2005 OUTSTANDING TEACHER OF AMERICA
Agriculture Teacher, Winters High School, Winters, California
Kent Benson has been the Agriculture teacher at Winters High School for 18 years. For most of that time he has been chairman of the Agricultural Education ("Ag") department.
Mr. Benson's dedication to his students' success, his nearly 20 years of service, his ability to motivate students to achieve in all aspects of their education, and his service to the community were all reasons that he was chosen for this award.
For many years Kent Benson has been chairman of the Agricultural Education ("Ag") department. He is a favorite among students from many backgrounds. Students who begin taking Agriculture classes because they think they will have an easy "A", are quickly disappointed. What his students love about him is his earnestness and willingness to help anyone learn. What they love about his classes are the diverse knowledge and hands-on education they experience.
In addition to classroom and field agriculture, Mr. Benson teaches his students about marketing and bookkeeping, among other business and people skills. He teaches how to approach a potential business partner or client. This is important at FFA conferences and in life in general. An example of this in action was when the students held a fundraising event to create a scholarship in the school for agriculture student seniors. Mr. Benson put students in charge of every aspect of the event, from serving food to making the flower arrangements. Students volunteered their services, whether lawn raking, housekeeping, manicures, or others, for auction. Nearly $8000 was raised.
Mr. Benson's goal is to provide a future for each student. Whether they will go on to a four-year college, a junior college, or a trade school, he pushes each student to achieve his or her personal best; often far exceeding past expectations. He believes that young people from small towns like Winters need to get out of their environment to explore the world and meet diverse people. He is often the catalyst for these experiences when he takes students to FFA (Future Farmers of America) conferences and competitions. He also leads college tours and trips to farms and ranches. This past summer Mr. Benson had an opportunity of a lifetime, taking his 2004 Winters High National Champion Livestock Judging Team to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the International Livestock Judging Competition, and on a 20-day tour of Europe.
"Mr. Benson takes kids under his wing and it makes you feel like you're somewhere and someone in the school. You join in. It makes high school a little easier," said Katy Smystrala, one of many former students who came forward in the nomination process, who is currently a student at Chico State, as a Business Agriculture major and an Animal Sciences minor.
"Mr. Benson was such an inspiration. I didn't feel like I could take enough classes with him or ever learn enough," said Josh Cody, who now works in Animal Pharmaceuticals with Pfizer. "Everything I am today has to do with the things he taught me when I was in the FFA program." .
Mr. Benson was activities director at Winters High for ten years, during which time he upheld many old traditions and established a number of school pride activities. This past summer Mr. Benson took his Winters High National Champion Livestock Judging Team to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the international livestock judging competition, and on a 20-day tour of Europe.