Our Serve – Part 1

our serve

It was another blast this weekend driving for the high school volleyball team. Still learning about the game and also being taught the ways of the hospitality room! ūüôā

This week my reflections from the game took a particular focus on the art and act of serving the ball. A couple of things stood out that I’ll explore for my next three posts:

  • The game will not be set into motion till the ball was served…
  • Focus is everything…
  • Ball placement makes all the difference…

How many projects are waiting for us to put them into motion?

How many of our coworkers are waiting for us to make the first move?

Too often we fail to realize that the ball of change is in our hands and that the future we hope/pray for is awaiting our serve…

God blows the whistle to commence and we still stand there thinking, come on team why are we not doing something? Yet, we are the ones holding the ball. We are not powerless, we can choose to be daily agents of positive change in our classrooms and communities.

Take time this week and consider what steps are awaiting your action? Who needs you to serve the ball?

Let’s stop waiting for the “perfect” opportunity (there is no such thing), let’s not look at the scoreboard of life (most of the time it means nothing or is simply dead wrong). Let us just step up to the line and serve that ball! So much depends on it…

Gearing Up for Greenhands

Gearing Up for Greenhands

In two days we will be welcoming over 400 FFA Greenhands into our high school. This is conjuring up exciting, humbling, and nerve-racking feelings all at once! Over three months of preparation with six committed District Officers along with help/guidance from countless others has gotten us to this point.

Three months ago during District Leadership Retreat we asked ourselves one driving question: What do our North Central District FFA Chapters need from us?

The answers we kept wrestling with came back to an engaged membership and cultivating experiences/connections that last. Greenhand Conference was going to be our first real opportunity to step up and challenge ourselves towards those goals. Read Make it Count if you are interested in some additional context from retreat.

So here we are now. Our theme for this year’s Greenhand Conference is Preparing for the Journey.¬†During Greenhand Conference we have the rare opportunity in having all first year FFA members gathered together under one roof. This also being the first FFA experience that many of these young members have participated in; we are literally jumpstarting their journey in FFA.

This journey through our organization will look different for each of these members, as it should! Our hope during Greenhand Conference is to showcase the limitless opportunities that exist for our members and plant the seeds of future involvement. Engagement in our FFA chapters will increase when our members feel that they belong, when they know there is a place for each of them, along with their interests and passions! To belong is to feel a part of a community. That sense of community must begin when they first enter through the doors of our high school this Wednesday.

We hope to see the fruits of our Greenhand members’ engagement this year, but we recognize anything worth focusing on and doing will take time. Sustaining the excitement and energy after Greenhand Conference far into the future will be our goal. We hope to facilitate a conference that will plant the seeds of lasting connections; between officers and members, and most importantly between members of other chapters. Focusing on forging lasting connections will do more than anything in cultivating community that will lead to committed engagement among all our members.

Finally, our lasting hope for each new member is that they not only see themselves belonging, but they see and recognize their value, their inner greatness, and the potential of their contribution. We need our Greenhands, that’s the short and simple of it. For today, but especially for tomorrow, when they will be asked to fill the leadership roles within our chapters.

We are gearing up for our Greenhand members and we thank all our NCD Advisors who see the value of bringing their youngest members to this conference. We pray it will be a game-changer. Bring on the GREENHANDS! 

Blog Note: For those who are regular readers and not involved in a local Agricultural Education program, Greenhands are first year members in our organization. Each year our district puts on a conference for these first year FFA members. This tradition is long-standing in our state with similarly structured events having been recorded as early as 1930 in some parts of our state. Thanks for reading and sharing in this exciting adventure!


Cultivating a Thankful Culture

cultivating a

Often our organizations focus on building cultures that will help get us ahead or be better than we are now. These can be healthy cultures to work and live in, but a crucial foundation they must be built on is a culture of thankfulness.

And I’m not talking about just being thankful to those who give to our organizations or help. I’m talking about starting with those around us, who work beside us each and everyday. They are the individuals who must know and feel our genuine thankfulness. These are our co-workers, administrators, and above all our students.

The question then becomes, “How could I start sharing my thankfulness?”

It starts with being thankful for who we are and where we are. We cannot be genuinely thankful towards others if we are not thankful about ourselves and circumstances.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

When we are overflowing with a spirit of thankfulness then we can begin genuinely and generously spreading its seed. The approach of sharing our thankfulness with others will look different for each person, as it should. Sometimes it’s a thank you note, a hug, a smile, or an act of service.

Yet, I’d argue the most powerful expression of thankfulness we can all provide is saying a specific and in-person thank you. It’s one thing to say simply, “Thank you.” It is another to provide a specific reason that allows them to know what we are appreciative for.

Taking time to be thankful is good for us, those around us, and our organizations. We will not always receive a thank you for our efforts, but nothing stops us from giving them to others and that is something we should never withhold.

Cultivating a genuine culture of thankfulness will not happen overnight, but know that the fruits from such a culture will be transformative for others’ lives and our own.

This week, choose to be thankful, spreading its cheer and joy abundantly!

Reclaim Our Mornings


“Good morning!”

This is a common greeting around our household. Annelle and I are often up early during the week and (even) the weekend. Usually, she is up early to put in a morning run before going to feed cattle and I’m up either reading, writing, or simply reflecting. Our promise to each other was that we would not disturb each other’s mornings right away with the immediate burdens of the day, any “immediate” discussion for the next day we try to reserve at night. Why?

The mornings are special and have become, as our relationship grows, sacred. Few moments in the day can either of us find time to do “our” thing. So, we carve time in the wee hours of the morning and the benefits, as the years have flown by, are clear.

The mornings offer a fresh start, a time where we can hit reset and prepare mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the day. As educators and professionals involved in building the capacity of young people there are a multitude of reasons we must consider reclaiming our mornings. Not only for ourselves, but in the end to benefit our students, working peers, and communities we serve.

Here are a few reasons why I choose to reclaim my mornings:

  • Spending Time with the Lord:

In his book, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it best, “The scriptures, moreover, tell us that the first thought and the first word of the day belong to God.”

Two years ago I was struggling. Teaching was beginning to feel like work…not a passion. I felt like I was running on empty all the time. When summer came I couldn’t have felt more happy. Yet, it was not refreshing. As I thought about what had changed I saw that as I assumed more and more responsibility in my teaching I reduced significantly the amount of time I was dedicating to reading and reflecting on scripture. The urgent was dominating and I never felt I had the time or I kept kicking the can down the road. Tomorrow I’ll crack open my bible…I promise Lord.

Annelle would get the daily devotional entitled, Our Daily Bread, I had heard it be used in her parents morning devotions, but had never given it much thought. Annelle started to get the devotion on her phone and she gave me the hard copies…

That’s how it started with a little push. The¬†Our Daily Bread devotions anchor my daily time with the Lord. As I continued to grow in my discipline of just reading the scripture for the devotion, I branched out to reading the Bible in One Year segment. The next step was writing in a prayer journal. Each layer was possible because of the discipline I had formed before. As my relationship with the Lord deepened I rediscovered through the word the great joy and love he had in me and I in him.

Bonhoeffer, himself an early riser, would go on to write, “But there is such a thing as rising early for the love of God.”

  • Sharpening the Saw:

As a youth I read the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Now as an adult, I felt it necessary to read the original book,¬†7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’m not done with the full book, but I wish I would have read it sooner!

Stephen Covey lays out the case that Habit 7 – Sharpening the Saw, helps make the work of all the other six habits possible. It is the daily time we take to invest in growing ourselves and providing ourselves support/rest. The first step of sharpening the saw for me is in the simple phrase I started as my daily motivation a year ago:¬†Early for Everything! Early to sleep, early to rise. Getting enough rest is crucial for my daily functioning. And above all if I want what’s safe for my kids on my bus route, I CANNOT afford to be sleepy at the wheel. Therefore, I’m a little selfish about my sleep and try if at all possible to be sound asleep by 10pm if not earlier.

Then, I use my early mornings for reading and reflection. After my daily devotions I take time to journal and just think. This process looks different and I never feel rushed by it. I let my mind wander freely and try hard not to think about the day, but about connections that are rumbling around. I cherish this part of my day and try to reserve a solid 20-30 minutes to it alone, usually while enjoying a solid cup of coffee!

This investment in myself is where I draw on the lessons I use in my daily writing for my blog and coaching for my students. I’d struggle to perform at my highest level if I didn’t take the time to just think and explore deeper connections in my life and practice.

  • Embracing Life’s Outlet:

Two passions have strong roots in my life, reading and writing. They are my stress outlets and honestly what I could truly consider my hobbies. I used to feel bad when I would try to sneak in time during the mornings last Spring to write, but as time went on; I could tell the difference between bottling up my outlet rather than simply allowing it to explode forth!

My mind wanders and keeps busy…busy…busy…embracing my outlet allows my mind to focus, fleshing out the connections and ideas that are slowly being woven together. Providing myself a designated time in the mornings to embrace these passions and hobbies allow me to feel I am maximizing my gifting and not containing it to the point of extinguishing the fire that burns inside me!

  • Routine Offers Support:

My daily career is never normal…

A kid has a bloody nose on the bus, aphid infestation in the greenhouse on our mum crop, 75% of the lady beetles we got to kill said aphids are dead because of residual chemical in soil from trying to treat “hellish” aphids, 9th grader has an allergic reaction after handling rabbit in animal science class, and a student finishes beautiful stool in Ag Mechanics. And it’s not even 10am yet!

This lack of normality in an odd way keeps the job fun and interesting each and every day! I love it! Yet, having a little consistency is healthy and in all sense necessary. My morning routine is just that, routine. I’ve got a very specific order, I do this so I don’t have to think about the next action or step, but I can focus in the moment upon the meaningfulness within the process. When we moved 30 minutes away from my place of work, I tested various wake-up times through early August to trial mock routine regiments for a day of school with driving my bus route. (I know, kind of ridiculous, but honestly it works for me. Yet, I’m not suggesting everyone should do this, I tend to be a little intense when I commit to something…)

This routine offers a powerful stability in my life. If something becomes way off, I can survive without the routine, but not going to lie, I look forward to waking up knowing that my morning starts in some form of order. It actually provides me motivation in getting up and lets me slowly put on the day peacefully rather than rushing around, stressed out in starting my day. Finally, the structure allows me the comfort and control to layer new habits into my routine because I can anchor them with already established disciplines during my morning.

  • Cultivating Habits:

Finally, by reclaiming my mornings, I’ve been able to tackle what may have been my greatest weakness: personal discipline. To establish lasting and healthy habits, it requires more than sheer will power. It requires discipline and a clarity in purpose.

The snooze button used to be my worst enemy. I would keep hitting it to my wife’s chagrin day in and day out. Finally, she asked, very graciously, “When will you actually just get up and stay up? Just curious?” Whoops…ouch.

The first battle in reclaiming my morning was establishing the discipline and habit to awake! When this battle was won, all that I have described before became possible.

I thank my wife each and everyday for her willingness to hold me accountable in helping me become the man, husband, and future father I desire (and need) to be. Her help in reclaiming my mornings has been an indispensable part of my personal growth and my ability to grow others.

Let this morning start a fresh chapter in our lives!

Reclaim your mornings and know that somewhere there is a light on with a fellow riser cheering, “Good morning!”

How do we celebrate success?

How do we celebrate success_

Volleyball is an intense team sport. This intensity can be seen from the players, coaches, and fans alike and in turn makes the matches that much more fun to watch. During this fall season I am blessed with the opportunity to serve as the bus driver for the weekend tournament games for our high school volleyball team.

I cannot profess to know anything about volleyball. My only previous experiences was playing intramural beach volleyball while living in Puerto Rico during high school and a couple pickup games of beach volleyball in front of the dorms in college. Therefore, this season will be a learning curve and I was having to ask tons of questions with parents (they were very gracious) after each match to better understand the various calls.

As I watched match after match something began to strike me. Volleyball players knew how to celebrate success and they did so after each point. Every team had its own flavor and style, but it was clear they were taught to celebrate together and as a whole team. Seeing the girls celebrate that success, it was clear that the action served more than just a simple team tradition. It amped up the energy and gave mental prep for the next serve…the next challenge.

Reflecting to my own classroom I was challenged in pondering…how do we celebrate success in our classrooms?

In many ways our capacity as a teacher reflects that of a coach. We provide direct instruction, lots of practice, and we assess their knowledge (our matches). So, when our students show up and step-up, how do we coach them in celebrating that success? How can we celebrate success in a way that doesn’t allow us to settle, but tees us up for the next challenge?

Celebrating success doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be a complex, long-drawn out affair, it should be intentional and meaningful. Each year, we do a large annual chapter banquet and awards night in May. It is a tremendous undertaking and we do a lot of celebration at the event and after the event!

Yet, I’ve been personally challenged to think about how healthy celebration of the small victories shows up in my classroom daily, weekly, and throughout the semester. There are examples of ways I’ve celebrated success over my past couple of years of teaching, but as I reflect upon those examples they lacked a sense of intentionality. This topic will require some deeper thinking and journaling…and definitely another blog post in the future with what I discover.

One thing though becomes clear from all this: Celebrating success together can provide positive momentum and energy towards tackling our next challenge! 

Now, I’m interested in your thoughts! How do you celebrate success whether in the classroom, in your workplace teams, or even for yourself?


Blog Note:

This post is being dedicated to both our high school volleyball coaches and our players. Thanks for the inspiration and looking forward to a great season!

Life’s Cairns

_The beautiful spring came;and when Nature resumes her loveliness,the human soul is apt to revive also._.png

While backpacking in remote locations (where there is a presence of loose rocks) it will be likely you’ll see ornately stacked rocks. These stacked rocks are markers along the trail, assembled by others before us to help guide future hikers through various twists and turns of the trail.

These markers are called rock cairns, with each one seeming to have a character of its own. However, they offer more than just direction as to which branch of the trail to take. Rock cairns offer us comfort that someone too has walked through this area before, we are not the first nor the last to enjoy the beauty and at times pain of that trail.

Our lives, when studied and mulled over, also provide clear markers along our journey of when decisions were made and how circumstances altered directions. Pondering over our own life’s cairns is a practice we all too often make little time for. Yet, its importance for both our professional and personal life cannot be overstated!

Reflecting on our life’s journey reveals not only who we have become, but who we are still becoming.¬†

As I glimpse into my own past a couple, large overarching themes take shape:

1) I am not alone in this journey: 

My life has been inextricably shaped by the lives of others, be that my parents, mentors, or friends. Yet, it is also beyond just these familiar connections. My life has been shaped by countless brief encounters with those who I still cannot recall their name, but can recall their message that still rings in my heart. As others have shaped our lives, we too are shaping the lives of those who are around us.

2) Forgiveness is real:

My life is littered with past regrets. Foolish decisions I made out of rashness, meanness, jealousy, or ego. These lessons have taught me much, but above all they have shown me the love and grace of others….many times totally undeserved. If others are capable of such forgiveness and grace, shouldn’t I too be filled with a loving, kind spirit towards those who are also just trying to figure out how to live their lives?

3) There is a plan for my life!:

It can be easy to feel that the tires of life keep spinning. We are not going anywhere and it feels we become more stuck in the ruts we’ve created. We must trust in these times and moments that there is a plan for our life. A plan for our good.¬†Yes, there is a plan for my life, but it requires me to learn from the cairns of my past to seek, find, and follow the cairns that will shape my tomorrow. We may not see clearly past the horizon, but have trust…there is more beyond.

In this rush of the fall semester, take time, ponder your past. Only then will we be equipped to capture our future!

Speaker vs. Communicator

Speaker vs. Communicator.png

Reflecting back on my notes from the Habitudes Intensive¬†from two years ago, I’m still struck by the section comparing a speaker versus a communicator.

Strong speakers tend to be situationally dependent, they thrive in the front of the room needing strong control over the direction of the conversation and topic. Strong communicators meanwhile are capable of adapting to changing circumstances. Whether that conversation is in front of 300 people or a one-on-one coffee meeting.

The most significant difference however between a speaker vs a communicator is where the emphasis is placed…speakers focus heavily on techniques and how they are perceived. Communicators focus on their audience and are responsive to their needs. Simply, speakers are successful when they have performed their speech as they practiced to near perfection; meanwhile, communicators are successful when the audience or person has experienced a met need.

I deeply admire the life and work of Ronald Reagan. During his time as president he was known as “The Great Communicator”. His ability to engage in disarming conversations with anyone he meet was incredible and was built from years traveling as a GE Spokesperson meeting with everyday factory workers. Reagan knew how to read the room and adjust his communication and message to meet the needs of those he visited.

As educators our focus should be set on being better communicators through every facet of our lives whether in the classroom or at home. The book the Choice: In Teaching and Education provides further insight on pages 18 and 19 about our Speaker vs. Communicator conversation:

Principle 1 – I Am Not The Teacher

“I have had great teachers, and poor. I have listened to exciting lectures, and bland. I have been entertained, and lulled to sleep.

Despite their obvious differences, these educational experiences share a regrettable similarity: I remember almost nothing any of these teachers ever said.

It is surprising to realize that over time I remember as little that comes from a gifted speaker’s mouth as from the mouth of one who has bored me.

But it’s the truth — a truth I too often forget. Such as when I feel the need to perform in front of a class. Or when my focus is to have class members rehearse information I have told them. Or when I care more about my teaching then their learning.¬†

In these moments, I have forgotten the first thing I as a teacher must never forget:

I am not the teacher. 

Let us remember to keep first things first, the students before us! Hope everyone has a great week back from a restful Labor Day weekend!

Tough Conversations

tough conversations.png

Tough conversations are never easy.

Often times we avoid them like the plague. I know I’d count myself in that category. I hate conflict and would rather see everyone just get along.

Through five years of teaching I’ve learned to accept that tough conversations are not only a part of the profession, but are at times very necessary. As educators we all care deeply about the relationships around us. We desire to maintain strong, healthy relationships with our teaching peers, parents, and students. Tough conversations are a necessary part in maintaining these ‘healthy’ relationships.

Tough conversations can shockingly, if approached with the right mindset, be good for the relationships we nurture. Below are a few reasons we must allow space for these tough conversations that can FUEL positive growth in the relationships we deeply care about:

  • Tough Conversations Can Foster¬†Trust:

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I am a poor mind reader. I often fail at predicting what others are thinking and feeling. Therefore, as I approach tough conversations I recognize I must be an attentive listener and truly care less about the immediate situation and more about the person in front of me.

Trust is built on a sense of mutual understanding. Being understanding is not the same as agreeing with the choices made or a potential resolution to the situation and navigating the two has proven to be tricky for me in the past. Allowing space to hear their perspective will bridge trust and allow for the next steps to reach fruition.

  • Tough Conversations Can Usher Change:

When the bridging of trust has occurred we can begin to have a more open, and hopefully, frank conversation about where to go from here. Its easy to forget that change is often a two-way street. We are at the crossroads here because of choices made by the person I care about and the choices I in turn have also made.

As Stephen Covey writes in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, seek the Win-Win in any resolution that is reached at the end of the conversation. Try to not settle for just compromises. Change is hard, but it’s a whole lot easier to do it together.

  • Tough Conversations Can Energize Growth:

Knowing that someone cares, loves, appreciates, and invests in us enough to have healthy, tough conversations can be the fuel that energizes growth beyond that conversation. I remember back to my 10th Grade Honors English Teacher, Ms. Solis.

My first nine weeks I had a grade of a C-. I won’t hide my deep disappointment and I felt that I was producing the best essays of my brief high school career; certainly they deserved more than the Cs and Ds I was earning.

I scheduled an appointment to discuss my grades. During that meeting she allowed me to explain my feelings about the grades. Looking back I won’t forget how gracious she was. I tried to explain that I was just a 15 year old and the level of writing she was asking for was frankly too much. Ms. Solis’ simple response, “Why would I lower my expectations of you, when I know you have the ability to do better? Wouldn’t you like to know you earned the A rather than just being given it?”

She provided further direction upon her feedback and provided the opportunity to rewrite and receive additional feedback, but she was specific that no further points would be awarded. I won’t lie, I left disappointed.

Yet, at the same time deep inside I knew she was right. These may have been some the best works I had written, but they were also done at the last minute, the night before. Crunch time was the best time, I told myself. I work best under stress and a deadline. Yet, it left my writing clearly missing stronger connections and deeper analysis. Ms. Solis had twenty plus years of teaching under her belt and now as a teacher myself I see she could recognize I was not putting forth my fullest and best effort.

Ms. Solis saw my potential, now I wanted to see it in myself. Last nine-weeks of the year I finished with a A-. I know it was deserved because I committed to giving my writing the fullness of attention it deserved. I sought her feedback well before the due date and kept at improving my grammatical knowledge.

That tough conversation about grades became the energizer behind my growth as a writer and her words still echo in my writing process today. I’m blessed she was willing to engage in that conversation and not back down in her belief of me!

  • Tough Conversations Can Lift Others:

Finally, when done with love and grace; tough conversations can and should lift others up. Our hope in any tough conversation, is that the ones we care and love are never felt beaten down by our words, but uplifted to pursue the greatness we know they are capable of. So, therefore, let us choose our words and outward expressions to best reflect those aspirations.

I won’t dare say that this will be the result of each tough conversation. Actually, some will go south real fast (I too can testify to this); but our failure to try will cause more long-term harm to those relationships we most care about. Tough conversations that will lift others must happen face-to-face because far too often email, phone calls, or text can cause misconstructions of our heart and intent.

If we allow them too, tough conversations can FUEL our relationships and ensure that they remain healthy and growth oriented long into the future. Let us see these conversations less as burdens and more as opportunities to foster trust, usher change, energize growth, and above all lift others!

Dominos of Change

Dominos of Change.png

As we get bogged down in the routine of our teaching and daily life it is easy to lose sight of the greater forces at play. We become quick to feel like our purpose is eroding and we question the reasons why we still do what we do…

In such moments like this I find great solace in two verses that anchor my trust in the plans and purposes of my Lord, Jesus Christ:

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”¬†

Ephesians 2:10- For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.¬†

Today, during the Children’s Sermon I was struck at seeing this message come alive through the illustration of a few simple dominos. It was a powerful reminder that God has specifically placed us where we are to play a part in fulfilling the will of his kingdom on Earth.

When we embrace our roles and listen for his guidance, we too can be instrumental in orchestrating the powerful changes that God will bring to pass. A willingness to embrace fully our called roles requires a sense of both courage and discernment, seeped in deep trust of God’s greater purpose over our lives. I’ve felt often that I lack this courage to do what has been asked of me from the Lord. Recognizing this as an area of growth in my life, I have sought out lessons from those who have walked in paths of courage with the Lord.

This has recently led me to study the lives of William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.¬† William fought fiercely to end the slave trade in England. Dietrich was a rare voice of church resistance against Nazi Germany and before the war’s end was martyred.

Both embraced fully the role that God laid before them. They allowed God to work through their lives being dominos of lasting change across generations and into our modern day. Their writings have taught me that my life will only be as meaningful as I allow it to be through God’s will and the glory I bring to his kingdom.

As teachers and educators we are not alone in our journey shaping the young people before us. We are but one specifically placed domino within our students’, their parents’, and our communities’ lives. Therefore, let us take great joy in our place within God’s plan, trusting that when the dominos fall we too will advance his kingdom!

Striving Beyond Excellence

Striving Beyond.png

No matter the sphere nowadays, whether in education or business circles; the phrase ‘Culture of Excellence’ is tossed around as the desired target for our organizations.¬†Doing a quick Google search using that phrase will reveal results such as:

-‘3 key steps for building a culture of excellence’

-‘5 ways a culture of excellence boosts your bottom line’

-‘top 10 factors in creating a culture of excellence’

While pursuing excellence sounds like a good and noble goal, the burning question that should cross our minds is: What excellence are we actually striving for? Excellence generally becomes distilled down to a set of measurable stats that get tracked by upper management and is utilized as both a carrot and a stick. Yet, what if the change we want our organizations to be a part of transcends those confining stats? What then? What if the excellence we press for and seek is not understood by our team or even worst does not advance or align with our purpose?

Too often deeper questions of purpose within our organizations are overlooked in our constant demand to address the issues bearing down upon us. We search for silver bullets and our pursuit of “excellence” is quickly becoming a quick fix, feel-good slogan.

Excellence does not make an organization great; rather, I would contend excellence is one of the fruits of a visionary, outward focused organization. Becoming that organization requires a tenacity that goes beyond striving for excellence. It requires a deep-rooted series of convictions (WHYS), the non-negotiables, that the entire organization buys into.

Next year we will begin an in-depth feedback, review, and updating process of our Blue Valley Agricultural Education program’s five year strategic plan. As we start gearing up for stakeholder conversations, formulating survey materials, and selecting focus groups; our leadership team is trying to keep in mind clearly our core non-negotiables that have arisen through conversations and retreats since our last five year strategic review:

  1. Prepare and equip all program students with qualities of self-leadership.
  2. Foster connections within the community through service-learning both inside and outside our classrooms.
  3. Provide courses and programming that cultivates a dynamic mindset (21st Century Skills) coupled with expansive career exposure for our students.

Program excellence is but one fruit we hope will come from these rooted convictions. We envision that our former students find themselves returning to our communities when they are prepared to settle and raise a family. We desire they bring with them a hunger to invest in our communities, a mindset that was planted and took root in their hearts through our program. These are just a few of visions we hope will come to fruition, years down the road.

In its essence, we intend our program to be a difference-maker for our community.

To do this, we cannot bet on excellence alone. We must strive for more.

As leaders and members in our respective communities/organizations let us see beyond excellence by engaging in a hard look at the convictions that guide us. It is then we can live and act on those with excellence, but if we don’t have a clue as to what we strive for than excellence will simply be another false fruit.

Excellence will speak, only if we find its voice and heart in our shared convictions!