She was also named the Agriscience TOTY for Georgia in 2011 and was one of four finalists in the United States for the National Agriscience TOTY also in 2011.
“It’s quite an honor to be nominated… this staff goes out of their way to help students. They really are a great bunch of people, and they really care about the students,” said Clark. “For me to be pulled out of that group was quite a humbling experience,” she said.
Currently Clark teaches four classes: Agriscience, which is basically agriculture, says Clark, nursery landscape, plant science, agrimarketing, and agribusiness management. To spark an interest in this field of study and watching students develop a true passion for it is what Clark believes her job is all about. She believes “the seed” must be planted at the high school level.
“To see students accomplish things, and see them find what they’re interested in, that gives them a focus and that gets them moving in the right direction,” said Clark. “Once they get into college then they are already focused on a path,” she said.
Just like her students, Clark discovered her love for agriculture at an early age, in the fifth grade.
“I started working in the greenhouse for my Sunday school teacher and from that I’ve just developed a love for plants,” said Clark. “When I got older I was teaching a Sunday school class and realized I enjoyed teaching. So then I thought about combining them,” she said.
Clark began her 25-year teaching career at Dalton High School and Dalton State College. She then taught at Calhoun and Gordon Central before moving to Sonoraville where she is completing her fourth year.
Working with the Community
Clark understands that it is paramount to introduce her students to the real world, giving them the opportunity to have a taste of what they might be doing once they graduate from high school or college.
“Last year we went out to Carla Payne’s strawberry farm and picked strawberries and brought those back for the teachers,” said Clark. “She’s very instrumental in what we do here.”
Clark commended other members of the community for their willingness to get involved with the students and agriscience awareness. She believes the teamwork is responsible for the success of the students in her classes.
“Once you find the contacts and ask them to come in, people are just willing to help any way they can,” said Clark. “It really is a community effort.”
Currently Sonoraville is serving as a pilot school for a “Farm to School” program, said Clark. The school has been a part of this program, as a pilot for two years. It is a way to bring the farm to the classroom, said Clark. It teaches students about where the food they eat comes from and how it grows.
“An initiative that we are starting in Georgia is called farm to school. Our school has been a pilot for that for two years and what that involves is connecting the farmers in the community to the school with food and also with how we grow that food,” said Clark.
The Farm to School program is just a small snippet of the success Clark and her students have brought to their school and their town.
Clark sang the praises of the diverse group of students she has watched grow from freshmen to seniors competing at national and international levels with their agriscience projects.
Currently many of her students involved with the Future Farmers of America (FFA) have gone on to major in the agriscience field.
“Layson West he’s a wrestler, he started with me in the 9th grade and is an avid hunter,” said Clark. “He got to thinking and talking and thought about going into agriculture and combine all that together and now he’s focused in on plant genetics and that’s what he wants to do. To come up with different types of wildlife supplemental feeds, develop wildlife areas that would supplement the deer and the wildlife more so than what’s happening now. For a 9th grader to come in and see him develop over those years and now he’s a senior and going to UGA to major in plant genetics, what’s better than that?” she said.
Clark explained that the field of agriscience is so important that there will always be a need for experts in this subject area. As time passes, and generations become further removed from a farming environment, working careers are attainable very quickly because of the heightened need of agriscientists, Clark explained.
“It’s in everything. It’s not just plowing the fields, its developing the seeds to plant for higher yields, and developing plants resistant to certain diseases,” said Clark. “We are pushing more towards organic and raising our own food. We have to furnish those people to fill those jobs and if we don’t furnish them then who will? There is a lot of opportunity out there for people,” she said.
Clark hopes to receive more winners on the state and national levels in agriscience in the years to come.
Every year they get a little better, said Clark, and this year they have scored the highest in competitions than the school has ever before. This is all due to a tremendous team effort.
“I just have a really great bunch of students,” said Clark. “I work in an area that is very supportive of what we do. All the way from the superintendent, our administrators, and our teachers.”
“It truly takes a team to make everything work. That’s why we are having so much success because everyone is just pulling together,” she said.
Originally from Waycross, Ga. Clark obtained her Associates of Science in Agriculture at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. Clark also received her Bachelor of Science in agriculture, and Masters of Education, specialist of education, from the University of Georgia.
Currently, Clark is scheduled to complete her PhD in Agriculture Education from Auburn University in May.
Clark may have a job that is never done because of her love for her students, but she keeps the bar held high and hopes to achieve more winners at the state and national levels in the upcoming years.