Ag program yields national honor

Linn State Technical College agriculture professors Nick Rackers, left, and Ryan Klatt stand in front of a new 2013 Toyota Tundra pickup truck awarded to them during Tuesday’s grand opening at Riley Toyota.

Linn State Technical College agriculture professors Nick Rackers, left, and Ryan Klatt stand in front of a new 2013 Toyota Tundra pickup truck awarded to them during Tuesday’s grand opening at Riley Toyota.

Agriculture professors Ryan Klatt and Nick Rackers drove off the Toyota Riley lot Tuesday in a brand new 2013 Toyota Tundra. The local professors were not contestants on The Price Is Right and didn’t win the lottery, but were honored for their everyday commitment to education and hard work.

Klatt and Rackers, professors at Linn State Technical College were honored as one of six outstanding postsecondary/adult agriculture programs across the United States. For their dedication, they received a complimentary two-year lease on the Toyota Tundra, a vehicle the two said they will share on a six-month schedule.

After some encouragement from other agriculture professors around the state, Klatt and Rackers submitted their application for the state award. The professors were awarded the state honor in July 2012. The nominations automatically go on to the nationals.

“We thought we had a decent shot at the state competition,” Rackers admitted. “But we had no idea of the competition at the national level.”

“We still don’t,” Klatt noted. “It was quite an honor when they announced it.”

When approaching the agriculture program, Rackers, who has been with the local college since 2005, and Klatt who has taught at Linn State since 2001, said they align the overall goal with the college. They look to prepare their students for the real world, focusing on turf and landscaping, using hands-on experience. The overall program is unique from others around the state and country, because the Linn State students receive real-world application, right on campus.

“Our students use the campus,” Klatt explained. “They do all the mowing, landscape ... grow all the flowers, everything.”

Watching their students grow and seeing where they end up are what keeps these young men teaching.

“Watching them become successful,” Rackers said. “That’s why we teach.”

Klatt said part of the success to the program can be attributed to longtime Linn State President Donald Claycomb, who allows the teachers to use the campus as a teaching tool. Claycomb himself was an agriculture teacher, so the two professors said they feel a real connection to their campus leadership.

Each year, Toyota Motor Sales honors National Association of Agricultural Educator members across the country for their commitment to agricultural education. The Linn State professors were recognized in conjunction with Riley Toyota’s grand opening at its new location at 2033 Christy Drive. The two-year vehicle lease was presented through a sponsorship with the National FFA Organization.

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