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Career Center

Anthony Meals

K-State graduation year: 2014
Degree: BS Agricultural Education 
Current Employer:  USD #384 – Blue Valley - Randolph
Position:  8-12 Agricultural Educator 

How many times, if any, did you change your major during college?

Before I came to college I was changing my potential major two to three times a week. However, once I got into college I never changed my major, but due to my eclectic interests I took a wide diversity of coursework receiving a minor in Geography. 

Describe the process of choosing your major.

Since I was young I knew that education was my calling, but what to teach was only the aspect that changed. Due to two phenomenal Agricultural instructors my choice came down to either Agricultural Economics or Agricultural Education. When visiting with professors at K-State during my campus tour, Dr. Washburn, then a professor in Ag Education said, “Anthony you are a people person, not a numbers person. You need to be in education.” Dr. Washburn was right and I have not regretted the decision since. 

What activities/organizations were you involved in while in college?

Freshman year I was heavily involved in the Collegiate Men’s Rowing Club. Due to my blessed stature of 5’ 2” I had the opportunity to serve as a Coaxswain. This is the member of the squad who steers the boat and encourages on his fellow rowers. I also got to compete in the singles open division for rowing. Though it was for only a year I still look back on that experience as a truly special time in my life. Sophomore year and on I was dedicated to the Kansas FFA Association through serving as a State FFA officer and helping with the association in other capacities. In addition I worked a full-time job at a local grocery store.   

Did you complete an internship or have related work experience prior to receiving your job?

Prior to teaching students are required to complete a semester long teaching internship. I student taught in western Kansas at Hays High School. This was a great experience for me for multiple reasons. First off, my mentor Curt Vajnar, pushed me constantly to better my lessons and increase my knowledge of agriculture. He also got me out of my comfort zone a lot! He had me teaching his full load of classes by the third week of school and I was teaching all the courses till almost the end of the school year. This however was not the most important thing I learned from Mr. Vajnar. He taught me how to better balance the time I spent teaching and being a good husband and future father. “Never compromise excellence, but don’t burn yourself out while doing it.” Then he’d always quickly add, “If you figure that out you can write a book!” Mr. Vajnar had taught for over twenty years, was a father of five children, happily married, and ran a full-scale lawn care business to help fund his hobby of teaching. Mr. Vajnar had left quite an impression on me and I credit my skill as a teacher and care as a husband to him.  

Describe the process of finding your first job.

My wife, Annelle, had already landed a job before I started looking for mine. She too was an agricultural instructor and at that time taught in Hanover. We were deeply relieved when the job at Blue Valley in Randolph opened. It was forty minutes from Hanover and a nice community with an active FFA program. It was a no-brainer and I applied. I was blessed that they had the confidence to hire such a young and limited experienced candidate as myself to take the helm of the successful program. They made the interview process very relaxing and I was naturally nervous, but was able to ease as the interview went along. What is encouraging about applying for a teaching job is that they really are not out to get you with gottcha questions or make the matter a burden, they desire to know you as a person to see if you are someone they want to work with the students at the school. 

Briefly describe a typical day at your job.

Wow this would be difficult to describe. Everyday is different, always a new adventure. Students are a blast and they make it fun. I usually try to get to work by 6am to work on correspondence and miscellaneous paperwork. 7:30am I’m having breakfast with students in the cafeteria. Teach all morning till about noon. Then I have lunch with fellow staff members. Afternoon is generally relaxing, I work on chores in the greenhouse, bramble patch, shop, and the classroom pets. Run errands to different parts of the school and conduct debriefings with my student managers on project statuses. Then the school day is over with students by about 3:30pm. I go and visit with staff members on grant proposals or cross-curricular planning till 5pm. Then go home to garden or read with my wife for the rest of the evening.   

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Encouraging student ownership of their learning. We do a lot of project-based learning in my classrooms. This keeps things fresh and relevant for students and myself. It’s always a blast to see students have those aha moments as they work on a challenging project that they have finally found a solution for. 

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

When students don’t see the same potential you see in them. I’ve already had a few in the past two years who discredit their abilities and strengths. This frustrates me to no end. They clearly have tremendous talent and gifting that can benefit their peers and the world, but they lack the desire to cultivate those talents and gifts…what a waste. 

What advice would you give someone interested in your field?

Education doesn’t come without its unique set of challenges, but I can assure anyone interested in a career of education that you will have no greater impact or influence in any other role period. If you care about the students and the subject you teach, you will change lives and in turn influence the world. 

 

What were the stepping stones that led to your current career? 

I’m certainly a non-traditional Agricultural educator. My father worked for the department of defense so we moved eleven times before my junior year in high school. However, my parents did come from agricultural backgrounds that kept me connected to agriculture my entire life. It was during my Junior year in high school however that I enrolled in Horticulture and fell in love with agricultural education. At that time I was still waffling on the type of teacher I wanted to be, but I definitely found agricultural education very appealing. By my Senior year my two agricultural instructors had definitely worked their magic and Agricultural Education was in the top five potential career paths. Then my meeting with Dr. Washburn took place and the rest is history.    

Has your career path taken any unconventional turns that you never would have expected? 

Currently, my career path has been very conventional and I would have it no other way for right now and into the foreseeable future. 

How have nay changes in your life situation affected your career path?

In the past year Annelle moved jobs to a two-teacher Ag program that gave her a lot more flexibility. This allowed us to move closer to family, my job, and Manhattan. This allowed me to take the step in aggressively pursing an expansion of school-based projects that would require me to be closer to monitor. 

 

What job have you enjoyed most? 

The whole community and school have made me feel right at home. If I were to leave education within the next fifteen years I could not see myself working at another school district. They have treated me too well!

What were the major lifestyle changes your first year out of college that made the transition hard from college to the world of work and how did you adapt?

College was a totally different set of responsibilities. In college I was responsible for myself ad had no responsibility on behalf of anyone else other than my employer and my wife. This was a dramatic shift when I became an educator and was placed with the responsibility of six young people during National FFA Convention. It was a little scary, but I was able to adapt well to the new responsibilities.     

What was the one thing you did in college that has had the most impact on your life or career?

Having a job was the single best thing I did while in college. Through the job, scholarships, and some additional financial support I was able to leave college with no debt and Annelle and I were able to purchase our first vehicle without a loan. Though it was hard work and I sacrificed a lot of other opportunities it has set our family in a financially secure path forward.     

What tips do you have for current undergrads about opportunities they should definitely take advantage of while they are in school? 

Be involved in some type of undergraduate research. I was involved in research through the McNair Scholars Program with Dr. Washburn and I loved it! Looking back on my college experience I wish I had been more involved in Ag Ed Club. I feel that being involved in that organization could have paid significant dividends towards my career success in agricultural education. 

Was there a specific class you remember that sparked your interest in your career direction?

The class that sparked a realization on the value of agricultural education was the Greenhouse Operations and Management course with Dr. Williams. She did an excellent job at tailoring the course for students involved in ag ed and how we could take what we were learning and apply it towards our future instruction. It was one of the core technical courses I took during K-State that has helped me in my content instruction with students today. 

Was there a specific person in college who had a significant impact on your life or career?

The Kansas FFA Executive Secretary, Ms. Kane, had the single most significant impact upon my life while at K-State. She served as a tremendous mentor in my life and helped me grow to become a better teacher. Her willingness to always take time to visit with me when I dropped by or wanted to ask for her next book recommendation was the highlight of my week.  

Do you keep in touch with your college classmates? 

Many of my classmates have gone on to become agricultural educators across the state of Kansas so it is easy to stay in touch because I see them at professional events. Just a few weeks ago I was blessed to be a groomsmen for one of my classmates. Its great to still be so close with my classmates because they serve as an amazing support system and can share in the common experiences of being an agricultural educator.