January 20, 2021

Tricia Reichert : Getting something ‘extra’ out of her summer with an externship experience

When you think of summer team members at MaxYield Cooperative, college interns may be the first thing that comes to mind, but employment learning experiences aren’t just for students. Tricia Reichert, a science teacher at Emmetsburg High School, is finding her own way to learn in the summer and is participating in the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships Program. According to the Governor’s Stem Advisory Council, the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships Program features “full-time, six-week temporary summer positions in local businesses and agencies for secondary teachers of mathematics, science and/or technology… During the summer, educators work side-by-side with knowledgeable and skilled industry employees who help bring the classroom curriculum to life. Teacher Externships provide educators with the exposure to answer questions about real-world application, prepare students for careers they may have in the future, and improve educational experiences.” Tricia selected MaxYield Cooperative as her workplace, serving as the company’s first extern.

As a part of her extern experience, Tricia has written a blog each week about what she is doing, seeing, and learning at MaxYield. Here are excerpts from each of her blogs:

Week 1: “My biggest takeaway of the week has been that education and “the real” workplace share many commonalities. Whereas I am looking for student engagement and academic growth in the classroom, MaxYield is currently very focused on Agronomy interns who are willing to learn to be productive members of the MaxYield team who then ultimately remain with the company. As a classroom teacher, I have seen a shift in the work ethic of my students and it seems this is a trend has also been felt in the work place as well. One of my main tasks this summer is to brainstorm how MaxYield can better recruit and retain the young interns. How can I as a classroom teacher better prepare students of today to be well-qualified MaxYield team members of tomorrow?”

Week 2: “My second week at MaxYield Cooperative has certainly continued to offer a variety of experiences each day. I spent time in the Britt area with team member, Rodney Legleiter who is a SciMax Solutions Specialist. He showed me the process of soil and tissue sampling and mailing them to their respective labs for analysis. I was amazed at his ability to juggle a visiting extern, agronomy interns, changing weather and field conditions, sampling routes, and unexpected client visits and phone calls. The vast number of variables that he must take into account was almost overwhelming. It was clear by the way Rodney paused everything to respond with 110% focus on the client’s questions and requests that he epitomizes the MaxYield philosophy of “solutions provider.” He also shared with me some challenges he has had with this year’s young agronomy interns. It seems some are having a hard time reporting to work on time, completing duties as assigned in an efficient manner and even complaining to their supervisor. This led to a meeting where we examined the strengths of the current MaxYield Cooperative Internship Program and brainstormed about how to improve it in light of the evolving intern work ethic. I very much appreciated being asked to participate in this process and felt I contributed to the discussion.”

Week 3: “Weed 3 brought the realities of the need for ongoing education. I attended… meetings this week that exemplified MaxYield’s commitment to ongoing employee education. The need for continued learning very much stood out to me this week. So many of our students believe that once they graduate from school they will never need to learn anything. We must realign their thinking!.. The first one was presented by Patti Guenther, Learning & Development Leader, on the topic of “Crucial Conversations: Pairing Impact with Intention.” At her request, I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago of working with Patti on this presentation. She was not trained as a teacher, but often presents in her role here at MaxYield Cooperative and was receptive to feedback. It was fun to share some teaching strategies with her and then to see that she actually incorporated them into her presentation! During this two-hour training session, the Team Leaders were taught how to more effectively communicate with their employees.”

Week 4: “A few events really struck me this week. The first one is the “all hands on deck” experience as this Emmetsburg MaxYield Cooperative Location prepares to host a Client Appreciation BBQ. It has been a fun team-building experience to see everyone pitching in and doing things that are not their normal “duties as assigned”. I volunteered to mow the location’s green spaces and it was a long, hot, sticky, FUN day. It was good to see the results of my hard work at the end of the day. We don’t always get that satisfaction as teachers. Another take away was the realization of how important phone apps are in the workplace. To date I’ve seen multiple task specific phone apps being used in agronomy. There is a tremendous opportunity for more apps to be developed for use in the workplace as well. We as teachers need to stop taking smart phones away from students and instead give them meaningful tasks to use them in the classroom.”

Week 5: “As a teacher, I can come up with numerous ways I would like to see business get involved in the classroom, but there are obstacles. When I have several sections of Biology, for example it is very difficult to ask a guest speaker to give up an entire day to speak to all of the classes spread throughout the day. When class periods are only 42 minutes, it becomes a logistical nightmare to take the students on a meaningful field trip even if it is nearby. I think the use of Project Based Learning activities that have authentic real world connections will be the best solution. Chris Warren and Shelby Wagner both of MaxYield Cooperative have helped to provide me with actual field soil maps and other resources I have used to create my Project Based Learning activity for the classroom. Perhaps we could use skype or some other technology for a quick and easy “virtual field trip” to the farmer’s field.”

Through her experience, Tricia has provided us with plentiful, useful feedback on how to better connect MaxYield to the classroom. We appreciate all of Tricia’s hard work and insights throughout her time with us and thank her for a great summer!

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