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Jenny Kocian and David Rocker

David City High School Agriculture Educator Jenny Kocian, right, stands next to David Rocker, left, from Franklin Public Schools. The two were named Nebraska Farm Bureau FFA Advisers of the Year and presented with plaques at the Nebraska FFA State Convention held on April 4 in Lincoln. 

Another local educator has been recognized for her outstanding work in the classroom.

David City High School Agriculture Educator Jenny Kocian was recently named the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation's FFA (Future Farmers of America) Advisor of the Year. She received a plaque and a $1,000 donation to the David City FFA chapter at the Nebraska FFA State Convention held on April 4 in Lincoln.

David Rocker from Franklin Public Schools was another recipient of this year's award.

Kocian was nominated by her own students and chosen based upon her school and community involvement, leadership development in the classroom and ability to keep students involved in agriculture. Kocian has been teaching agriculture education and helping lead FFA chapters for nearly 20 years. After teaching at Mead High School, she came to David City High School about 10 years ago.

“I was surprised,” Kocian said about the award. “Teachers, in general, don’t usually find themselves in the limelight. We just take care of business. So yeah, it was exciting.”

Kocian is a graduate of Seward High School, where she said her interest in agriculture first sparked. She would go on to study agricultural education and natural resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 2017, she was named Educator of the Year by the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District.

Starting next school year, Kocian will be leaving DCPS to teach at East Butler High School in Brainard. Kocian said the move will allow her to work closer to home, which lies between Dwight and Valparaiso, and to teach at the same school that her kids attend.

“It was an opportunity that will bring me as close to home as I can possibly be, and my children go there. So there’ll be a benefit of being in the same school as your kids go to,” Kocian said. “Otherwise I’d never be leaving here (DCPS).”

Replacing her at DCPS will be Catherine Chmelka, coming from Lakeview High School in Columbus. Chmelka grew up on a dairy farm outside of Ravenna and in 2011, graduated from Ravenna High School. In 2015, she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Education from UNL.

DCPS Career Technical Education Director Ronda Gestring said Chmelka will have some big shoes to fill taking over for Kocian. Gestring also said it's possible for the Ag program's focus to shift as Chmelka’s background is more in animal science compared to Kocian’s expertise with natural resources and plant science. When it comes to Kocian's recent award, Gestring said it wasn't unexpected.

“Well, I'm not surprised. She’s an excellent Ag teacher. She's taken our program up to a great spot,” Gestring said. "Hate to see her go. We’re losing a fantastic teacher.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News-Review.

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