SDSU ag ed student receives scholarship

Maddie Weninger, a South Dakota State University senior from Howard Lake, Minn., hopes to teach agriculture education in English and Spanish.

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Maddie Weninger at the 2019 National FFA Convention and Expo next to a display of the FFA Creed in Spanish. (South Dakota State University photo)

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Maddie Weninger, a senior from Howard Lake, Minn., studying agricultural education and Spanish at South Dakota State University, has been selected as a recipient of the 2020 National Association of Agricultural Educators Upper Division Scholarship.

The NAAE Upper Division Scholarship is awarded to 20 students nationwide who are pursuing a degree in agricultural education. Recipients must be student members of NAAE and must complete their student teaching experience in the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semesters. Weninger will receive a $1,500 stipend to support her as a student teacher in the spring 2021 term.

NAAE is a federation of state agricultural educators associations with over 9,000 members involved in school-based agricultural education at any level ranging from middle school to postsecondary education and from state to national agricultural education leadership roles.

Growing up with her father as an agricultural educator, Weninger was familiar with what NAAE was and grew to appreciate the organization even more over time. The organization helped with her brother's medical bills after an ATV accident.

Throughout high school, Weninger gained her passion for agriculture through FFA and agriculture classes. She then carried that passion into her role as a 2017-2018 state FFA officer with the Minnesota FFA Association. After serving as a state FFA officer, Weninger was selected as a 2019-2020 National Teach Ag Ambassador with NAAE where she served alongside 13 others as advocates for the profession.


“I love agricultural education because it is non-traditional teaching,” said Weninger. “It connects with students that don’t necessarily connect with education. It allows students to find things they thrive in, that isn’t just basic math or English, and apply those concepts in a real-life setting.”

Weninger is an active member of the Agricultural Education/FFA Alumni Club, Little International, Dairy Club and serves as a student ambassador for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

Additionally, she has enjoyed serving as an SDSU Teach Ag Ambassador where she and other agricultural education students to provide activities and resources to agricultural educators, assist with events and write thank you notes to South Dakota agriculture teachers.

Her interest in pursuing a second major in Spanish stemmed from an experience she had in middle school when she worked for a company selling produce at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market.

“I remember going to the farm to pick up strawberries from some of the workers in the morning before the farmer’s market and my bosses were speaking in Spanish to the other workers,” Weninger said. “I thought that was the epitome of managing people — speaking to them in a way that they want to be spoken to. The need to speak Spanish is never going to go away, and one of my big goals is to be able to teach agriculture to both English and Spanish speaking students.”

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