Taylor Cooper, junior Agricultural Education-Teaching major, won the Alpha Tau Alpha Conclave essay competition in Fall 2015. Cooper earned $100 for winning the competition.
Alpha Tau Alpha is a national professional honorary society for agricultural education. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln houses the Beta chapter. The Alpha Tau Alpha Conclave coincides with the National FFA (Future Farmers of America) convention each October. Competitions include the essay, parliamentary procedure, debate, and quiz bowl.
For the essay contest, Cooper wrote about incorporating interpersonal leadership lessons in the three-circle model of agricultural education, which includes classroom instruction, a supervised agricultural experience and participation in FFA.
"What inspired my essay was the fact that I have a really great resource in my own home," Cooper said. "My father, Mr. Tracy Cooper, is an agricultural educator at Leyton Public Schools in Dalton, Nebraska."
"He began teaching about 20 years ago," Cooper said. "I thought it would be an interesting idea to learn a bit more about what was essential for him to teach his students and compare it to what I have been learning in my classes."
Cooper compared her father's focus on lessons about production to today's need for lessons about interpersonal skills.
"After talking with my dad, I thought about how teaching interpersonal skills really is becoming a prominent subject in most classrooms these days," Cooper said. "I thought this would be a great angle to take."
In her essay, "Modern Day Interpersonal Skills in Agricultural Education," Cooper proposed that teachers could connect existing assignments in the three-circle model to lessons that teach interpersonal skills. Assignments could be activities that require group work, adaptability and critical thinking.
"I am learning that developing a different set of skills is essential for students in the 21st century. Interpersonal skills such as critical thinking, adaptability and collaboration are becoming the essential skills for students when they enter the work force," Cooper wrote in her essay.
In her spare time, Cooper enjoys reading, writing and telling stories.
"My imagination never stops," Cooper said. "Writing things down has been my way to get my ideas out. I have a few stories in progress right now, but one day I hope to publish them all and leave my mark in that way."