A SusanvilleStuff Feature
by Melissa Blosser, Assistant Editor
It isn’t every day a shop teacher wins the California Agriculture Teaching Association (CATA) Teacher of Excellence Award.
Mike Somerville, Lassen High School’s FFA and Ag welding teacher has proved his dedication to helping kids develop a career path in welding, and was awarded the CATA Teacher of Excellence Award at the State FFA Ag Teaching Conference.
“It’s a great honor, especially being a shop teacher, “said Somerville. “I wasn’t supposed to know, but then I realized there was a reason everyone kept pushing me to attend the conference this year.”
Somerville was born in Susanville, and is part of a fifth generation family in Janesville where he runs cows with his family, farms grain hay, and operates his own custom hay hauling business.
Somerville obtained his Ag Mechanics degree at Lassen College and then went on to Chico State to get his Agricultural Science degree. Later, Somerville obtained a Masters in Ag Education at Cal Poly.
“My business, farming and cattle have been vital as it has provided me with a number of contacts which I use on a regular basis for my instruction and in teaching,” said Somerville.
The award requires the teacher to have taught a minimum of ten years in a secondary school or community college agricultural education program, or a combination the two. The application was to be accompanied by two letters of recommendation and or references of applicant’s qualifications as an agricultural teacher. Criteria is also based on community involvement, student accomplishments, and professional experience.
“Mike puts his heart and soul into making his classes relevant and engaging,” said Holly Egan, who aided in Mike’s nomination. “He has helped numerous students become certificated in welding and continue towards a career in that or a related field.”
Somerville started the Ag Mechanics program five years ago and his teams have qualified for the state FFA finals for the last four years. In the past 3 years Somerville has had 65% of graduating seniors attend a welding certification program at Lassen or Butte colleges.
“I love teaching the different skills and watching a kid when they really ‘get it’, and then they can be on their way to a really great job opportunity,” said Somerville.
Somerville and his wife Alison have two children Parker, 9 and Taylore, 7. The family works together to carry out the agriculture heritage and Somerville says he also talks about his experiences while teaching Agriculture.
“I teach them in FFA there are limitless opportunities, and I provide them with the necessary skills and sense of self-worth for a successful future,” he said. “Through sports, 4-H and family time my wife and I are building these same character traits in our children, which I try to instil in my students.”