By Leah Sander
AKRON — Hope Slagle said the agriculture community “welcome(d)” her when she joined FFA in eighth grade.
Now she helps others feel the same way as one of Tippecanoe Valley High School’s agriculture teachers and FFA advisors.
Slagle is in her third year of teaching at TVHS.
Though she lives in Akron now, Slagle is originally from southeast Indiana, graduating from East Central High School.
It was a friend who got Slagle to join FFA in junior high. There, the community drew her in even though she didn’t grow up in a farming family.
“I’m very appreciative of how welcoming when I was in school the FFA community and ag community were to me,” said Slagle.
“They never made me feel like I was different or less because I wasn’t raised on a farm,” she said.
“I competed in a lot of contests when I was in school, and I liked the competitive nature of that, but it just was a place I felt like I belonged,” she continued.
Slagle “served as (an FFA) chapter officer for two years,” later being a district officer and trying for a state office; however, her original career goal was to become a veterinarian due to her love for animals. After learning how many years of education it would take to join that profession, Slagle changed her mind.
“I knew I always enjoyed my ag classes when I was in high school, and I have great respect for my former ag teacher,” she said. “When I went to Purdue (University), I was in exploratory studies initially, and then I made the switch I think after my first semester at Purdue to ag education.”
She has a bachelor’s degree in that field and hopes to eventually gain her master’s degree in education.
Slagle minored in horticulture at Purdue, also having a love for plants, mentioning she currently has “a jungle in (her) apartment.”
She competed in horticulture contests while in FFA and then helped judge them as a Purdue student. Now, she leads the Valley FFA horticulture team and teaches “plant-based” classes at the school.
Slagle also leads Valley’s dairy judging, entomology and novice parliament FFA teams among others.
As a teacher, her classes include beginning ag ones, while her colleague, Mike Jones, teaches the more advanced ones.
One of her classes is offered to Tippecanoe Valley Middle School eighth graders.
“Last year was the first year we expanded into the middle school, and this year, there was a wait list for kids to take (it),” she said.
She noted due to Indiana’s requirement, students focus on “career pathways” as they go through high school, more students seem interested in taking ag courses.
“It’s becoming a more popular option for kids, who maybe aren’t as STEM-oriented, then a lot of schools are having to add second and third teacher positions, so I think over half of the open ag positions last year were for a second or third position,” Slagle said.
Overall, Slagle said she likes “building relationships with the students.”
“It’s very important to me that these kids feel like I am somebody that they can trust and come to, and it’s a lot easier to build those relationships when I’m spending that time with them,” Slagle said.