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Terpstra Tapped For State Honor
Now it's not just the Escalon FFA students that are making a name for themselves around the state ... teacher and advisor Jennifer Terpstra has been presented with the State of California Teacher of Excellence Award by her peers.

The award was bestowed at the annual conference of the California Ag Teachers Association earlier this summer in San Luis Obispo. Terpstra said she was nominated by a teacher in Lodi, where she started her career, and was put through as the representative of this Section. She then moved on to the Regional level and, selected there, was chosen to compete with other teachers from around the state.

"I wasn't supposed to know," Terpstra admitted of learning in advance she was going to be honored at the June banquet.

But, since the conference dates conflicted with her work with FFA students at the San Joaquin County Fair, her fellow ag teachers at Escalon had to give her a heads up, so she would be sure to attend the awards banquet.

"We were doing the lamb and steer shows at the fair that day," she remembered. "After that, we (Terpstra and her husband) went to San Luis Obispo for the dinner, we came home the same night."

Then it was back to the county fair, helping the FFA kids rake in the honors.

The California Ag Teachers Association, Terpstra said, is basically the state union for ag education and is organized much like the FFA that its members help oversee throughout the state.

"Our union recognizes the teachers of excellence every year, all the other ag teachers know how hard we work because they're doing the same thing," she said, chuckling.

And even though Terpstra said she was excited when she first learned of her nomination for the award, it didn't really hit her that she had made it from the Section to the Regional to the State level for the honor until the night of the dinner.

"I was really just so honored and so blown away when I was on stage, looking out at all the ag teachers in our entire state," she said. "When you look at the list of past recipients, for me to be a part of that group ..."

She said so much was going through her mind as she stood on stage, from seeing a teacher that she hopes her students can beat in competition next year to striving to win a chapter honor that another teacher has achieved.

"I was looking at all my role models," she admitted. "I wasn't prepared for the emotion that came over me."

Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Dave Mantooth said school officials couldn't be prouder of or happier for Terpstra.

"It's outstanding," he said. "We have an excellent program that has been built up over the years. Staff has done a great job expanding and improving what we offer. There has been a lot of growth in the ag science area, she was able to really expand it."

Mantooth added that Escalon is becoming well known for its agricultural prowess.

"Whenever I go (to a conference) and I say I'm from Escalon, everyone knows about Escalon FFA," he said.

The school's chapter has sent a member to serve as a state officer each of the past two years, with Jordan Lippincott currently serving a one-year term as treasurer and Kristen Steves selected as state president the year prior to Lippincott's election.

Responsible primarily for ag biology and animal science classes in addition to serving as advisor for the FFA, Terpstra was born in Southern California but grew up in Susanville. She attended San Joaquin Delta Junior College, then went on to Chico State. Just out of Chico, she went to work in the Lodi school district and completed her credential work through Chapman University.

She spent the first six years of her teaching career at Lodi, where she successfully wrote a state grant to begin an ag academy, and is entering her seventh year teaching at Escalon.

Lodi, she said, was "more of a job" while working with the students at Escalon and helping contribute to their success has been a joyful part of her career.

"I'm just trying to keep up with the kids," she said.