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WIU ag alum Matt Shultz started teaching agriculture at Ventura (IA) Community High School in January 2007. His contributions to VCHS's ag program were recognized with an award from the Iowa Governor's Council on Ag Education earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Tom Boeck.
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WIU Alumnus Awarded Iowa Governor's Council Ag Education Award

December 8, 2008

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MACOMB, IL -- Before being deployed to Iraq last month, Western Illinois University alumnus Matt Shultz was on the frontlines of ag education, teaching Ventura (IA) high school students about the agriculture industry and advising students in the FFA program there.

The 2006 graduate of WIU's agricultural education program began teaching at Ventura Community High School (VCHS) in January 2007, just a month after finishing his bachelor's degree. Although teaching professionally for just under two years, Shultz has already been recognized for his outstanding contribution to the field of agricultural education. Earlier this year, his program at VCHS was awarded by the Iowa Governor's Council on Agricultural Education for Excellence in Science and Agriculture Program Integration.

"The award is based on rigor of curriculum, development, emphasis on higher-order thinking skills, teacher cooperation across disciplines, experienced-based learning and applying science to solve problems," Shultz wrote in an e-mail message to Andy Baker, agriculture professor at WIU.

Baker was not surprised by Shultz's award. "Matt is a very intelligent young man. He wanted to be challenged as a student, and he wants to make a difference in whatever area he is working in. When he was at Western, he demanded excellence from himself and from everyone around him," Baker said.

Excellence was a quality Shultz noted that he encountered while at Western too. In his message to Baker, Shultz attributed his award to WIU's agricultural education program.

"I thought you might want to let some of your students know I used many of the materials, resources and strategies from your classes to completely revamp the curriculum program here, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons I received the award," he wrote. "[My] preparation to teach agriculture and effectively run an FFA program surpasses that of most of [my] colleagues who attended other institutions. I'm not sure I fully appreciated that when I was in Macomb, but this is my way of saying thanks for making me a better ag teacher and FFA adviser," Shultz added.

Tom Boeck, ag teacher and FFA adviser at Central Lee High School in Donnellson (IA), where Shultz completed his student-teaching assignment, noted Shultz was not only a motivated, disciplined and organized student teacher, he was also very hands-on when it came to the students.

"Matt connected very well with students, and because he was an FFA member in high school, he could relate his personal experiences to those of the students' experiences," he said. "Matt traveled with teams to career-development events and trained teams for agriculture competitions at state and national levels."

Boeck also noted that Central Lee students remembered Shultz fondly, noting that students said: "He was the best teacher I ever had"; "he made special efforts to help with the creed when I needed it"; and "Matt was an all around good person, we all loved having him as a teacher and were sad when it was time for him leave."

In his cut-short teaching stint at VCHS, Shultz also connected with students, noted Rob Cassidy, middle and high school principal at Ventura.

"Matt created an arena in which any student can stand out. We have students who are involved in everything, as well as students who could walk through school without being involved in any extra-curricular activity. They all have a place in his classroom," Cassidy said. "Matt creates opportunity for students who may not think they have anything to offer anywhere else."

Although Shultz had to leave his post at Ventura to serve in Iraq (Shultz serves in the National Guard), Cassidy and his VCHS colleagues would welcome his return after his tour is completed.

"It is our hope that Matt will return here when his deployment is over," he said. "We would be hard pressed to find a person to reach the students the way he does."

For more information about Shultz, contact Baker (309) 298-1246 or

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing