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Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Riethman named top agricultural instructor in Ohio

By Nancy Allen
Denny Riethman, Tri Star horticulture instructor and an FFA adviser at Coldwater Exempted Village Schools, received the Outstanding Teacher Award for the state of Ohio from the Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators (OAAE).
Riethman was one of 10 teachers nominated for the award in District 5, which includes 36 schools in parts of Mercer and Auglaize counties and all of Shelby, Darke, Miami, Preble and Montgomery counties. He was nominated by a colleague.
The 33-year Coldwater schools veteran said he was a little surprised by the award he received during the association's banquet last week.
"I guess it showed an appreciation for the work I've done and have been doing," Riethman said.
In his nomination application Riethman submitted information on his teaching philosophy and strategy, student evaluation and performance procedures and other areas.
Riethman had been the ag science instructor until he took the horticulture instruction job two years ago.
"Horticulture focuses more on landscaping and greenhouse management, which is still part of agriculture," he said.
Riethman said teaching ag in schools has changed throughout the years to a more science-based curriculum. When he began teaching in 1979, the focus was strictly on production agriculture, he said.
"Then in the late 1980s it evolved into teaching ag management and the early 1990s switched to teaching agri-science," he said. "Farming is getting more scientific-based, like the science of how things grow and work ... it's been that way for a while."
Riethman said ag-related courses are important, especially in Mercer County, which consistently ranks No. 1 for farm income among Ohio's 88 counties.
"Everybody's got to eat and it all comes back to our production of food," he said. "It's the heart of our economy and economic system."
Riethman said it's the area's rich farming industry that is responsible for the county's consistently low unemployment figures.
The ag industry not only employs farmers, but those in transportation and food processing, farm equipment manufacturing, seed and agricultural chemical dealers and others, he said.
Past OAAE president Rose Hartschuh said it was Riethman's focus on community-based learning that made him stand out.
"He encourages his students to participate in a variety of service learning projects, he involves community members in instruction by bringing them in as guest speakers and by connecting students with members of the community for work projects," Hartschuh said.
Riethman also involves community members through an advisory committee, which helps him evaluate what he is teaching and meet community needs, Hartschuh said.
Riethman will next be judged in a regional competition that includes instructors from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky.
Other courses offered by Tri Star's Agricultural Education Program to juniors and seniors are veterinary science and ag mechanics. Coldwater also offers an ag science course available to freshmen through seniors, Riethman said. Other ag instructors and FFA advisers at Coldwater are Deanna Wenning, ag science; Jack Mescher, ag mechanics and Mike Seibert, veterinary sciences.

Hands-on learning:
Tri Star horticulture instructor Denny Riethman said he practices a hands-on teaching philosophy, preparing students academically, in their technical skills and employability.
Below is an example of the experiential learning programs he's implemented at Coldwater:
• Plot mowing - students maintain the grassed and landscaped areas of crop plots which prepares them for turf and landscape maintenance.
• Home landscaping projects - students design a complete home landscape plan, hand draw the design, prepare CAD drawings, develop a complete cost estimate and present the plan to the homeowner. Students then install the landscape and lawn.
• Wetland plants adoption - more than 300 wetland plants were adopted from Grand Lake and wintered over in the Tri Star greenhouse at Coldwater High School. Studies were completed on water quality, nutrient uptake and plant growth and reports were prepared and shared with the county soil and water conservation service and related farm groups or organizations.
• Lawnmower service clinic - in early spring students serviced and prepared lawnmowers for school staff and elderly in the community.
• Greenhouse plant sales - students market select plants grown in the greenhouse.
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