The Elk Grove High School Agriculture Department received two prestigious California Agricultural Teachers’ Association awards in the category of program leadership during a ceremony in San Luis Obispo in June.

The Elk Grove High School Agriculture Department received two prestigious awards in the category of program leadership by the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association (CATA).

The objectives of CATA are to promote and improve the state’s agriculture teaching and foster the welfare of those involved in that line of work.

Receiving the awards were Elk Grove High Agriculture Department instructors Mike Albiani, Courtney Bamert, Amy Erman, Colleen Lawson, Wesley Messer, Sierra Meyers and Shannon Welch.

The awards were presented during the association’s annual conference, which was held in San Luis Obispo from June 23-27.

Elk Grove High was recognized for its “Overall Outstanding Agriculture Department” and for having an “Outstanding Agriculture Program,” with student work-based learning and leadership development opportunities.

The awards were given in the designated area of agriculture departments with four or more instructors, and cover such curriculum as the success of the students, facilities, and the growth of the program.

In receiving these statewide awards, Elk Grove High’s Agriculture Department was honored with such recognition from CATA for the first time since 2004.

With these recently presented awards, the program qualifies to be further judged on a Western region level, prior to Sept. 1. The program could potentially receive a national agricultural educators’ award, which will be announced in October. Their national award ceremony will be held in Anaheim in December.

Elk Grove High Principal Dr. Eugene Christmas III recognized the Agriculture Department’s recent awards as “huge honors.”

“Elk Grove High School remains committed to implementing a high quality educational experience for its students, and these two awards speak to everyone’s dedication toward shaping our future generations of agricultural students,” he said.

Albiani noted that as part of CATA’s award selection process, the organization reviews the growth a school agriculture program has made during the past five years.

“Our program has grown teacher-wise, from five to seven, in that time,” he said. “So, we have some growth, our students have achieved well, and we developed the school farm and we’ve put in a new barn.”

The program has also added new animal science curriculum. Albiani said that the growth of the program will continue, as the department is planning for the establishment of a small vineyard and intends to also replace its orchard.

Another element of CATA’s judging process is its review of the involvement of the agriculture teachers, and their leadership roles.

Examples of the additional work of Elk Grove High agriculture teachers are Lawson’s role as the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports coordinator, and Albiani’s service as the career and technical education department chair.

Furthermore, other Elk Grove High Agriculture Department staff members serve as officers in the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, and have presented workshops.

The department has also hosted at least one student teacher at a time during the past five to six year. This fall the program includes two student teachers.

Albiani emphasized the importance of that the department’s work with student teachers.

“That’s kind of thought of giving back to the profession and trying to develop those people who are going to replace us down the road,” he said. “It’s kind of like that’s what the award is based upon.”

Albiani added that Elk Grove High’s agriculture program has a strong legacy that continues to grow, despite changing times.

“We had an outstanding program to start with, at least a legacy of an outstanding program to start with, and as we’ve become more urban, we’ve been able to maintain that, and we’re pretty proud of that task,” he said.