Hello there Total AG ED Program South Region Agriculture Teachers! 

As the National FFA Convention comes to a close the South Region was so blessed to have four National Proficiency Finalist and two National Proficiency WINNERS! These students worked hard with their SAEs outside of the classroom, maintained good records and were all able to describe their work in their project area to a panel of judges. Serving on the judge's side this year I feel as though I have seen BOTH sides of the process and feel the need to share with all of you, because I like ya! 

YOUR STUDENTS can do this too! Here are some simple tips that hopefully you can use to have more success with your students proficiency entries. 

Proficiency TIPS:

1. USE THE RUBRIC - When the student starts his/her work hand them a hard copy of the rubric (which is attached and can be found of the National FFA website) The judges receive this same piece of paper to score the applications. Try to make sure that every aspect that is being judged is in the highest points. Please note that there are 3 rubrics - placement/ownership, combine and research; choose the one that best fits the type of project that the student has been working with.

2. FILL THE BLANK SPACE - If the space is provided USE IT! Ms. Cook made me go back, and back AND BACK until I had the whole space full. Do you know what that does? Provides more detail. Which gives you more points. It also allows the judges to fill like the project is real. I always made my students fill the spaces. It's like pulling teeth sometimes but will be worth it in the end when they receive that $500 check to go to Nationals, prize money on top of that from Nationals just for winning state and the GA FFA Foundation check to your students for their hard work.

3. DETAILS - Tractor name, make and model, fertilizer brand, exact measurements, numbers, number NUMBERS; these are all aspects that students do not think about. That's where you come in to play. Read other the application and circle places that need more detail and hand it back to the students. The space maybe filled but not with details. Details win! 

4. PICTURES - With the new system horizontal pictures are best. Action shots! The student actually working is great! Avoid: hats, sunglasses, long hair in the face and dark pictures. These pictures bring the project to life. They are not worth a ton on the new rubric but shore do tell the story. Start in the summer taking pictures. This gives you a wide verity of seasons, colors, weather and clothing

5. CAPTIONS - Do not start the captions with: In the picture or I am. Just avoid I all together. Try to use the space and talk about the skills being shown in the picture. Or maybe even why what the student is doing is important. Also fill the space!

6. STUDENT SELECTION - Most of the time the students that have the most time invested in their project score better. We would only allow high school juniors and seniors as well as college freshman to fill out a proficiency application. This way they would be more competitive on hours, years, and amount of inventory. These ages are usually, not always, better at speaking to judges. You also don't want to waste a high school freshman or sophomore's chance at winning Nationally. A high school freshman most likely will not compete well at the National FFA Convention and then their time and over because once you win, it is over proficiency wise in that category.

7. START EARLY - Yes I am sure there are some of you really talented teachers out there that can have a student start on a proficiency on Monday and have it done by Friday when it is due and win. NOT ME! We started in the summer of the ones I knew were going to apply by taking pictures and giving them a hard copy of a blank proficiency or emailing them access to their application online. Then when school started we had check points every month. This helped me to not become stressed at the end. However, they could go ahead and begin filling the online forms out and be sitting on ready when their time comes!

8. EXTRA PAGE - This page needs to be something that adds to the application. Extra page of data collected. Reports from an experiment. Copies of soil samples that were referred to in the application. A flier used to drum up business for their piglets etc. In the past I have also taken all the articles that highlighted how great the student was made them smaller and put them all together in a collage type page.  

9. ASK FOR HELP - We are all here to help you and your students be successful. If you are "not a proficiency person" please do not let the great opportunity pass by some of your OUTSTANDING students. If you allow us to look over it EARLY (not the week of the due date) we could help you out. 

The students in your classrooms are doing the work in agriculture that could not be touched by the students in the other regions. Let's work together to highlight them and their hard work! Call, text, email our South Region Team with any questions, comments or concerns. 

Thank you for what you do! 

Trisha Rae Lastly 
South Region Agriculture Education 
Area Horticulture Teacher