West Delaware FFA officers: from left, Sydney Demmer, Jenna Funke, Cody Monaghan, Jenna Philipp, Kailee Kaiser and Olivia Hilby.

In what could be one of the more innovative educational programs in the area this fall, West Delaware High School is combining student-led and online learning as a way to offer agriculture education and FFA until a new agriculture education instructor arrives in January.

When former instructor Tammy Schnieders left West Delaware for a new position, the district hired Rachel Findling to fill the role. But Findling needs to complete her student teaching before joining the West Delaware staff.

This semester agriculture education students are taking courses online through NICC. As for the FFA activities, the brunt of that work falls upon the West Delaware FFA officers; President Cody Monaghan, Vice President Olivia Hilby, Secretary Kailee Kaiser, Treasurer Jenna Philipp, Reporter Sydney Demmer and Sentinel Jenna Funke. Principal Tim Felderman is also helping with classes and activities.

Hilby said the group adjusted to their expanded roles, with some help from Felderman. “I don’t think there were any special challenges for us because Mr. Felderman stepped in right away. He kept meetings rolling. He really relies on the officer team to change the FFA chapter around and make it something new for incoming freshmen.”

Officers were on hand for freshmen orientation and have started a chat group with freshmen.

“We have been letting freshmen know when we have activities. We also talk to them about what is involved with FFA. We want to show the freshmen how big it is and how it can impact their lives and maybe get more freshmen involved,” said Demmer.

The officer team is planning several fall activities after recently conducting a roadside cleanup activity. Fruit sales and a community service project are scheduled for this semester.

The officer team’s goal is that when Findling arrives, it’s a smooth, seamless transition. “I want her to come in and not have to do a lot. We should already have things planned out. I think when she gets here, it should look like she’s been here all year,” explained Funke.

The group credits Felderman, a former FFA advisor, for his support. “He does a really good job and sets expectations for us,” said Monaghan.

Monaghan said he hopes to increase FFA contest involvement among West Delaware members. “Sometimes people don’t really understand how important these contests are,” he said. “They can teach you new things that aren’t taught in the classroom.”

As for the classroom, the officers are taking online classes such as agronomy, farm management and animal science through NICC.

“Mr. Felderman checks in with us to see if we need help,” said Philipp.

Felderman credits the officer team for their work this fall. “I have been very impressed with them. They have developed great ideas to build enthusiasm among current and upcoming FFA members. The future of West Delaware FFA looks very bright from their leadership.”

The officers have met Findling, who has attended some of the chapter’s meetings and attended freshmen orientation.

Funke hopes more upperclassmen realize the importance of FFA. Even if they aren’t involved, I hope they see the big impact it has out of high school and in college. It helps with communication skills. I think that is getting some people excited and maybe wanting to join.”

For those that wish to join, Hilby wants them to know the officer team has a big year planned for them. “We want the chapter to focus on having fun, having a lot of energy, getting public relations out to the community and participate in community service projects.”