Passion for agriculture, helping others led alumna to teaching career

Brandi Boyd tells students in Scott Smalley's Foundations of Agricultural Education Programs class about her journey to becoming an agricultural education instructor.

By Whitney Baxter

It wasn’t until she had her blinders off that Brandi Boyd realized her true calling was to become an agricultural education instructor.

Boyd (’98 animal science, ’00 MS agricultural education and studies) was on Iowa State University’s campus Nov. 15-16 taking part in the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies’ Teacher in Residence Program. Made possible by a gift from Jane and Richard (’76 PhD agricultural and life sciences education) Carter, the program, in its second year, aims to connect Iowa agricultural education instructors with current students, faculty and staff in the department.

“This is a terrific program that provides the opportunity for a practicing teacher to spend high-quality time with our undergraduate and graduate students and faculty,” said Mike Retallick (’05 PhD agricultural and life sciences education), professor and chair of agricultural education and studies. “It has been an excellent way to help students see the connection between their coursework and how they will use it as a teacher.”

For the longest time, Boyd, agricultural education instructor for Clarke Community Middle School and High School in Osceola, was set on becoming a veterinarian. She enrolled in Iowa State’s animal science program with the intent of applying to veterinary school. Everything she did in and out of the classroom was focused on preparing her for a veterinary career. However, a simple question asked by a long-time friend during Boyd’s junior year of college opened her eyes to a potential change of focus. Her friend asked why she wasn’t in the agricultural education program, given her love for agriculture and helping others.

“I took my blinders off for a second and for the first time, I put my head up, looked around and thought, ‘I’ve never thought about it before,’” Boyd said.

She began taking a few agricultural education classes and eventually came to a crossroads her senior year – she had been accepted to veterinary school, but, with her newfound love for agricultural education, she could instead pursue a master’s degree in that field.

She chose the latter, and when her Clarke Community students incredulously exclaim “You could have gone to vet school!” after she tells them about her educational journey, she just smiles and says that if she’d gone to vet school, she wouldn’t be in the classroom teaching them.

Through her involvement in the Teacher in Residence Program, Boyd met with faculty and Agricultural Education Club members. She also talked to students in three departmental classes, involving them in interactive activities that had them thinking about what interested them in agricultural education.

She encouraged future educators in the classes to get to know their students and provide them with content at each student’s level.

“When they leave – if they learned and grew as a person – you can smile knowing you’ve made an impact on their life. If you can do that, you will truly love your job,” Boyd said.

Aside from watching her own children become involved in agricultural education, Boyd said the high points in her 21-year education career have been watching former students apply their skills and follow their passions, which sometimes leads them to careers in the agriculture industry. One of Boyd’s students returned to Osceola to teach at the elementary school. That former student shares her love of agriculture with her young students and created an agriculture club for the elementary students to join.

“I absolutely adore that – seeing my ag program come full circle,” Boyd said.

The agricultural education field is like a big family, and Boyd encourages young educators to reach out to her for guidance as they begin their own teaching careers.

“No matter where you are in your career, there are always people there to help,” she said.