, soil and plant classifications and other plant based topics, soil erosion, management and fertility, integrated pest management, grains, oil, forage, sugar and fiber crop production methods, and grain quality, storage and transportation.
The animal science portion will cover livestock (beef, dairy sheep, goats and swine), poultry and large animal industry. Skube said topics covered in the class will include scientific investigations, genetics, animal anatomy and physiology, animal nutrition and reproduction, animal health and meat science.
Copes said Hackett plans to move to the area after graduation and then she can look over the curriculum and make it her own. This pilot year will be a test to see who in the community could be partners and discover connections and resources out in Grundy County. The FFA chapter will also be a pilot year, so Copes said students there can grow and work with specialized projects.
Hackett said it will be important for the class to have access to animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs for the animal science semester of the class.
“Some of the students will have a farming background and we can dive deeper into the science of animal science and I’m also excited to work with kids who do not have an agriculture background to expose them to the animals and be an advocate for agriculture,” Hackett said.
“My dad raised row crops my entire life. We will start with the basics because soybeans and corn are big in Illinois,” Hackett said of the agronomy portion of the class.
Hackett has taught college level courses and currently student teaches at Taylorville High School. She said she enjoys this age and worried initially about being a young teacher, but she said she has been able to connect easily and build the teacher-student connection.
Due to Hackett’s master’s degree, the GAVC has contacted Joliet Junior College about this being a dual credit course. There have not been any confirmations made at this time, but Skube felt confident about the partnership.
Copes said the second year he hopes to play toward Hackett’s strengths in agriculture economy and law and would like to see her “dabble in those areas” for a senior class.