Teacher knows calling from first day of high school class

For most teachers, there is one class or one teacher that impacts them early in childhood that inspires them to go on to walk in the footsteps of a future educator.  That story echoes true for Knox Central’s Courtney Miller-Brindle, an agriculture teacher at the school.

Miller was recently selected as a rising leader in agriculture education by a LEAD program sponsored in part by Kentucky Farm Bureau. The program begins on January 21st in Lexington but will be taking Miller farther.  It includes a week-long Congressional Tour in Washington, DC, an out of state agriculture tour that will be announced in the spring, events at the Kentucky State Fair, and meetings with Kentucky state legislators and government officials in Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, and Frankfort.

The program provides training in team-building, etiquette, policy development, leadership, the lobbying process and management.  LEAD serves to provide young agriculturalists with essential skills to be an effective leader and assist in personal and professional growth.

Over 50 young agricultural leaders in Kentucky applied, only 15 were selected.

“We are very excited about this opportunity for Courtney,” said Jeff Frost.  “Anytime our teachers have time to network, and learn from nationally recognized leaders in their field, it is a win for the teacher and for our school.”

“I decided after my first day of agriculture class at the age of 14 that I wanted to be an agriculture teacher and stay in the FFA forever, as a member and then as an advisor,” said Miller.

“ I had an amazing agriculture teacher, Justin Mays, that showed me you could go to college and make a living by learning and teaching others about the agriculture industry.  I did not come from an agricultural background and find it easy to relate my students for this reason.”

Miller has developed positive relationships with Knox Central students long before taking on the role of agriculture teacher. Her resume includes student teaching at Knox Central during the fall semester of 2010.  She was a permanent substitute until 2012 when she took on the role of College/Career Coach.  For three years she worked with PartnerCorps and has been teaching for the past 3 years.

Her passion led her to Eastern Kentucky University where she worked on the school’s dairy milking cows for over three years, “something I would have never anticipated before ag class,” said Miller.

She credits agriculture education and taking part in FFA as a future changer for her.   She also gives credit to former Knox Central teacher Cloyce Hinkle.

“Mr. Hinkle played a huge role in my working hard and staying involved with the KC agriculture program after student teaching and has been an amazing mentor, who I owe an incredible debt to.”

The past three years in the teacher’s seat at Knox Central has led Miller to make a few changes of her own to the agriculture program.

“The leadership has trusted me to shift pathways from horticulture and ag power to animal science and ag business.  This has provided a relevant pathway for a large number of students interested in livestock production, veterinary science, companion animals, agricultural marketing and business.”

Courtney Miller is shown with two students in the greenhouse looking at ferns. The first three years is only the beginning of what vision Miller has for agriculture at Knox Central and for the students that graduate from her career pathway.

“When students leave the program, I hope they remember much more than the notes and activities from class.  I hope they remember how to be kind despite differences, the friendships they’ve made with other students and those they met through the student organization, the leadership and professional skills they’ve obtained, and never lose their love for the subject.

“We do our best to treat the ag program at KC like a big family, and I hope they remember the importance of that when they leave,” said Miller.

What next for Knox Central agriculture and Miller?

“I hope to continue to grow the program and offer more spots for students interested in learning about animals and agriculture business.  In an area that does not have a great deal of traditional agriculture, I hope to inspire current and future students to pursue their dreams in an industry that they enjoy learning about and being a part of.”