The Nebraska FFA Foundation presented Mark Schroeder, Wisner-Pilger High School agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor, with the 2015 Gary Scharf Helping Hand Award at the Nebraska FFA Convention on April 9.
Schroeder was nominated by numerous students, past students and community members. Jeff Albers, a community member, says that Schroeder’s passion for students and community was most obvious following the devastating tornadoes last summer. He made himself available to many who needed help. He worked with his students to mobilize work groups to help with the overwhelming task of land property cleanup for several weeks following the tornadoes. “After thousands of acres had been cleared of debris, he then turned his attention to work with his students to focus on the six FFA students and their families that lost virtually everything.” Schroeder led efforts, with his FFA Officer Team, to coordinate a fundraiser for FFA members yielding $1,000 per FFA family and “priceless camaraderie in the community,” according to Albers.
Beyond tornado cleanup, Schroeder is also well known for his passion in the classroom. Eric Leisy, student, says “he is the kind of teacher that always puts his students before him and wants nothing but the best for others.” Fellow teacher Abby Knobbe says one thing she admires is his hands-on approach. “He’s worked hard to develop a strong relationship between his students and the community so that students are able to have those hands-on experiences and gain knowledge and skills while still in high school.”
He is also a very active member of the agricultural education family by continuing to participate in professional development conferences and through involvement in the Nebraska Agriculture Educators Association.
The Gary Scharf Helping Hand Award recognizes a Nebraska agriculture teacher or FFA advisor for what he or she has done in helping others, specifically in the school and community, outside of agriculture education and FFA. Schroeder was announced as the award winner during the Nebraska State FFA Convention in Lincoln. He received a plaque and $500 cash award from the Nebraska FFA Foundation.
The annual award is named for Gary Scharf, who was a victim of an Omaha mall shooting in December 2007. Scharf grew up on a family farm outside of Curtis, Nebraska and worked in the agricultural chemical industry. He made a significant contribution to Nebraska’s agricultural and FFA community through his years of service on the Nebraska FFA Foundation Board, including a year as Board President in 2002-2003.