Agribusiness project takes Bridgewater-Emery’s Terveen to the head of the classroom
FFA student one of four agribusiness award state finalists
EMERY, S.D. — Rylee Terveen has spent most her school days as a student in the classroom.
But an FFA project she spearheaded and coordinated for the past two years has taken her from student to teacher by passing along her love of agriculture to her fellow students in the Bridgewater-Emery School District.
“For my Star Agribusiness project I teach a non-profit after school program where I teach kindergarten through fifth graders about agriculture,” Terveen, a senior at Bridgewater-Emery High School, told the Mitchell Republic recently.
It’s a program that has blossomed in the past two years, with a growing student base and recognition from her peers in the FFA program. Terveen is one of four finalists for the Star Agribusiness Award and will stand with her fellow finalists at the upcoming 2023 South Dakota State FFA Convention in Brookings.
The event is scheduled to be held April 16 and 17.
Terveen found an interest in agriculture having grown up spending time on her grandparents’ farm near Emery. There, she spent her youth riding in the tractor with her grandmother, grandfather and father. Later, she watched as her older sister took part in the local FFA program, and it drew her interest.
“My sister was always involved in it, she is two years older than me, so I kind of saw her being involved in it and it looked like fun. So I wanted to join, too,” Terveen said.
Her freshman year in the program was memorable, but for the wrong reasons. COVID-19 had disrupted all facets of daily life across the country, and the FFA program was no different. It wasn’t until her sophomore year that she really got a chance to immerse herself in FFA activities the way she had hoped.
“That year I just rode along with the program and didn’t do much. But my sophomore year was when I really started to get involved,” Terveen said. “It was nice to actually be able to do some stuff in person and actually get to compete in some events — the kind of stuff that I had been looking forward to.”
Eventually, her agriculture teacher at the school, Alex Toupal, and her 4-H adviser, Caroline Hansen, urged her to take some of the skills she had developed in FFA and apply them to a classroom project involving younger students in the district.
Though she had no real aspirations of being a teacher, she was game for a new challenge.
“I’m always willing to try something new,” Terveen said.
She teaches the class during the spring semester and tries to cover a wide range of agriculture topics. They have planted plenty of seeds and sprouted potatoes. She has brought in animals like chicks and rabbits and given lessons on how to best take care of them. She tries to switch topics on a monthly basis to keep it fresh.
It’s been a successful formula, with the class growing in size from about 17 students in the class when she started to between 30 to 40 students per class today. As the class has grown, so has the enthusiasm, with Terveen saying they just completed one of her favorite group projects so far.
“I think my favorite one has been having them plant flowers. We said we would give them a prize if they brought their flower back after they had sprouted and we’ve had a few kids already bring theirs back,” Terveen said. “They were so excited that it sprouted. And seeing how excited they were about that has definitely been my favorite.”
The success of the project has taken her through the district level of FFA competition and she has now been named one of the four finalists who will be recognized at the state convention.
She already has her eye set on her plans after high school, but those plans don’t necessarily involve teaching. She plans to attend South Dakota State University for entrepreneurial studies with minors in marketing and accounting.
While she doesn’t expect she will go into teaching, the experience with the elementary students in her classes has been a great way to display and develop several skills she has cultivated during her time in FFA, including organizational skills and public speaking.
“I don’t really have any ambitions in teaching, but this program has definitely taught me a lot about leadership and given me a lot of planning and organizational skills. Even though I’ve loved doing it, I just realized I didn’t want to choose this as a career,” Terveen said.
Toupal said she had done a great job representing FFA with her project. The classes have become popular enough that he wants to continue the project even after Terveen leaves for college.
Terveen is even helping find her successor.
“She is currently in the process of finding a replacement so that we can keep the program going. It’s definitely been a great addition to our chapter and it’s really sparked the interest in all the elementary kids, as well,” Toupal said. “It’s definitely been a growing project and an engaging project for everybody.”
That’s a good thing for Terveen, her young students and the Bridgewater-Emery FFA program in general, which Toupal said boasts about 85 members in the district. That’s plenty of students to keep him busy as the school agriculture teacher, he said, and the work Terveen has been doing the past two years is helping ensure a steady stream of young students may one day join FFA themselves.
Terveen hopes that’s the case. She knows what FFA has done for her, and she’s sure it can do that for other students, as well.
“I would tell them about my own experiences in FFA and all the opportunities you can get being involved in FFA,” Terveen said about encouraging other students to give FFA a try. “Even if they end up not liking it after one year, it’s just one year. And they can be as involved or uninvolved as they like. But I would try to tell them to take the chance of joining FFA.”
Terveen has not ignored her opportunities. She has been able to earn awards like the South Dakota Blue Jacket Award and first place at state and bronze emblem at nationals with her Wildlife and Fisheries SAE project. She has served as her local FFA chapter secretary and chapter president. She has also been an Agricultural Education State Proficiency finalist and an Outdoor Recreation State Proficiency finalist.
She has earned many awards in various CDEs and LDEs, including Natural Resources, Agricultural Communications, Marketing Plan, Milk Quality and Products, and others. Her highest awards included a seventh place finish with the South Dakota State FFA Marketing Plan Team in the fall of 2022. She was also named a recipient of an FFA Foundation Scholarship in 2023.
Toupal, who will wrap up his third year teaching at Bridgewater-Emery this year, hopes those young students take her advice and find the opportunity to achieve their own success.
“I was able to start here when she was just a freshman, and it’s been a great success just watching her grow throughout the years,” Toupal said.