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Last month during Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, Jay Solomonson — who earned his bachelor's degree in ag education from WIU in 2002 — was recognized with the Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers (IAVAT) State "Excellence in Teaching" Award.

Ag Ed Alum Honored with Statewide Excellence in Teaching Award

September 21, 2011


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MACOMB, IL – Jay Solomonson decided to become an agricultural educator because he wanted to make a difference in students' lives. As an agricultural education instructor and FFA adviser at Orion (IL) High School, the Western Illinois University alumnus is doing just that.

Last month during Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair, Solomonson — who earned his bachelor's degree in ag education from WIU in 2002 — was recognized with the Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers (IAVAT) State "Excellence in Teaching" Award. According to a post on the Orion Community Unit School District's website by Orion High School Principal Nathan DeBaillie, in order to be considered for the award, an agricultural educator must be nominated by a current or former student, administrator, fellow teacher, FFA alumni or other member of the educator's community.

"The award provides an opportunity for agricultural teachers to be recognized for conducting innovative programs of instruction that motivate students through the use of classroom and non-classroom activities," said DeBaillie in the post. "After nomination, a district administrator completes a support form to be used in the judging of a section winner. Once 25 section winners are named, five district winners are selected using the same support forms. Mr. Solomonson's final steps in this process were to submit his teaching résumé and five letters of support from a current or former student, administrator, teacher, FFA Alumni, or other member of the Orion community. The final decision was made August 16, when…the IAVAT Board selected Jay as the 'Excellence in Teaching' award winner."

Solomonson, who "came from agricultural background," noted that his own high school agricultural education program and FFA experiences made him realize that pursuing a career in agricultural education would be a "great fit." His time at WIU — where he was involved with the Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity, Collegiate FFA, Ag Vocators, Ag Council, Alpha Zeta and the Ag Mech Club — too, provided him with a variety of opportunities and experiences through which he grew not only as a student, but also as a future agricultural educator.

"I don't think I would be where I am today without the experiences I received while at WIU," Solomonson said. "I would especially like to thank Dr. Andy Baker at WIU for his continued guidance and support through this process."

In late 2009, Solomonson was also recognized for his contributions to the field of agricultural education. He and his wife, Sheryl, were honored with a Young Leaders Excellence in Agriculture Award from the Illinois Farm Bureau. (Sheryl is the ag literacy coordinator for Rock Island County in Illinois.)

Andy Baker, ag education professor in WIU's School of Agriculture, noted that Solomonson's recognition through the IAVAT Excellence in Teaching Award exemplifies the respect Solomonson has earned from his peers across the State of Illinois.

"Jay has a deep passion for teaching and the profession itself. You can see it in his students and peers. He has a true knack for creating innovative techniques in providing instruction to students. He is constantly tweaking or revising his curriculum to make it relevant for his students," Baker explained. "Jay's leadership is also unprecedented. From day one, he has guided, mentored and assisted beginning agricultural teachers across the state to assure them they are not alone in their careers. I am very proud of his accomplishments, and I can't wait to see what he tackles next."

For more information about WIU's agricultural education program in the School of Agriculture, contact Baker at (309) 298-1246 or AJ-Baker@wiu.edu. Learn more about the Western Illinois University School of Agriculture at www.wiu.edu/ag/.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (TE-Koltzenburg@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations