SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A Clemson University professor has been honored with a national award for his work mentoring others in the profession of agricultural education.
Phil Fravel, a faculty member in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, was one of only six regional recipients of the National Association of Agricultural Educators Teacher Mentor Award, given at the NAAE annual convention in San Antonio, Texas, on Nov. 29, 2018.
“The award was most meaningful to me because it was a result of being nominated by the teachers I have worked with over the years,” Fravel said. “It was very rewarding to be recognized, and frankly it was quite a surprise. Fortunately, a number of my former Clemson students were in attendance during the award ceremony and who now serve as officers for the state association. Several of the teachers present date back to the very beginning of my time at Clemson — and all dates in between — so that was very special.”
Prior to joining the Clemson faculty in 2001, Fravel spent 15 years as a high school agricultural educator in Virginia and has served as an agricultural educator for 37 years in all. He has been an FFA Advisor continuously throughout his career and, upon arriving at Clemson, initiated the transformation of the Clemson collegiate FFA chapter to align with the everyday operations model of a high school FFA chapter.
Fravel’s multistate mentoring activities take place in numerous settings and opportunities, as he has formally provided instructional lesson plans, hands-on laboratory activities, agricultural mechanics project plans and instructional skill activities to fellow agricultural educators across the nation. Additionally, Fravel has secured and provided tens of thousands of dollars of tangible teaching aids and resources to countless teachers through personal requests and in local, multistate and national in-service settings.
Jesse Blunt-Zeazer, a former graduate student, said Fravel provides countless opportunities for agricultural educators across the state of South Carolina.
“Dr. Fravel identifies workshop ideas from across the nation that could potentially provide teachers with relevant training, and even assists teachers in obtaining the financial resources to attend,” Blunt-Zeazer said. “Each spring Dr. Fravel voluntarily spends a vast amount of time and energy hosting a two-day professional development workshop, fondly referred to as March-In-Service, for all student teachers and recent Clemson agricultural education graduates in their first few years of teaching. This annual workshop is intended to enhance pedagogical skills for classroom and agricultural learning lab instruction.”
Fravel serves at the request of teachers on facility designs and on a number of school program advisory boards, which generally meet twice annually. He has also been involved in state program evaluations where a more formal assessment is made of the agriculture programs in South Carolina.
Fravel said he has always felt that it is important to highlight the accomplishments of the local programs. He demonstrates to college students and teachers how to establish a local advisory council to develop and maintain and promote a program that meets the needs of their community.
“Professional growth and life-long learning has been a personal and primary target for me as a teacher educator and when I was a state staff director,” he said. “Providing useful and relevant in-service and professional development activities for our young and veteran teachers is one of the most important tools we have to retain veteran teachers in the classroom.”
Catherine DiBenedetto, assistant professor in Clemson’s agricultural sciences department, said Fravel dedicates countless hours of his time to mentor current students, alumni and in-service agricultural education teachers.
“Dr. Fravel’s passion for agricultural education and the support he provides to recruit and retain teachers is invaluable to the success of not only the Clemson University agricultural education program, but also to school-based agricultural education programs within the state, region and nation,” DiBenedetto said.
NAAE is the professional association for agricultural educators with more than 8,000 members nationwide. Its mission is “professionals providing agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy and service.”
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