The Oakdale High School Ag program has been getting a bit more attention as of late. While for the students privy to the program during the past handful of years, the notoriety comes honestly and earned – the program growth seems imminent. Most especially so as Oakdale Joint Unified completes Phase 1 of the Oakdale School Farm, situated on the northwest end of town.
It’s an addition to the Ag program that will serve as host location for the first time to the Oakdale High school FFA Welcome Barbecue, set for this evening, Wednesday, Aug. 30 beginning at 6 p.m.
The Oakdale School Farm, however, isn’t the only district investment made recently to both grow and improve the OHS Ag program. Ag teachers Grace Tobias and Matthew Marshall are the newest faces added to the Ag classrooms on the high school campus, with an excitement that can only be contagious as the year progresses.
The 2017-18 school year marks the first year for Marshall at OHS, yet his fourth year teaching Ag at the high school level.
“I was extremely involved with FFA,” Marshall said, sharing that he first became involved with Ag as a student his freshman year at Turlock High School.
Marshall went on to complete his Bachelors of Ag Science at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
“FFA kind of gave me a career,” he said, noting his current path and passion as an Agriculture teacher. Marshall currently teaches Freshman Ag Science, Intro to Ag Mechanics and Ag Welding. As a first year OHS teacher, he spent much of his summer getting to know OHS FFA students by way of prep and participation at the Stanislaus County Fair. An event, which as he recalls it, shows his pride and enthusiasm with the school’s success this past summer.
“There are no limitations,” he said of the program. “Our circles are growing so much.
“The freshmen are on fire,” he added of the newest members of the OHS student body, “and excited to get involved with the school farm. I think our numbers will continue to grow.”
Marshall and Tobias are two of the four Ag teachers at OHS. Each of the two estimated their current student count as approximately 150 students each.
Now in her second year and no longer the ‘newest’ of the department, Tobias is equally excited for the coming year and the addition of the school farm. The UC Davis graduate of Animal Science teaches three sections of Ag and Soil Chemistry, a class newly introduced to the OHS campus in 2016.
“I really do love science, so Ag education was kind of the perfect fit for me,” she said.
Unlike Marshall, Tobias does not have a student experience steeped in FFA. She does, however, have a father who worked as a large animal vet and an upbringing in Hollister, California.
“One of the reasons I focused on this as the job that I wanted was really ultimately, that Oakdale was the kind of town I wanted to be in,” she said. “It’s the kind of town I was from.”
The OHS Ag Science teacher position, Tobias shared, was the only one she applied for. That’s how certain she was of the community, as well as the job she wanted.
“The community wants this program to be successful,” she noted from her research and first year on staff. “They want every single kid on this campus to be successful, whether it’s in Ag, in the other CTE programs, in sports. They will go out of their way to see it happen, which I think ... why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?”
Tobias continued sharing that in her second year, certain areas of her program have been tweaked to both accommodate and improve the offerings to the students she is teaching. She noted success, as well as improvement, as an “expectation.”
“Let’s rise to the occasion,” she said. “Let’s make it happen. Going with that mindset we’re going to be bigger, we’re going to be better and we’re just going to keep moving and expanding. I think it’s awesome.”