BALAKLAVA High School's Sue Pratt, a passionate and inspiring teacher with agriculture "in her DNA", was recently recognised with the Agricultural Teachers Association of SA 2021 Excellence Award.
An esteemed award given to teachers who make a lasting impact on education and curriculum development within their own school and across the state, ATASA president Damien Brookes said Sue was an "extremely worthy" winner.
Damien said Sue had been instrumental in curriculum development in the past few years and especially in the building of junior ag programs to accommodate the move of year 7s into secondary school.
"Sue's passion for the agricultural industry and her passion to help students to continue learning and continue a pathway into the industry are what make her such a worthy recipient of this excellence award," he said.
"It's not just at the student level either. She wants to inspire other teachers and help with their development as well."
Sue described the award as a "thrill", saying it was nice to think her peers thought she was doing a good job.
A former student at Balaklava, a teacher since 1987 and agriculture teacher since 2007, Sue laughed that she was well and truly part of the furniture.
Hailing from a farming family, the ATASA award winner said she had no second thoughts when accepting the ag teaching post at the school in 2007.
"Agriculture is in my DNA," Sue said.
"All of my family are farmers - my dad and brother have a farm at Pinery, my sister is married to a farmer and they are up at Black Rock.
"My husband and I have been farmers all our married life and his sister is also married to a farmer at Hallett, so it's really in the DNA."
Extremely passionate about both agriculture and education, Sue said she leaned on her practical experience when teaching her students and said she found great satisfaction from seeing a range of students embark on a career in the industry.
"I have lots of industry experience, but I don't actually have an agricultural qualification, but I don't feel that has been an impediment in my career anyway," she said.
"We have always been mixed farmers - we've had chooks, pigs, sheep, cattle and cropping - so I've got a bit of an overview in that respect and I've got lots of contacts and experts to call on when I do come across something I'm not so confident in."
Sue said teaching children of all ages and backgrounds about agriculture, and where their food and fibre comes from, was as important as ever.
"A lot of our students are disconnected from that process because a lot of families don't have time or space or the skills to grow their own vegetables for example," she said.
"It's only a small percentage of our cohort who are living on-farm and even then, many farms are quite narrow in focus now - they don't tend to be that real mixed enterprise business anymore.
"I think it's also important for kids to be educated about the purchasing choices they need to make as consumers.
"I'm pretty keen for them to make those choices from an educated point of view, not an emotional point of view."
Describing it as an engaging subject to teach, Sue said she was blessed to teach ag at Balaklava, which had great facilities to allow students to learn in a hands-on manner.
"We've got really good facilities at our school so we can get out and work with sheep, cattle and crops to have those hands on experiences," she said.
"I'm not stuck in a classroom all day and the kids know we're going to do some practical learning as well and that really taps into a whole different skillset for a lot of our kids.
"They can be really successful in agriculture, even if they may struggle perhaps in other subjects.
"The school also has a really balanced program and good range of subjects which allows kids to excel."
OTHER AG TEACHERS GIVEN TOP MARKS
AT its recent annual conference, the Agricultural Teachers Association of SA also handed out a number of long service and contribution awards, as well as three life memberships.
The newly-inducted life members were Mark Innes, Urrbrae Agriculture High School, and Phil Roberts and Mal Jurgs, Coomandook Area School.
Mark Innes also received an outstanding contribution to agricultural education award, with Gerald Wright and Bob Mitchell, Faith Lutheran School, Barossa Valley, also receiving the accolade.
Aleks Sulagic, Cleve Area School, was acknowledged for 40 years of service to ag teaching.
Scott Cram, Grant High School, Mount Gambier; Damien Brookes, Larissa Tallent, Dave Heymemann and Vince Fleming, all of Urrbrae, were acknowledged for 30 years service.
Receiving accolades for 20 years service to ag teaching were Lesley Squires, Clare High School; Steve Mason, Urrbrae; Sarah Townsend, Central Yorke School, Maitland; and Meredith Crawford.
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