Beth Hammerberg knew she wanted to be a teacher in kindergarten. Even though she had no doubts about her career path, she didn’t know what she wanted to teach until high school.
“In high school I toyed with the idea of teaching math and music, but I could never decide,” Hammerberg said.
As a dedicated FFA member in high school, Hammerberg’s teacher inspired her to teach agriculture.
Hammerberg’s interest in agriculture began while growing up on a hobby farm near Arlington, Wash. Alongside her parents, Hammerberg raised everything from trout to cattle, including pigs, sheep, horses and chickens.
She decided to attend Washington State University after going there for the FFA State Convention one year. “I liked the idea of being familiar with a campus, plus it was in-state and I received lots of scholarship money,” Hammerberg said.
As a sophomore, Hammerberg enrolled in NATRS 301, a plant identification class typically taken by juniors and seniors. “We had to memorize 15 plants each week, which was hard because many had similar characteristics. The final paper in that class was also very tough,” she said.
Hammerberg was ready for the classroom following graduation in 2002. “My time in Pullman allowed me to mature and gain social skills—which helped me out during my first few years teaching.”
She is now in her sixth year teaching science-based agriculture classes at Wenatchee High School and serves as one of four FFA advisors.
“We have about 130 students in FFA and do all sorts of activities. I enjoy the program because it is a great way for kids to learn how to work in teams and learn leadership skills,” she said.
Hammerberg tries to implement hands-on activities in all of her classes. “My students like being able to apply the things they are learning. They enjoy learning about cloning, genetics, and how to manage animals. They also like dissection labs.”
She also requires her students to complete a project related to the agriculture industry. Typical projects include part-time jobs, community service and job shadows. However, many students go beyond Hammerberg’s project expectations.
“One student has a lease on the school orchard and is managing that. I also have a student who is raising alpacas in order to start a fiber farm. They will get a lot out of seeing those projects through. I hope the project teaches every student about responsibility and provides them with ideas for career options.”
By Brianna Brue, Marketing, News, and Educational Communications Intern