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But many students have a real passion for the topics he covers. Some come into the class with those interests, while others develop them during the class, he said.
Learning what it takes
Junior Ashley Ibinger, who is in the small-animals class, wants to be a veterinarian, and she says the class has helped her “really think about the steps that you need to become a vet.”
“He reminds us almost every single day how much school it takes and the kinds of things you have to do,” she said. Many topics covered, from diseases to how hard it is to euthanize a pet, are things she wouldn’t learn elsewhere, she said.
Students often sign up for Schentzel’s classes, like his popular small-engines classes, because they want to learn practical skills, like how to fix a dirt bike or snowmobile, Schentzel said.
Relevance to students’ lives and the opportunity for hands-on learning are key to students’ interest, he said.
“I think the reason why kids like agriculture is they see more of a relevance,” he said. “When you’re talking about, ‘This is where bacon comes from,’ they can think, ‘Hey, I just had bacon.’ ”
The classes offer students a “refreshing change of pace from the core areas,” said Lowell Miller, an assistant principal who used to teach agriculture classes.
Schentzel finds that some kids who otherwise aren’t the best students do well with him. “It’s fun when you have these kids who are struggling in school and they come to your class and excel, because they think, ‘Hey, this is what I want to do. I’m interested in this,’ ” he said.
‘Talking the talk’
Miller said a major reason for the program’s success is Schentzel himself — he’s a one-man department. “With any elective, I think the teacher is really a critical, critical piece,” he said.
He noted that Schentzel is good at building relationships with kids and can “talk the talk” with them since he’s from the area and has his own hobby farm.
Alyson Kelly, a senior, lives on a hobby farm, has four horses and wants to manage a barn someday. She’s taken four classes with Schentzel and said she appreciates that he gives students information on topics like humane farming practices, but doesn’t tell them what to think.
Ibinger said though some students may come in looking for an “easy A,” the classes end up being “a lot more than they signed up for.”
“He makes it interesting by telling you his personal life stories,” she said. “He has a lot of funny ones.”
Erin Adler • 612-673-4000