Tesch bound for National FFA Alumni Association
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 05/14/2012 3:42 PM
ST. PAUL – It's hard to take her own advice, Julie Tesch admits.
Tesch, executive director of the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council for the past nine years, counsels students graduating from the University of Minnesota to pursue career opportunities that take them far from home. You can always come back, she tells them.
Tesch is taking her own advice and leaving her home state for Indianapolis and the National FFA Alumni Association. Her last day with MAELC is April 27.
"I feel like I'm a college freshman," she said April 13, following a reception held in her honor on the U of M St. Paul campus.
She is leaving her biological family and her agricultural education family for Indianapolis, where she knows one person.
But her ag ed family from Minnesota is helping to smooth the transition. They are contacting friends in Indianapolis and asking them to call on her once she has settled in.
"I'm looking forward to meeting new people" Tesch said.
That's not to say it's easy to leave. Anything but.
"My gut said to jump at it, but I had a really hard time," Tesch said. "In my gut, this is an amazing opportunity."
It's a totally unexpected opportunity that fell from the sky and threw a kink into her plans. It was a good, unexpected kink, though, she said.
Tesch said the most difficult thing to do was to tell her family.
"It's a great opportunity, but it bites," said her mother, Jan Tesch.
Several people echoed those sentiments in comments made during a program held at Tesch's reception.
"Julie, we're going to miss you … the National FFA Alumni is going to have a great gain," said Cliff Vrieze of Trimont, who serves on the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council.
Tesch's supervisor, Jay Bell, jokingly said she isn't going to leave because he hasn't officially accepted her resignation. Bell is associate dean of academic programs and faculty affairs for the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. Bell, who has his doctorate in soil science, compared Tesch to Lester loam soil, which has been designated the state soil by the Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists.
How are they alike? No. 1, they're both from Minnesota. No. 2, Lester loam is one of the most productive soils; while Tesch is highly productive in her position. No. 3, both have a diverse past. Lester loam is 10,000 years old and formed under several forests and prairies. Tesch has had many diverse experiences at the U of M. Fourth, both exist in many parts of the state; and fifth, Lester is a great foundation. Tesch, too, built a great foundation for ag education, Bell said.
CFANS dean Al Levine said as he travels around the state to meetings and events, he either sees Tesch there or someone mentions her name.
She's a person who can convince the public that everyone should take a course in agriculture so they know where their food comes from, Levine said.
Legislators also valued her input, said Rep. Ron Shimanski, R-Silver Lake.
"Julie has been just a tremendous asset to legislators," Shimanski said, pointing out the she helped lawmakers get up to speed on agricultural education issues, he said.
The Legislature has provided bipartisan support for ag education, Tesch said.
Justin Crowley, a U of M student, said Tesch guided him toward a career in education. What he will miss most about her is the gift of time she shared with students. Tesch was never too busy to stop what she was doing and counsel a college student, he said. Crowley said he learned the importance of stopping to talk from her.
Tesch remembers the important role her adviser, Delane Welsch, played in getting her through undergraduate studies.
When she arrived on the U of M campus from Waldorf 19 years ago, she was a reluctant freshman who went home every weekend. Her father, Marty, tells how they carted her off to college kicking and screaming.
Now, she's having a hard time saying goodbye.