Cobleskill-Richmondville’s Deb Fletcher is one of the best ag teachers in the nation.
Maybe even the best.
She was recently named the Outstanding Agricultural Educator for the Northeast Region of the National Association of Agricultural Educators.
The Northeast Region includes 14 states––and hundreds of ag teachers. Ms. Fletcher is one of six competitors for the national title, which will be announced in Anaheim in December.
Talking about her award, Ms. Fletcher came across as modest but proud.
“It’s really pretty cool, I’ll admit,” she said. “But I’ll be going against some big states that really do ag. . .Iowa, Idaho, probably Texas.”
Ms. Fletcher has taught ag classes at Cobleskill and C-R for 33 years, including two when she worked for BOCES but taught in the district. She’s also been the high school’s Future Farmers of America advisor all those years.
Ms. Fletcher doesn’t know who nominated her for the New York award, which she won before taking the regional.
The judging is based on teaching philosophy, techniques, curriculum development, community partnerships, professional involvement and FFA achievement.
Ms. Fletcher boils that down simply: “It just comes down to the kids.”
She teaches 14 different ag classes, some every year, the rest every other year. There’s a wide range, but that’s okay because there’s a wide range of students who take her classes.
Not every student will eventually work in agriculture, but Ms. Fletcher is glad they’re in her classes.
“I have kids who will have an ag career, kids who say, ‘Well, I eat’ and kids who are just taking a science class,” she said.
“I have different kids, and I want my class to be welcoming.”
Ms. Fletcher emphasizes that agriculture isn’t just dairy cows, horses and vegetable farms. It’s also nutrition, the environment, pollution control and much more.
Being an FFA advisor goes hand in hand with being an ag teacher, and again, not every student in FFA will go on to an ag career.
“Ag is important. . .it touches everything,” Ms. Fletcher said. “I want every kid possible to get into ag. But then, in FFA, there’s the leadership part. Those are skills you’ll use no matter what you do.”
Sometimes Ms. Fletcher learns with the students. She majored in animal science in college, so when she started teaching equine science, and later, in the C-R greenhouse, those were challenges.
And this spring, she got the okay from C-R administrators to start beehives at the high school––even though Ms. Fletcher had no bee experience.
She praised C-R administrators for giving her the leeway to try new courses, calling it “learning with the kids.”
At the same time, Ms. Fletcher makes sure classes meet what students expect.
“I try to tailor the classes to kids’ interests,” she said.
She works with students year-’round. This summer Ms. Fletcher meets with students once each week to care for the new beehives at the high school.
She also works with kids at county fairs and the State Fair during the summer.
It’s that kind of dedication that earned her the regional award and the appreciation of C-R administrators.
“Agriculture is the backbone of our community and our county,” said C-R Superintendent Carl Mummenthey. “For years, Mrs. Fletcher has provided C-R students with rich opportunities to study agriculture, animal science and natural resources.
“It’s great to see Mrs. Fletcher’s hard work and dedication recognized by a national organization. We salute Ms. Fletcher on this prestigious award and thank her for her many contributions to student success here at Cobleskill-Richmondville.”