FFA advisers — similar to fellow teachers who have coaching, band, speech or other extracurricular activities assigned — are known for their hard work.
Still, it would be difficult to find an FFA adviser with more skills and who works harder to get a new FFA program going than Amanda Hafer.
The first-year high school teacher at Lutheran High Northeast, who has a doctorate in veterinary science and came from teaching at Northeast Community College, is working on getting certified to teach high school students as she teaches at the parochial school.
“All the classes within the animal realm are her wheelhouse, but she has been taking all these other courses in building construction and small engine and welding to secure the knowledge,” said Daniel Sievert, principal at Lutheran High Northeast.
“Our students can’t wait for that,” Sievert said. “From the very beginning, she has been incredibly organized. She really takes time with the students on the things that matter. The subject content is great, but it is the soft skills — the leadership, the character — those are the things I am seeing her lead the students in already.”
Sievert said adding FFA at Lutheran High Northeast had been considered for a couple of years before it was added last fall. Along with agricultural interests, which are a natural in this part of the state, FFA adds character development and leadership, which will benefit the students in their future even if it isn’t agriculture-related, he said.
Hafer said she feels blessed to teach at Lutheran High Northeast. Her teaching experience includes teaching veterinary tech classes at Northeast Community College for 10 years.
“I’m getting my transitional certification. I don’t have an education degree. When I was teaching out at the college — because it’s a trade — you don’t have to have a degree in education, just have it in whatever you were teaching — the content.”
Toward that end, she took 15 credit hours last semester and is taking 10 credit hours this semester. Every other semester, she will take six to nine credit hours, earning her teaching certificate and learning additional subjects as an FFA adviser.
Hafer grew up in Schuyler. Her mother was a teacher, and her father was a farmer.
“Dad was a farmer and then he got out of it. He always said, ‘Don’t become a farmer.’ Mom was a teacher and she said, ‘Don’t become a teacher.’ ” Hafer said with a laugh. “I think it all is interesting.”
Hafer went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in veterinary science. She earned her doctorate of veterinary science at Kansas State University. She also has worked at Companion Animal Clinic in Norfolk and in Rapid City, South Dakota.
She and her husband, Bob, have four children, ages 11, 9, 6 and 4. Bob is from a farm near Utica.
Her experience at Northeast helped her to see that she enjoys teaching. One of the things that appealed to her at Lutheran High Northeast was the Christian aspect.
“How can we spread the word of God to kids?” she asked. “I can talk about how God affects everything in agriculture and how much better the world is because God is in it.”
Hafer said Lutheran High Northeast already has 24 students enrolled. Probably at least half are upperclassmen, she said.
“There’s a lot of ties to farms here,” Hafer said. “It’s not that they all have parents who are farmers, but a lot have grandparents or aunts or uncles who farm. And there’s a lot of alumni who are in agriculture. We have been blessed with a lot of people with a strong interest in agriculture who really want to help the program.”
Retired farmers have been scheduled to talk to students. There have been visits to agriculture-related businesses, such as Dinkel Implement. Brad Dinkel is an alumnus of Lutheran High Northeast.
And more than that, FFA is not just agriculture now, Hafer said.
“It’s not just cows and plows as they say,” Hafer said. “It was the Future Farmers of America. Now they just call it the FFA organization because they don’t want people to think you have to go and farm. There’s food science, vet science, plant science, horticulture and more. It’s not just row crops and cattle.”
At this time, Lutheran High Northeast’s ag classes don’t require a shop. Plans are being made on where that shop will be located and how a fundraising campaign will take place.
So far, that means students take introduction classes, in addition to wildlife management, small animal and large animal classes.
Students at the school said they were eager to take ag classes and join FFA.
Tristen Buss is a sophomore and the sentinel for the chapter. The sentinel welcomes those attending meetings and helps to keep order.
She said FFA gives her a chance to take some more classes and become more well rounded.
“I really enjoy it,” she said. “I was part of both the land judging and dairy judging.”
Chloe Bitney, a senior, said it has been a lot more fun than she anticipated. Had it been offered sooner, she definitely would have taken it.
Bitney serves as the reporter for the chapter and takes notes at meetings.
“It’s been worth the wait. I think Dr. Hafer is trying to ease us into it since this is our first year,” Bitney said. “I think in the years to come, we will have a lot more (classes).”
Both students said they don’t live on farms, but that didn’t keep them from being interested. Most students know FFA isn’t just for those who want to be a farmer, they said.