PETTISVILLE, Ohio — Her commitment to FFA is strong, but Pettisville science teacher Donna Meller admits she wasn’t actually a member of what was then known as the Future Farmers of America when she was in high school.
Still, Mrs. Meller is one of three “FFA Alumni” in the country slated to receive an Outstanding Achievement Award today at the group’s national convention in Indianapolis.
“Officially, it’s FFA alumni and friends,” she said, with an emphasis on friends. “Anyone who wants to be an encouragement or in a support role for FFA.”
By all accounts, Mrs. Meller, 51, fits that bill.
At the school in Pettisville, a Fulton County community about 45 miles west of Toledo between Archbold and Wauseon, she revived the annual science fair, which incorporates agriscience projects into the mix. She accompanies students to the state FFA convention each year and judges the National FFA Agriscience Fair.
Mrs. Meller team teaches the environmental science curriculum for eighth graders with the agriculture teacher and helps connect high school students with mentors in their fields of agricultural research. Her three children — two of whom are now in college — have been active in FFA, a program that also teaches leadership, public speaking, and organizational skills.
“We’ve had several [national] agriscience fair winners. Without her support, it would never have happened,” said John Poulson, agricultural education teacher at Pettisville. “She has judged on the national level and will be judging [today].”
Mrs. Meller, who graduated from Pettisville in 1979 then received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science education from Bowling Green State University, returned to teach at her alma mater in 1999. She quickly saw that the small school’s extra-large agricultural education program had many connections to her science curriculum — on topics ranging from balancing farming with environmental concerns to developing new food products.
“It really, truly is about supporting agricultural education here at the school and helping students see that science is all around them,” she said.
Pettisville Superintendent Stephen Switzer said Mrs. Meller “does a nice job. She’s always willing to do a little extra.”
High School Principal Mike Lane said the school has a strong agriculture program but is known for its science program as well. The agriculture and science teachers work well together, he said, adding that Mrs. Meller has contacts among college faculty with whom she connects students.
“For Donna, it’s not just about meeting state standards. It’s about making sure kids are prepared for college,” he said.
She put it more simply.
“The one thing I tell my students is I don’t know it all. I won’t know it all, so let’s figure it out together,” Mrs. Meller said. “My goal is to make science real to students and create those ‘a-ha’ moments. I want them to learn that science can be fun and it can be engaging.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.