Agriculture teacher, Future Farmers of America sponsor Laura Priest to resign

Agriculture+teacher+and+Future+Farmers+of+America+sponsor+Laura+Priest+will+resign+at+the+conclusion+of+this+school+year.

Sam Goodwin

Agriculture teacher and Future Farmers of America sponsor Laura Priest will resign at the conclusion of this school year.

For the past eight years, agriculture teacher and Future Farmers of America sponsor Laura Priest worked to advance Free State’s FFA chapter and break down stereotypes regarding agriculture, but now she’s moving on.

“I’m going to miss it,” Priest said. “But you know what? When one chapter ends, another one begins, and that’s why it’s time to go.”

Since she will get married this summer and her fiancé will work in Manhattan, Kan., Priest will resign from her position at Free State at the conclusion of this school year.

“The goal is to get a teaching job,” Priest said. “I have applied at several schools in the district [in Manhattan]. I’ve also applied for a few positions at K-State … I’m not going to be a sit-at-home, I don’t know what I’d do if wasn’t working.”

Priest plans on teaching middle school or high school science; however, she doubts she will be able to continue involvement in FFA.

“That’s what’s really gonna suck the most: if I can’t do FFA,” Priest said. “… It’s just kind of an integral part of what I do. But, I’m excited to also get into a traditional classroom, do some science, because you can still be very active in that as well.”

Senior Morgan Gantz and sophomore Ethan Schraad were both surprised to hear of Priest’s resignation.

“She announced it [as a possibility] to some of us when we went to Kentucky on a trip, but we never really thought it would come true,” Schraad said. “And then when I heard it from an office lady and I asked her about it, she said that, ‘Yeah, it’s happening.’ It was just immediate shock, and then like, ‘Okay, what’s going to happen next year?’”

Despite the uncertainty, Schraad remains hopeful that the coming years hold success.

“I think that a new mind will be real help for the ag. education and FFA, and I think that it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the students and next year’s officer team to step up and keep everything going,” Schraad said.

I think that a new mind will be real help for the ag. education and FFA, and I think that it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the students and next year’s officer team to step up and keep everything going.”

— Sophomore Ethan Schraad

This is not the first time Priest has considered leaving Free State. After a few years, Priest considered searching for another job.

“When I was younger, I hit that five-year wall, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to leave. I’m so over this,’ but then I kind of powered through it, … and that’s why I’ve made it eight years,” Priest said. “Honestly, I thought I was going to be a lifer.”

One of Priest’s tactics for garnering involvement in FFA was clarifying some common misconceptions about agriculture and the types of people involved with FFA.

“I always tell kids, ‘Give it a year, and the worst thing you’re out of are a couple of days gone from school [for contests] and 20 bucks,’ because that’s the membership fee,” Priest said.

Once in the program, Priest ensures that members are given the help they need to be successful.

“She’s really good at helping people stay after school and really doing anything you need her to do,” Gantz said. “… She also knows a whole bunch about FFA, she’s an alum, and so it’s really helpful to have someone who knows what they’re doing.”

Priest leaves knowing she helped FFA gain recognition locally and nationally.

“I have had kids go very far from being in my program, from being in my FFA chapter,” Priest said. “… I guess my legacy is I helped put us on the map. Hopefully whoever comes in next year will keep it on the map.”

Under Priest’s leadership, FFA members have earned numerous awards.

“My kids have done well contest-wise,” Priest said. “I’ve had kids qualify for state contests. They’ve gotten state degrees, American degrees. They’ve won state proficiency awards. I had a national finalist.”

Although the majority of Lawrence is urban, Priest never lacked support from students or the community.

My kids have done well contest-wise. I’ve had kids qualify for state contests. They’ve gotten state degrees, American degress. They’ve won state proficiency awards. I had a national finalist.”

— Agriculture teacher, FFA sponsor Laura Priest

“Lawrence actually has a very rich FFA history, a very agricultural community for as urban as we are,” Priest said. “And for me that’s what I play to, like who’s my community, who are my kids and how can I make them successful with FFA.”

Priest’s passion for agriculture and dedication to her students have defined her career.

“I feel like she teaches with a love,” Schraad said. “She comes across as she cares about her students, and the students really catch that up. So it’s not just some lady sitting up at the front teaching you about cows and stuff like that, it’s someone who genuinely wants you to learn and wants to care about you.”

Moving forward, Schraad believes members of FFA and agriculture students must be willing to adapt to change.

“So far a lot of us are just used to Ms. Priest and her way of teaching, but the next person that comes in might not be exactly like her, and so we need to keep our mind open and understand that there are different ways to teach agriculture,” Schraad said.