By Cara Pattison
While wading through piles of sawdust and enjoying the warm-but-welcome breeze of livestock fans blowing on swine projects, Yukon’s newest Agriculture Education instructor, Jarrod Halphen, can’t help but smile. He’s smiling not only because he’s doing what he loves, he’s also smiling because he gets to pass on his agriculture knowledge and leadership to Yukon’s young adults.
“I was attracted to working in Yukon,” he said. “After I interviewed, I just saw that this was the place for me. Having just received my degree, I was getting my resume out there and looking at job offers. I just felt wanted here and saw a need for me to bring my expertise to the Yukon students.”
Having a strong background in agriculture, Halphen is excited to bring more students into the fold – whether they live on a farm or not.
“I moved to Tuttle the summer before eighth grade,” he said. “My family had no ag background. My mom has worked forever as an automotive parts manager, and my dad owns Al’s Metal Recycling in OKC. I was that active kid that talked too much, and ended up enrolling in ag ed so I could stay busy. My instructors, CL McGill and Ken Mittelstaedt, got me involved with showing pigs. Mr. Mittelstaedt gave me a pig that was a no-sale. I made the county sale with it and fifth in my class at OYE (Oklahoma Youth Expo). That was the start of my career in ag. I now raise and sell show pigs. He took a chance on me, taught me the basics, told me ‘not what to see what where to look.’ That’s the kind of teacher I want to be, by the student’s side mentoring and guiding.”
In addition to showing pigs, Halphen excelled at Meat and Livestock Judging, as well as giving speeches. In high school, he was awarded top honors in the state for his speech on Ag Policy. He ended up getting a full ride scholarship to Eastern Oklahoma State College through his ag connections. After that, he obtained a Livestock Judging scholarship at Oklahoma State University, where he earned a degree in Animal Science with an option in Livestock Merchandising.
The 2020 Oklahoma State University grad accepted the job offer from Yukon High School Principal Melissa Barlow last month, and life has been a whirlwind ever since. Halphen will be teaching students in grades 9-12 the following classes: Agriculture I, Horticulture mixed with Forestry, and Agriculture Mechanics. Students in his class will have the option of learning the elective class either traditionally, virtually, or blended using CareerTech Agriculture Education curriculum.
“CareerTech, the state agency that administers agriculture education, has had this curriculum has been in place for awhile, and now, in the face of school closing, I’m glad we can carry-on and continue to educate our students, even if they are off-site. I am appreciative to CareerTech, because they are a major factor in providing support to me as a teacher and give me a platform with communities and businesses. There is always someone there to help, guide, and keep things professional.”
COVID-19 has definitely impacted the first year instructor. He hasn’t visited his classroom yet since the high school has been shut down. So, he’s spent lots of time at the Yukon High School Agriculture Education Farm.
Since accepting the position, Halphen and his fellow instructor, Dustin Beams, held a meet-and-greet so parents and students can get an overview of the year. Over 100 mask-wearing, social-distancing people met at the outside livestock barn and heard Halphen speak, learned about potential projects, and listened to the department’s COVID-19 curriculum plans.
“I’m glad we had the meet-and-greet event. It gave me the opportunity to share a few messages. We have a uniquely large program and I want to stress that there are opportunities here for anyone willing to put in the work. My motto is ‘one team, one common purpose.’ Communication with our stakeholders will be improved. I want to know and be in-contact with parents and students, local businesses, and community members, so we have a well-rounded and successful chapter. Additionally, I want to see students and parents take pride in our facilities.”
In fact, in the few short weeks that Halphen has been on-staff, he and Beams have already hosted a “Clean-Up Day” at the Yukon Agriculture Farm barns that 50 people voluntarily attended.
“Students were picking-up trash, repairing the facility, and reporting needs or safety concerns to us. It was a good day. We will be doing this again.”