Lance Hill is a local boy with farm roots — the Redmond High agriscience teacher grew up in Redmond on a small farm and was a member of 4-H and the local FFA before graduating from RHS in 1987.
Inspired by his ag ed teacher, Ted Tesconi, Hill followed in his footsteps, first at a high school in California, then at Mountain View High in Bend and for the past 11 years at his alma mater.
Over the years, Hill has mentored at least 10 student teachers and a dozen early field experience students, helping them succeed in agricultural education just like he has.
Now, he’s being honored by the National Association of Agricultural Educators with its Teacher Mentor Award, for his tireless work helping other ag teachers succeed. The NAAE has more than 9,000 members who are involved in school-based agricultural education from the middle-school through college levels, and it advocates for agricultural education, provides professional development and seeks to recruit and retain ag educators at all levels.
Hill was chosen from the Western region as one of six teachers to earn the award.
“I truly believe in agricultural education because of its model. The model was established in the 1920s and we haven’t changed this model, and it is extremely successful,” Hill said. “It is the integration of the classroom experience, leadership, and business development and practical application. … I believe in it so much.”
But it isn’t just the teaching model.
“What makes American agriculture and food production the largest industry in the country and the most successful productive in the country is because we start teaching students where food comes from,” Hill said. “Ag was STEM before STEM became cool.”
After deciding he wanted to teach agriculture, Hill never wavered from his plan — first he earned a scholarship to Linn-Benton Community College, traveling around the country on the school’s livestock evaluation team, then went to Fresno State University on another scholarship. He earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education there, then earned a master’s degree in teaching from Oregon State University.
His mentoring began at Washington Union High School in California, where field students and student teachers from Fresno State watched and learned as Hill taught students about the bountiful food grown in the Central Valley.
In 2001, Hill moved back to Redmond and began teaching in Bend. While there, he started working with the teacher mentorship program with OSU’s ag education department and served as a lifeline for teachers to help them work through challenges.
“It’s extremely important to foster new teachers and continue to work through them,” Hill said. “In my first three or four years of teaching in California, even though I had student teachers, we had a structure in place where we were continuously being taught in the agricultural education program as we were teaching. Our student teaching didn’t just end after that one year of shadowing an experienced teacher. … I didn’t see that here, and that really fostered a lot of passion for helping other teachers. Too often you get into it and you don’t have the tools or resources.”
Hill replaced his inspiration, Tesconi, after he retired in 2009, and quickly took on new student teachers.
While Hill has had opportunities to teach at the university level, he has stayed at the high school level because loves the classroom too much. “I love what I do,” he said. “I’ve always told myself that if I wake up in the morning and I’m dreading going to school, it’s time for me to retire. Even in these trying times, I can’t wait to connect with my students each day. In a way, I need them as much as they need me right now.”
Lucky for us and the many student teachers out there waiting for his mentorship, he’s not ready for retirement yet.