Newport High School agriculture program awarded top honors

By Lisa Burnett Published November 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Steve Davis, agriculture teacher at Newport High School, holds the plaque the program received as the 2013 National Association of Agriculture Educators Outstanding Middle/Secondary School Agriculture Education Program in Region 2.

NEWPORT — Steve Davis has been an agriculture teacher for 27 years and has spent nine of those at Newport High School. When asked what has kept him teaching for so long, he just motioned to his class.

His hard work was recently acknowledged by the National Association of Agriculture Educators, which recognized his school’s agriculture program as an outstanding middle/secondary agriculture program in Region 2, which includes Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado.

“We were named a state winner, and then an application sent us on to become the [region] winner,” Davis said. “It was humbling, but I was tickled to death.”

Davis grew up on a farm and was active in FFA in high school, which he attended in Newport.

“My high school ag teacher had a great influence on me, and he was a great role model,” Davis said.

His influence was so strong that Davis went on to pursue agriculture education in college. He taught for 18 years at Wiener High School before coming back to his alma mater to teach.

“I teach six classes,” Davis said. “I teach survey of agriculture systems, which is an entry-level class to agriculture; field crops and horticulture. Four of my classes are the ‘survey’ classes.”

This is the first year for Newport to receive this recognition, Davis said.

“You’re judged on your teaching philosophy and instruction,” he said. “We do a lot of experiential learning [in my classes], and we do a lot of hands-on work.”

Students have the opportunity to join organizations such as FFA, which forms partnerships within the community. Students work to promote their organizations and organize fundraisers to benefit the city of Newport.

“I’m so proud because this isn’t something I did; it’s a result of really good kids who have bought into the [agriculture] program and FFA,” Davis said. “The administration also wants [the program] to be successful.”

This award is a result of a community effort, he said.

“The community has supported this, and I couldn’t find a better place [to teach],” Davis said.

Parents are also a reason why Davis thinks his high school’s program is one of the best in the nation.

“If the parents don’t buy into what their kids are doing, the kids can’t participate on the level [that benefits them],” Davis said.

In 2005, Newport High School revamped its agriculture program.

“Those kids really like working hard,” Davis said. “They have a lot of enthusiasm. It’s a lot of fun.”

He teaches 154 students altogether, and after they complete the survey class, students can plan a course of study in the agriculture program.

The program offers courses in plant systems, animal science and agriculture mechanics, he said, along with other classes, depending on student demand. The school also has a crop management course, for which students can receive concurrent college credit. Newport High School is the only school in the state that offers this course.

“I’m really happy with the direction we’re going,” Davis said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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