MHS ag instructor a finalist in the Great American Teach-Off

MARSHALL – Marshall High School agriculture teacher Jason Kaare might be in his first year of teaching, but he certainly isn’t letting a lack of experience keep him from tackling big projects and making an impact on the students, school and community around him. Currently, Kaare is a national finalist for a $10,000 classroom grant for his efforts to engage students with his innovative and creative ideas.

Kaare was recently named as one of the 10 high school finalists in the Great American Teach-Off, a competition that now requires the finalists to produce videos for people to vote on. The teachers who get the most votes move on in the competition, while the bottom two drop out each week.

“My Facebook and Twitter is just full of people re-tweeting, favoriting, sharing or commenting on my stuff,” Kaare said. “I’m hoping that my connections in the ag industry and FFA will really help me. The first one was published on the website this week. They’ll take the second video from You Tube for the second week of voting and so on. If I make it all the way to the end, I’ll be making five videos.”

Since it is winter in Minnesota, highlighting a specific innovation for the first video proved to be a little difficult, but Kaare made it work.

“The first one is how I’m an innovative teacher, so I basically introduced myself and then showed pictures of some of the stuff I’ve done because most of the really cool things we do around here are outside,” he said. “I had pictures of what we did this fall, with the landscaping projects and the chickens that we raised and butchered here at school.”

Kaare implemented the chicken marketing project, but it was the students who benefited from the experience. After receiving day-old chicks, the students got to be involved in every step of the process. Kaare also brought the baby chicks to the elementary school and gave short presentations to all the first-grade classrooms.

The second video Kaare made is about how he’s making a difference.

“That was the topic,” he said. “So I interviewed students and the principal about how I’ve made a difference in their lives and in school.”

The third week video will include Kaare’s best teaching tip for teachers across the country.

“I’ve only been teaching for six months, so it was a little interesting,” Kaare said. “But my tip was to build a relationship with your community.”

Kaare asked a film production student to help him capture action all around Marshall, including footage of Kaare at the fairgrounds, Makin’ Waves hair salon, Hy-Vee and Jimmy John’s.

“I was filmed at the fairgrounds, talking about how I helped with all the livestock shows at the Lyon County Fair last year, just to get my name out there and let people see me,” Kaare said. “They filmed me ordering food at Jimmy John’s and talking to a kid. It’s about building a connection.”

No matter what, Kaare said, the competition has been worth the effort.

“Having these videos is kind of a cool thing and just having the positive PR for the ag department and for myself as a new teacher is worth it regardless of how far I make it,” he said. “You have to advocate for ag because you’re an elective department. You have to show people what you’re doing in your job or else you are going to be cut and be non-existent. It’s just the way it is.”

Technology and networking has taken ag education to a whole new level, Kaare said.

“I can tweet that I’m doing a beef unit tomorrow and ask for an activity,” he said. “Almost always, somebody will respond with an idea to do, which is awesome.”

If he were to win the contest, Kaare hopes to expand the chicken project he created, by purchasing better processing equipment, and possibly build a shed or barn-like structure to raise more chickens or other animals, like goats or sheep.

“I think that would be a really neat experience for some of the kids who don’t have access to animals, to possibly show them at the state fair or just have the responsibility of taking care of them,” Kaare said. “Or when we’re talking about vaccinations in class, we can just pick up and go to the shed and actually vaccinate on the animals, make it more hands-on.”

But Kaare has to get enough votes. Voting ends on Sunday each week, and on Monday, he is notified about whether or not he made the cut.

“I’m hoping that being from a small town will be beneficial because the people care more,” Kaare said. “People in the ag industry have each others’ backs and I think people will go out of their way to help an ag teacher because it’s very much a community-supported program.”

Supporters are allowed to vote once per day. Go to, click join at the top right, enter your e-mail, create a username and password, hit OK and vote. You will then get a confirmation e-mail to finalize your vote. If you do not click on the link in your e-mail, your vote will not count.