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Ag teacher heads to front of the line

This is only her second year at Detroit Lakes High School, but agriculture instructor Trescha Mitchell is already having an impact on her students. She was named Region 1 Ag Teacher of the Year, and goes on to compete for State Ag Teacher of the Year in July.

And her students are noticing.

"She one of the nicest teachers in the school," student Travis Stanton said. "She helped put together a good FFA chapter."

Fellow student Justin Lehmann agrees. He said last year when the school contemplated canceling the Ag program, Mitchell helped the students prepare a speech for the school board, and helped save the program. He added that she shows the students good leadership.

When asked if Stanton and Lehmann felt Mitchell deserves to be named State Ag Teacher of the Year, they wholeheartedly agreed.

"She's up there," Stanton said.

"It's a huge accomplishment," Mitchell said of what Ag Teacher of the Year means to her, "that colleagues know how much you do, all the hard work you put into it."

Mitchell isn't necessarily concentrating on her own awards though.

She got interested in Ag when she was a student at Perham School where her Ag teacher influenced her greatly. Her brother and sister-in-law are also Ag teachers.

Being a student at North Dakota State University and now a teacher in the school system, Mitchell realizes being a woman in Ag is "not common at all." But that's not stopping her at all.

After working two years in Pelican Rapids School in a two-person department, Mitchell moved to the Detroit Lakes School system two years ago. She is the only teacher in the Ag department.

During her semesters, she teaches a variety of things, from vet medicine to natural resources, small engines to welding.

Prepping and taking students to compete is one of Mitchell's areas. There are 27 categories for students to compete in. So how does she know all 27 subjects backward and forward to teach?

"I call my brother a lot," she said with a laugh.

She said she's upfront with her students if she doesn't know the exact answer. So, they spend some time researching the correct answer in textbooks or the Internet.

Among her areas of expertise are parliamentary procedure and Ag sales, where students have to try to sell her products.

"It's a lot of fun. It depends on the kids in each group too."

She admitted there is a fear each year her program won't return to the school system.

"The school board doesn't realize how important it (ag) is," she said. "There are so many activities going on, it's easy to let one little program go."

What some people may not realize is that a good portion of her students are learning the skills they will give back to the community at jobs like BTD Manufacturing or Team Industries.

Mitchell obviously hopes the program isn't canceled, for her students' sake and hers.

"I do so well in DL because of the kids. Parents have done a good job molding them to be respectable."