MARTINSBURG – Tiffany Hine, an instructor at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, compares her mindset to what is often said about old dogs and new tricks: They can’t learn them.
As an associate professor and agribusiness program coordinator, Hine will be the first to admit a tech friend she is not.
However, as the education progressed, Hine knew there was a need to broaden her skills, starting with a few classes with Quality Matters through a partnership with BRCTC, and before she knew it, she was taking as much as she could – just as the world was spinning on her head. Ultimately, Hine became the first instructor in Blue Ridge to achieve Quality Matters Online Teaching Certification.
“A year ago today we were all told to go home and stay home and we didn’t know what was going on in the world, that the classes were all online,” Hine said. Thursday. “Talk about panicking. I’m like, “How am I going to teach online? I don’t know what I’m doing. I started taking all the courses I could with Quality Matters very quickly, so I could learn as much as possible online. I’m like, “If I have to do this, I want to be the best instructor online. I can be for my students. That’s how I always thought of being in class. “
Hine praised Blue Ridge for supporting instructors pursuing their own training, herself learning the Quality Matters curriculum during a discussion with the IT department as she looked for a way to improve as a teacher.
“I was very lucky,” Hine said. “I have to say Blue Ridge is really great when it comes to our ability to further our own education. I’m kind of that old school, old dog type person. I needed to learn some new stuff. , and tech has never been my friend or my favorite thing. thank god my daughter can put my phone together and do that stuff. i was like, “i have to figure this stuff online.” That was a few years ago, and I went into our department and I was like, ‘How do I learn this, because somebody’s going to have to teach me? I really don’t know what I’m doing . ‘”
So when COVID-19 hit, Hine had the tools at their fingertips to better serve her online students, switching to the virtual platform much to her chagrin and against logical thinking, but in the end, they all did. makes it work, his knowledge of these. classes making the transition much easier.
“I’m like, ‘I really don’t know I want to teach online. I’m an agribusiness, farming. You don’t put farming online. It just doesn’t happen,” she recalls, thinking this time for the last year laughing. “It wasn’t that it was that hard, but for me, it really opened my eyes to a whole new world and a whole new way to learn. Learning online is very different. The only thing that is. I learned is that for my students, especially my farm kids, we can do all of our “book learning” online, and I can always have the opportunity for them to go out and have their hands-on experiences. They always go into the community. They always go to visit farms and greenhouses and nurseries and do different projects. They always get that part of farming, and I can still teach online and provide them with what they even need. if I am no longer in front of them. “
The certification required Hine to take seven crash courses that really changed her way of thinking and provided her with tools and ideals that she uses in the classroom on a daily basis.
“It just proves that an old dog can learn new tricks. I learned a lot,” she said with a laugh. “Once I got down to it it started to make sense. I think all for me was that I needed to be able to keep that aspect of the program practical. If I can do it, I can do it. function.”
Hine said one of the biggest lessons learned was about assessments and how to tell if students are actually retaining the information they need through online learning. While Hine can see the confusion on a student’s face in person, can push them aside to work more closely, online it’s more about making sure each student gets there together.
“Sometimes they say, ‘Miss Tiffany, what are you doing?’,” Hine said. “After a while they say, ‘I understand what you’re doing now.’ It’s something they call scaffolding. You really have to build on top of each other in a row. If you don’t understand that, I can’t take a person aside to help them get it. have to make sure everyone gets that, and we all understand where we’re going on this trip. It’s been very difficult but very cool. “
The transition to a virtual format has certainly not been without its challenges, and technological challenges are part of the daily routine, it seems, but there has been so much good to come out of the fact that Hine was forced to leave. ‘to learn more.
“It has been a huge challenge for me,” she said. “They were dragging me around, kicking me and screaming. I’m like, ‘No, you don’t do row farming. We have to be in the ground. We have to be with the animals. We have to do everything. that.’ I have to say that if there was something positive that came out of this pandemic, at least for me, it was that I had to pivot – there’s that word – really quickly and produce a product online that was going to work. in the agricultural industry.
“I have to tell you that I am very proud of the program, but I am so proud of my students. A lot of my students are like, ‘Hey, Tiff, we can’t do this online’. I’m like, “Listen guys, I’m here with you. We’re going to learn this together.” We had a lot of mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes. We had a lot of time where Zoom made a boom on us, it was like. And that’s OK. We will overcome this. These students were so resilient and worked so well and tried so hard. This is where my greatest pride is. They are my children. My farm children are my children, and I am so proud of them and what they do. “
With the new insights Hine has acquired, a long-standing goal of Dr. Ann Shipway, BRCTC’s Vice President of Economic Development and Workforce, comes to life for the agri-food program. It will soon be available statewide, with students from other parts of West Virginia able to participate virtually and complete their labs in their own communities.
“On March 25, I will be holding what I call Phase 1 of my statewide project,” Hine said. “We’re going to run the program statewide. I’ve kind of split West Virginia into four phases to approach all high school and FFA teachers, as well as high school counselors statewide, to show them what we do online.
“If I hadn’t taken all this online training and could have felt a lot more comfortable taking the program to where it needs to be, I never would have been able to do it. It opened up a lot of doors for us. . “
Hine thanked her advisory board and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture for all of their help in networking her students throughout this crazy year to help them be successful outside of the classroom.
She thought of a college student who was interested in meat rabbits, an aspect of the field that Hine admitted to knowing little about. Through her connection with the WVDA, this student was able to visit a meat rabbit farm right next to her home in Berkeley County to get the answers and experience she needed.
“West Virginia is still a small enough state where people know each other from place to place that if I need to help a student, we’ll call each other, and we’ll make those calls and get there to. them, “Hine said. “That’s really what we did. I rely a lot on my advisory board. I rely a lot on the networking that we have already done.”
It is this networking that will be the key to the statewide program, as most of these students already live in areas that they themselves will one day impact on agriculture, their practical work. being carried out within their own communities, having many advantages for their future.
“Most farm kids are going to stay pretty close to where they grew up,” Hine said. “Why not get them to start learning more about their community, getting involved in their community, starting to network with their community, getting involved in their local agricultural offices, maybe helping their local FFAs? For me, I’m one of those people who, yes, it takes a village to raise a child, but this is the village that will be there for you all your life. If you can get involved in it and be a part of it, I think it’s going to make a huge difference. “
It is this personalized experience, first-hand knowledge, combined with Hine’s dedication to ensuring her students understand the business side of farming that sets them up for success.
“When we started the program, one of the things I said I wanted to do was also bring the business side to agriculture,” she said. “If you look at why farms fail, one of the biggest reasons farms fail is because they’re not run like a business. have some understanding of marketing, customer service, management and leadership, how to start a business, get insurance, who will do taxes. I want to put them in place for the best possible success. I don’t want to set them up for failure. I want to set them up where if they don’t have the answer, they’re going to know where to go to find it. For me that has been a big part of what this program is. “