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Paul Aarsvold earns Farm Bureau award

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 01/19/2014 8:12 PM

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PLAINVIEW, Minn. -- Paul Aarsvold may have received the Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation Adviser of the Year award, but he views the award as a program award rather than a personal one.

Aarsvold and Steve Hinrichs co-advise the FFA program and teach agricultural education classes at PEM.

"Steve and I make a good team, playing off one another," Aarsvold said. "We have community, administrative support... It also goes back to the students. We have good students here."

Aarsvold has been an ag teacher at Plainview-Elgin-Millville Schools for 16 years, beginning in 1998. Prior to that, he taught at Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City for four years.

Aarsvold was shocked when he received a letter telling him he was this year's Adviser of the Year. He had filled out the application a few years ago and was unaware that Goodhue County Farm Bureau submitted it this year. A congratulatory email ended up in his spam folder at work.

"I was very humbled and honored by it," Aarsvold said. "I look at some of the teachers who have been honored and I have the utmost respect for them."

The list includes not only people who were mentors, but also peers who are incredible people, he said.

Aarsvold's two oldest sons, P.J. and Nick, and FFA members McKayla Wingert and Macey Betcher accompanied him and his wife, Val, to the Farm Bureau banquet where the award was presented. The Aarsvold boys, Wingert and Betcher had an FFA leadership conference in the cities the next day. Val said they forgot to tell the girls about the significance of the stop at the Farm Bureau meeting and they were a bit baffled by all the attention their adviser was receiving until they learned of his honor.

In their joint letter of nomination, Tom Perkins, Goodhue County Farm Bureau president, and Darvey Sloan, Wabasha County Farm Bureau president, recognize Aarsvold for his attention to student achievement.

"He works hard to increase students' understanding of the importance of agriculture in their daily lives as well as the many career opportunities for them," they wrote. "He has assisted numerous students in obtaining their state and American FFA degrees. He has worked hard to build partnerships in the communities."

During Aarsvold's tenure at PEM, 17 students have received their American FFA degree and 46 have received their state degree.

The PEM FFA is a robust chapter with a variety of opportunities for student involvement, leadership and growth.

Aside from monthly meetings and the annual fruit sale, the chapter participates in Plainview's Olde Fashioned Christmas, Elgin Cheese Days, the Wabasha County Fair and the Olmsted County Fair. Students attend leadership camps and participate in career development events. They have agricultural education for younger students and they volunteer at the CHS Miracle of Birth Center at the state fair.

"We work to teach our students to give back to the community," Aarsvold wrote in his application. "We strive to make our students better citizens while teaching them the importance of agriculture."

He also works to provide students the opportunity to take college courses right at their high school. In 2008, Aarsvold applied to be a teaching specialist for the University of Minnesota's College in the Schools program. He teaches an animal science course and Hinrichs teaches a horticulture course.

In the 2012-13 school year, 52 students earned 200 credits through the four College in the Schools program courses offered at PEM High School, Aarsvold said. The cost to the district was $7,540, but it saved the students $92,000.

Another strength of the program is it's diversity, Aarsvold said. Every seventh and eighth grader in the district takes an introduction to agriculture course. Other courses offered include: Welding, wildlife, animal science, horticulture, small engines and leadership.

Aarsvold also teaches a careers course for the school's freshmen. He always tells the students that he enjoys coming to work and he tries to make a positive difference in the lives of students.

As a recipient of the Adviser of the Year award, Aarsvold will attend the American Farm Bureau annual meeting in San Antonio. He and Val leave Jan. 11 and return Jan. 15. They look forward to hearing from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and attending a Josh Turner concert. It will be their first trip to San Antonio and they hope to do some sightseeing too.