After a lecture from his father about a poor grade in high school, Dan Ellwood knew it was time to think seriously about his future. Soon after the talk, Ellwood realized teaching agriculture to high school students would be an ideal job.
“I knew I wanted to be in agriculture, but our family farm was not big enough to support me,” Ellwood said. “So after that conversation I researched careers and figured I would become an agriculture teacher.”
Ellwood grew up on a small livestock farm in Arlington, Wash. and decided to attend Washington State University after high school because “it was the only in-state school to offer it at the time.”
He graduated from WSU in 1984 and has taught for 24 years. He is currently in his 13th year at Wenatchee High School.
While at WSU, Ellwood involved himself in many leadership roles within his fraternity, Theta Xi, and eventually served a year as president. “I learned a lot of valuable skills from that position, many that I still use in the classroom today,” he said.
Along with leadership skills, Ellwood learned that first impressions are not always correct. “I walked into Ag. Mechanics 201 taught by John George, and was disappointed because he was using the same book from a class I had in high school. I thought the class would be easy.
“Then George told me, ‘you haven’t taken it from me yet,’ and I soon learned that he was right. He was an accomplished welder who expected a lot from his students. I learned so much from him and was proud of the work I did in his class,” Ellwood said.
Currently Ellwood teaches mechanics, welding and horticulture classes. Many of his students go into agriculture-related careers and are especially involved in the tree fruit industry.
“Chelan County is very dependant on orchards. While most of my kids won’t run an orchard, they will have jobs—like a fork-lift mechanic—that will help the orchard run.”
Ellwood said there have been many changes in teaching agriculture since he started. “Ag classes used to be electives, so students that planned careers in ag took the classes. Now, many classes count for science credits so I teach students with a variety of career interests.”
Currently, Ellwood has his “ideal” teaching assignment because he teaches his favorite subjects. “I enjoy that horticulture and mechanics are so hands-on and that students can follow their work to the end,” he said.
by Brianna Brue, Marketing, News, and Educational Communications intern