By Madelyn Ostendorf
Michael Haden (’08 agricultural business, ’10 MS agricultural and life sciences education) has spent the last 13 years teaching students about agriculture at Independence High School in Independence, Iowa. Through the variety of classes he teaches, Haden is impacting the lives of his students through his love for agriculture and teaching.
Haden was on Iowa State University’s campus Oct. 18-19, participating 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 aims to connect Iowa agricultural education instructors with current students, faculty and staff in the department.
“Our teacher-in-residence program provides a great opportunity for our students to interact with an alumnus who has been in the classroom and is bringing back their expertise,” said Mike Retallick, professor and chair of agricultural education and studies. “Not only does it give the students an opportunity to ask questions, but they get a glimpse into what it means to be a teacher.”
Haden grew up with a farmer dad and a teacher mom, witnessing firsthand the impacts of agriculture and education on the world. He was involved in his high school agriculture program and FFA chapter and always saw agricultural education as a potential career path. During his undergraduate program at Iowa State, he realized that teaching and helping students was his passion.
“I enjoy the variety of it,” Haden said. “Every group of kids is different. Even though I might be teaching the same subjects year after year, the experience with each new set of students is unique.”
Haden teaches seventh through 12th graders and has a variety of classes, including agricultural business, horticulture, plant science, exploratory environmental science, agricultural leadership and FFA. He said the classes allow students to explore what a career in agriculture could look like and is a cool way to learn science outside of a traditional classroom setting.
“One of my favorite teaching experiences is the work we get to do in our greenhouse,” Haden said. “We transplant the starters into our school garden in the spring and spend the semester taking care of them. When kids come back in the fall, they get to harvest what they planted. It’s a cool, full-circle experience for them.”
During his time at Iowa State, Haden said his professors did a great job teaching him what to do to become a great agriculture teacher and, just as importantly, what not to do.
When it comes to future agriculture educators, Haden advises they find a good circle of support and remember how important they are to their students. The job is tough and can be demanding, but senior teachers across the school, the district and even the state are there as a resource to use.
“We need educators right now in Iowa,” Haden said. “It's a job where you can love what you do and you can make a difference in the lives of people and see that difference. You don't really know how to be a teacher until you've been a teacher, but the skills you are learning at Iowa State will help you in the classroom.”