Young Alum of the Month – Kaitlyn Bonzer
Title and Company: Agriculture Instructor and FFA Adviser at West Fork High School
Hometown: Nashua, Iowa
Degree: ‘14 ag and life sciences education
If you’re looking for Kaitlyn Bonzer, you would be more likely to find her in the barn with swine projects or wearing a beekeepers suit tending hives than in her own classroom. As the agriculture instructor at West Fork Community School District, Bonzer is preparing high school students for their next adventure.
“One of the most rewarding things in my career is the ability to help students find their path in agriculture and watch them grow.” says Bonzer.
Bonzer’s journey began in her hometown of Nashua, Iowa. She took full advantage of her time at Iowa State University by becoming involved early with Block and Bridle and engrossing herself in her coursework. To current students, Bonzer says, “…don’t be afraid of enrolling in the challenging courses, even Super Soils!”
Bonzer originally wanted to become an agronomist, but could not be happier in her current career. Her favorite course, AGEDS 402, was taught by Wade Miller, who served as a strong role model for her.
“Kaitlyn enjoyed helping students understand theory through practical application. From her days in my classroom I could see she would become a great teacher,” says Miller, professor in agricultural education and studies.
In effort to best prepare her students, Bonzer maximizes current chapter resources. Located two blocks from her classroom is one vital resource that drew Bonzer to the district–a barn.
Surrounded by the chapter’s crop test plot, the chapter’s barn is currently home to swine and poultry supervised agriculture experience (SAE) projects and an incubator, with both chicken and duck eggs. The FFA members with SAE projects are completely responsible for taking care of the animals not only during the school year, but through the summer as well.
“The hands-on opportunity is something a few of these students wouldn’t otherwise have” Bonzer says, as she watches student fill a water trough for his swine project.
Outside the weathered barn, under the tree, is the chapter’s beehive. Last fall the FFA chapter harvested and sold honey for the first time and raised $600 for the chapter. Based on its success, the chapter decided to purchase another hive to be set out later this summer.
Bonzer will be in her second year with West Fork this fall, and the curriculum will look quite different from her first school year. Based on student interests, Bonzer redesigned the course flow to encourage student participation. Veterinary medicine, natural resources and food processing are just a few of the classes that will be offered in the 2017-2018 school year.
Bonzer is connecting the coursework with hands-on experiences for her students. For example, students will learn to use the honey from the beehive in food processing course. Additionally, there is discussion about transitioning a portion of the test plot to part of the Conservation Reserve Program to better educate students about conservation.
“Educating high school students about agriculture encourages students to become part of the industry themselves,” says Bonzer.
She’s earned recognition at the state level as the Outstanding Young Alum for the North Central FFA District. Bonzer credits this award to her willingness to volunteer time outside the classroom with the State FFA Swine Committee and connecting with colleagues. Bonzer says she is looking forward to her future with the West Fork FFA Chapter in the years to come, especially with all of the buzzing possibilities.