2012-08-23 / Front Page
Award-winning agriculture teacher stresses importance of farming
AHS’ Dale Cruzan wins Teachers Turn the Key scholarship
ALLENTOWN — Farming is a true passion for Dale Cruzan. But instead of waking with the sun every day to tend to the fields, this Bordentown resident heads to Allentown High School (AHS) to plant seeds of a different kind.
“I thought I could make a difference in getting students into agriculture and seeing it as a viable option,” the agricultural science teacher said. “Unfortunately, agriculture gets stereotyped as just a farmer in a field, and that’s all it is. But 45 percent of Americans … are employed in agriculture at some level.”
Cruzan is doing his best to change false perceptions of agriculture, and his efforts were recently recognized by the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE). As one of two New Jersey recipients of the organization’s Teachers Turn the Key Award, he will be afforded the opportunity to hone his skills even further by attending the annual NAAE convention in Atlanta, Nov. 21 through Dec. 1.
“I think there are going to be a lot of new strategies coming out of this,” he said of the convention, adding that part of the focus will be on student-directed learning aimed at further engaging classes in the curricula. “I’m excited about that. And I’m hoping to be able to network with other young agricultural teachers from across the country.”
The scholarship award, tailored for early career agricultural educators, provides recipients with specialized programs targeted toward their particular needs and concerns.
Along with all of his travel, lodging, and registration costs being covered for the event, Cruzan will receive a plaque commemorating his achievement, all sponsored by RAM Trucks as a special project of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) Foundation.
It won’t be the first time Cruzan has benefited from FFA. As a high school student unsure of which career path to pursue, his FFA involvement, along with the agricultural classes he took, led him in the right direction.
“I really got hooked on it,” he said.
At AHS, Cruzan works to continue the tradition of an agricultural science program that were established in the early 1900s.
“I teach a broad spectrum of classes,” he explained.
His classroom offerings are agricultural mechanics, plant science, aquaculture and wildlife science, greenhouse management, landscape design and nursery management, and the program’s newest course, animal and plant biotechnology.
“We’re seeing that trend more toward the sciences end [of agriculture],” he said, adding, “Our agricultural mechanics course always remains strong.”
Along with a strong academic program, the school boasts an active FFA chapter.
AHS’ agricultural program is not only available to students within the school district; through the state Interdistrict Public School Choice Program, students from other districts are also able to attend AHS and take advantage of the agricultural courses offered there.
“We’re trying to meet the needs of New Jersey and our country,” Cruzan said.