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Voice: March 2017
Anna Pauletta and Darla Romberger have not only grown together in agricultural education, they've produced a bumper crop.
Pauletta, a student of Romberger's at Cumberland Valley High School in suburban Harrisburg, is the National FFA champion. Romberger, who is in her fourth year of teaching, is the recipient of one of six Outstanding Young Member awards given by the National Association of Agriculture Educators.
For Pauletta, her pairing with Romberger and ag education comes with a unique twist. She signed up for one of Romberger's classes by accident when she was a freshman four years ago - the same point in time that Romberger was just starting her teaching career.
Pauletta loved and grew up around horses, but the suburban Harrisburg girl never lived on a farm and thought the class was a prerequisite to an animal sciences class.
"I had no idea I was enrolling in an ag class, but it opened a whole new world for me," said Pauletta. "I just took off with it. I raised a goat for market that year and got involved in FFA and other projects. My sophomore year, I started getting involved in the environmental aspects, particularly conservation."
So taken was Pauletta with the class that Romberger said she and another student would often stay for hours after school taking care of the animals, which included species like snakes, turtles, and rodents.
"I thought if she stuck with it, she could really be something special in four years," Romberger said. "Well …"
Pauletta is now a senior planning to major in either environmental sciences or wildlife sciences at Penn State, with a double major in agriculture education. She has taken all of Romberger's classes the past four years.
"She has been a great mentor," said Pauletta, who as national FFA champion received $1,000 in scholarship money. "She has been with me every single step of the way."
With Romberger's award from the National Association of Agriculture, it's clear that her growth in the classroom has been just as outstanding.
The association has six regions, and each state association nominates someone for the Outstanding Young Member awards. Peers from other regions review the nominees and select one from each region. Romberger and the other five recipients were honored at an association convention in Las Vegas in late November.
Unlike her prized student Pauletta, Romberger comes to agriculture education the traditional way. She was raised on a 125-acre beef cattle farm in Schuylkill County, and still goes there to work on weekends.
"It's kind of my passion to go home and work on the weekends, and them come back and teach kids what agriculture is really about, and why we need more people to go into it," Romberger said. "And not just production agriculture, but food science, biotechnology, research, and engineering - all things that are needed for production agriculture and to provide food for consumers."