Brian Bay approaches teaching with laughter, joy and grace.
These are the principles he uses as a foundation to build relationships with students at the H.E. Vocational Agricultural Center in Kalispell Public Schools, where he’s taught for the past 15 years.
“Those three things, I think people don’t have enough of in the world,” Bay said.
When laughter, joy and grace are present in learning, Bay said that students — whether they are at the top of the class or at risk academically — are able to see that “we’re in this together and we’re all learning something new.”
Starting class with jokes or humor also helps engage students, according to Bay, who traded in working on farms and ranches and building homes to become a teacher in his 30s.
“I try to start most days with a smile,” he said.
Bay recently received the Montana Association of Agricultural Education’s Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher Award.
The award recognizes teachers “who are conducting the highest quality agricultural education programs,” according to the National Association of Agriculture Educators. The award also recognizes leadership in various civic, community, agriculture and professional activities.
His application will now be considered for an award at the national level.
There are about 338 students from Flathead and Glacier high schools who take classes at the vo-ag center. Bay is one of a staff of 13 and currently teaches agriculture education to sophomores and juniors. He is also an FFA advisor to the award-winning Flathead chapter.
“Agriculture is such a cutting-edge industry. There is so much science behind it,” Bay said.
The vo-ag center is also a place where hands-on activities have always been the heart of learning.
Students get to learn on a working farm where barley and alfalfa are grown; sows, cattle and sheep are raised; pasture and riparian area maintained; and machinery operated.
Over the years, Bay said it has been exciting to see the commercial cattle expanded from “seven head to 12 head and develop our show-sheep program from zero sheep to 20 ewes and three rams.”
“During my tenure, I have been able to help our team grow our assets and investments almost to a half-a-million dollars,” Bay noted in his application.
The award comes at a time when the H.E. Vocational Agricultural Center facility is preparing to expand as part of a $28.8-million high school district bond. Bay was a participant in the facility planning process.
Approximately $4.6 million is earmarked to build new classrooms, a veterinary science lab and new welding facility, among other projects.
“It’s really exciting that we’re going to be able to add to our curriculum,” Bay said.
Reporter Hilary Matheson can be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.