Guiding the Future
Everton High School is located in southeast Dade County, Mo’s., bucolic countryside along the twists-and-turns of Highway 160.
On the last day of the 2016-2017 school year, agriculture education teacher Cheryl Ficken was found in the school’s greenhouse tending to the beautiful flowers and plants grown by her students, as-well-as simultaneously giving instruction to her shop students who were busy finishing projects.
Cheryl wears many hats at the school; teaching six subjects per day, including conservation, ag business management, greenhouse, ag construction and ag science I and II, along with her FFA advisor responsibilities. Cheryl is indeed a “multi-tasker extraordinaire.”
Cheryl is deeply rooted in Missouri farm life.
She grew up on a highly-diversified family farm near Green Ridge, Mo., where they raised cattle, hay and various row crops.
She started caring for her first bottle calf at just 4-years-of age.
“I talked my dad into it,” Cheryl recalled with a smile. “He finally gave in after some pleading. I was the youngest of four kids and had a little stubborn streak, wanting to do what my older siblings did.”
Caring for animals during her formative years proved to be a very valuable life lesson for Cheryl. She learned to be responsible – a trait that would serve her well throughout her young life, college years at the University of Missouri as- well-as her seven-year teaching career, which she sees herself doing long-term.
“A funny story; I never thought I was going to be a teacher,” Cheryl recalled. “My plan was to go into ag business. My early experiences in FFA led me to success in the farm management career development events, but as I continued to college, I fell in love with promoting people instead of products. Halfway through my freshman year, I decided I needed to go back into ag education.”
Under Cheryl’s guidance, the Everton Agricultural Education Program has achieved success.
“There had been a significant gap in student achievement within the program,” Cheryl reflected. “We’ve come a long way in the past five years.”
From qualifying teams to State Career Development Events, securing more than $8,500 in outside grants and starting a school composting and garden program, to building community service efforts, you can’t help noticing the plagues lining the wall.
But plaques aren’t where Cheryl finds her success. Seeing growth in her students as they become young adults is the most fulfilling part of her job.
“I want students to understand and respect the ag industry,” Cheryl said. “However, cultivating skills in them to be successful in life is my ultimate goal in teaching. The moments where I have guided students to find their passion within the ag industry, that’s the icing on the cake.”