CASSTOWN — The impression left by two of her high school teachers led Marie Carity to strive to be the same kind of influential educator to her own students years later.
”I had two great high school agriculture teachers,” said Carity, agriculture instructor and FFA adviser at Miami East High School. “My first two years of high school, my teacher was Mr. Sam Custer, a graduate of Miami East. My second two years, my teacher was Mrs. Dena Wuebker. I chose a career in agricultural education because of the passion they demonstrated and true desire to always help students.”
Having grown up on a beef farm near Versailles, Carity — a satellite teacher of the Miami Valley Career Technology Center (MVCTC) — has a lifetime of experience in agriculture. “I enjoyed showing Charolais beef cattle across the country. I loved seeing the places and sharing memories with livestock enthusiasts,” said the oldest of Bob and Sonnie Rhoades’ three daughters.
“My father surely wanted a son, but he raised three girls that drove the tractor, baling hay and working with cattle. I gained an appreciation for and understanding of livestock production while growing up. I realized the pride that farmers take in producing a nutritious and wholesome food source for consumers.
“My mother was a teacher, and I don’t think she ever thought her daughter would be teaching agriculture!”
After graduating from Versailles High School, Carity attended The Ohio State University, where she majored in agriculture education, was a member of the OSU Meats Judging Team, participated in a study abroad to the Czech Republic, and was a University Ambassador (tour guide).
Since taking her teaching position at Miami East — the only job she applied for after college — Carity earned her master’s degree and principal’s license through classes at the University of Dayton. Now in her 18th year with Miami East, she said, “I am completely blessed to work in a school district with a supportive community and school family.”
Carity’s young charges come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are old hands at the farming business, while others are comparatively green. “I have students that come from production farms to students that are not very familiar with agriculture. I love the camaraderie they develop. They work together to help consumers — young and old — to understand where their food comes from,” she said.
“I realize that not all my students will have a full-time career in the agriculture industry, but they will forever be spokespersons for agriculture and production of food and fiber.”
Students have the option of taking Carity’s class for all four years of high school if they wish, and they learn a broad array of agricultural subjects. “I teach a variety of topics — soil science, agronomy, concrete, wood working, animal husbandry, welding, animal science, and so much more,” Carity said.
“So much more” can include learning everything from the scientific side of agriculture to the business aspects of the industry.
“My Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources students — mostly freshmen — just finished a lesson on parliamentary procedures and how to run a business meeting. They are now discussing options of their own entrepreneurship experience or job placement sites,” Carity said.
“My Plant and Animal Science students — mostly sophomores — are finishing their lesson on animal nutrition. They conducted a six-week feed trial on raising chickens using various types of feedstuffs. Next we will be researching and presenting agriculture-related speeches. The Livestock Science class — mostly juniors and seniors — just finished a lesson on animal reproduction and are currently working on diseases of production livestock.
Carity cherishes the satisfaction of seeing her students develop into successful young adults. “I love to see my students grow during their years of high school,” she said. “I love to see them succeed in FFA competitions and earn recognition at the local, district, state, and national levels. I love to see them work with employers, stakeholders, parents, and community members. My students are so very blessed to have the support of their parents and families.
“I love my job. I love seeing students grow and succeed, in and out of the classroom. I get the opportunity to conduct a Supervised Agricultural Experience visit with all of my students. I see them take what they have learned in class and apply it to their own business or career exploration site. They learn so much valuable information when they learn by doing.”
All 79 of the students enrolled in Agricultural Education this year are also members of the very active Miami East-MVCTC FFA chapter overseen by Carity. Last month, the group had three teams compete at the district level, conducted a coloring contest for elementary school students, coordinated a thank-you gift for all the high schools teachers, and hosted a water and soil testing event for community members, with the collaboration of several community groups and funding from a grant from the National FFA Organization. They also collected and donated canned foods to the Fletcher Food Pantry.
“We have a fun December planned, too. We have our FFA fruit sales fundraiser taking place. Students will be busy delivering the fruit they sold, and all proceeds will support the FFA and their activities,” said Carity, who is currently the District 5 FFA treasurer.
“We will be gearing up for FFA awards program season in January. In January, we are taking a business and college campus tour, hosting State FFA Leadership Night, and helping the Miami East FFA Alumni with their Basket Bingo fundraiser.”
Carity keeps current with her craft by taking advantage of the numerous professional development opportunities offered in her field. She’s traveled twice with Miami East students to Costa Rica for an international agriculture experience, and attends local, state and national conferences with fellow ag teachers.
“I love to see the advancements of agriculture. The diversity is simply amazing. Farmers take the challenge of feeding the world seriously, and with the population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, the need for efficiency and protection of our environment is strong,” she said.
Even her life away from school has an agricultural bent. Carity lives on a hog farm near Minster with her husband of 14 years, Brent, a livestock feed dealer who raises 45 sows and markets show pigs across the country. Their daughter, Ruth Ann, 9, just completed her first year of 4-H, and 7-year-old son Cole is a member of the Cloverbud program. Both enjoy showing pigs at the local, state, and national levels.
“It is an activity that involves the whole family,” Carity said. “And by raising the sows and producing the pigs we show, our children experience all segments of swine production.”
When she’s not going hog-wild with her husband and kids, Carity is an avid baker who enjoys walking with friends. She’s also a Sunday school teacher and Vacation Bible School volunteer at Anna United Methodist Church. A lover of traveling, she has her eyes on a specific prize: “I have the goal to visit every national park,” she said.
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at email@example.com or (937) 451-3341