Derek Huffman
Derek Huffman
Neshoba Central’s Derek Huffman received a pleasant surprise last week when he was named Mississippi’s Outstanding Early Career Technical Education Teacher of the Year by the National Association of Agricultural Educators.

He also was named Mississippi Central District Outstanding Teacher of the Year. He is now on track to be considered for regional honors.

“I was not expecting this,” Huffman said. “They usually announce this at the state convention, but everything is changed up because of the Coronavirus. I am now going to regionals. If I am selected there, I will be one of six national finalists. This was a great honor and I appreciate it.”

Huffman has always looked for new and creative ways to teach his students in Neshoba Central’s Ag and Natural Resources classes. Now, in the middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Huffman and his fellow teachers are working double time. At this writing, they were to return to the classrooms next week.

They are also preparing in case Mississippi’s schools are closed like they were last March to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m not a huge technology person but the teachers have been in classes, learning to use Canvas for virtual learning,” Huffman said.

According to its website, the Canvas Learning Management Platform allows schools to build a digital learning environment that meets the unique challenges they face.

For Huffman, he could be teaching welding or how to use or repair equipment in a virtual classroom.

“Usually, this is hands-on work with the teacher,” Huffman said. “It may be a little difficult but we have come up with some ideas. We have talked to some professors about it.”

So, in practice, Huffman would give his class on welding virtually. The students would go to his site to watch the lesson. Afterward, they would record themselves welding or whatever the lesson requires. 

Unlike other classes, Huffman sees his students every day for 110 minutes. They cover the animal, plant and soil side of the Ag classes, They also participate in the FFA clubs and do projects. There are district and state competitions throughout the year. 

“Last March, we were getting ready to review tor the state test when school closed,” Huffman said. “State contest was canceled. We had four teams going.

There were other cancelations and disappointments as well. Huffman is a regular at the Neshoba County Fair which was canceled. “We have a site in the campgrounds,” he said.

He has another change coming up.

“My wife Haylee and I are expecting a little one in January,” he said. “We are excited.”