Few things hurt more than the loss of a sister, but pain and inspiration go hand in hand for Carmelita Goossen, a Marion County native who was recently named Region V Outstanding New Career and Technical Teacher by the Association of Career and Technical Education. Region V covers a 16-state area that includes Kansas.
Goossen, an agricultural education teacher and FFA adviser at Southwestern Heights High School near Plains, grew up on a farm near Hillsboro with her older sister, Lucinda, and younger brother, Alex. On Jan. 9, 2001, Lucinda was killed in a car accident three miles north of Goessel, but her influence on her one-year-younger sister is as strong now as it was 12 years ago.
“My sister was always very interested in anything to do with agriculture,” Goossen said. “Because of her, I got involved in 4-H and FFA. She saw everything as an opportunity to teach others about the importance of agriculture in our lives. This is something I try to convey to my students every day. My goal as a teacher is to inspire them to pursue their special interests and see the possibilities of building a career around agriculture.”
A state committee nominated Goossen for the regional educator award, and she received an expense-paid trip in December to the CareerTech conference in Atlanta, Ga., where she received not one award but two.
“There were five regional winners of the CareerTech award, but I was also named the 2012 Kansas winner of the Outstanding Young Member of the National Association of Agriculture Educators,” she said. “It was very exciting to be part of that experience.”
Goossen said she emphasized three areas of agriculture-based education as a teacher. Her work incorporated math, science, and reading into introductory agriculture classes. That, she believes, caught state and regional officials’ attention.
“I try to focus on the total education of my students,” she said. “We have a three-part system that involves classroom instruction following career pathways, FFA — which develops student leadership and competitions at different levels, and supervised agriculture experiences, where students complete individual projects in areas that interest them most.”
Goossen received a grant for her district to help fund a greenhouse. A K-State agriculture graduate who also specialized in minority issues, she now puts her multicultural experiences to use helping integrate Hispanic students into common core classes at her school.
“I’ve done this long enough now that I have some students who have graduated and succeeded at the next level,” she said. “They come back and help motivate my current students to look around them for opportunities in agriculture.”
Goossen said her long-term goal as a teacher was to inspire youths to follow their dreams, especially in rural areas, where agriculture affects so many people.
“I tell them one in five Kansas jobs are agriculture related,” she said. “It is so important for us to remember our roots and teach the rest of the world where food comes from, and how it gets to our table.”
She admits that aspiration came from her sister.
“My best memories are of my sister and me showing our dairy goats at county and state fairs,” she said. “Along with my brother, we took our animals to petting zoos, Day on the Farm, Threshing Days — those were the best of times.”
Goossen said her sister opened her eyes to agriculture education.
“I thought you could only do the fun, hands-on, activities with elementary age students, but Lucinda was ahead of me and she motivated me to combine my love of teaching with agriculture,” she said. “I love working with high school students now, and feel so lucky to be following that dream.”
As a regional winner of the teachers’ career and technology award, Goossen will be a finalist for the 2013 national award.