The national spotlight is shining on Tolles Career & Technical Center in Plain City, thanks to turf, landscape and greenhouse man-agement instructor Jim Scott.
On Dec. 5, the Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) named Scott the national Teacher of the Year. The award presentation took place at ACTE’s annual convention in Charlotte, N.C.
“There are 300,000 career and technical edu-cators in the U.S. This is quite a distinction,” said Tolles Superintendent Carl Berg, who traveled to North Carolina with Scott and Wendy Nichols, the Tolles teacher who nominated Scott for the initial state teacher of the year award.
As a state winner and then a regional win-ner, Scott was one of five finalists for the national title. As such, he was required to submit a video and answer questions from a seven-judge panel. He did both well and came away with the top honor.
“Jim did an amazing job. He represented Tolles and the greater education community in a wonderful fashion,” Berg said.
According to Scott, the achievement was only possible with the combined efforts of business industry people, his fellow teachers, students and the Tolles administration.
“No one of us is outstanding without the input of a lot of other outstanding people,” he said.
It’s statements like this that caught the judges’ attention and reflect Scott’s teaching philosophy.
“You have to enjoy your work and enjoy working with young people,” he said. “Second, I go by Superintendent Berg’s philosophy that by putting ‘students first and people always,’ you will find a winning formula. And third, every student can learn, maybe not in the same way and in the same time, but it’s the teacher’s job to find the best way for each student.”
Impact on students
Jake Cochran, a junior in Scott’s class, appreciates his teacher’s work ethic and compassion for his students.
“He’s more than just our teacher; he’s our friend,” said the West Jefferson student whose post-graduation plans are to study agriculture and life sciences at Virginia Tech.
“He teaches us life lessons, like how to present ourselves and to always be polite in the public eye because you never know who’s watching. And he’s good at placing us in jobs or getting us ready for college. He looks down the road for us instead of just short-term.”
Jordan Byers, a junior from Jonathan Alder, hopes to attend Hocking Technical College after high school to become a game warden, then transfer to Ohio University for a masters degree in natural resources. He credits Scott with giving him direction.
“He knows how to teach what we need to know to get somewhere in life,” Byers said. “There’s just a lot of little things he does that change our lives and help us.”
The extras, Cochran said, include things like weekend trips to turf shows and landscape conventions.
“These things have little ties to school. They’re just something Mr. Scott does to help us become more experienced,” he said.
What he does at Tolles
Among the “bigger” things Scott does is manage a 20-acre land laboratory at Tolles, co-advise the school’s FFA chapter, and serve as a mentor. He has developed an advisory committee of 21 parents, students, and representatives from businesses and colleges who assist in making decisions about expanding facilities and/or purchasing equipment. In 2006, he created Ohio’s Sequenced Horticulture Curriculum Model.
Since Scott joined Tolles in 2004, the turf, landscape and greenhouse management program has increased enrollment from nine students with no career placement or college-bound students to 23 students who are 100 percent successfully employed, enrolled in a post-secondary program, or serving in the military. He has added more than $190,000 in new equipment and $60,000 in donations from the green industry.
Scott’s students have created a state-of-the-art greenhouse where they grow flowers and plants; the result is nearly $12,000 in sales. They also volunteer in and outside the community. Just this year, Scott took a handful of students to Washington D.C. to do landscape work at the National Cemetery. The Tolles group featured the project’s only school-aged volunteers.
This is Scott’s 31st year in career and technical education. He began at the Buckeye Career Center, before moving on to lead FFA and horticulture programming at the Ohio Department of Education. He later worked for the National FFA in Washington D.C., wrote high school and middle school agriculture curricula for the State of Georgia, and directed FFA youth programming in South Carolina.
“Then I moved back to Ohio and to my love—the classroom and teaching young people,” said Scott, who has been with Tolles for the past five years.
As Teacher of the Year, Scott will travel around the state and the country speaking to legislators and educators. In March, he will take part in the National Policy Seminar in Washington D.C.
“This is a way to spread the word about the quality of career and technical education available to the community,” Scott said.
For information about Tolles courses for students and adults, call 614-873-4666.