Rio Rico High School teacher named National Safety Educator of the Year

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Richard McPherson, Rio Rico High School career and technical education Agriculture Science Teacher, was awarded the 2017 CareerSafe National Safety Educator of the Year award at the recent Association for Career and Technical Education CareerTech Vision Conference in Nashville.

The award recognizes exceptional educators who have dedicated their time to prepare students for the future, and helped students recognize and mitigate workplace hazards in their chosen careers. McPherson received $5,000 for use in his classroom.

Video by CareerSafe: 2017 Safety Educator of the Year – Richard McPherson

According to McPherson, safety is a major component of his hands-on curriculum that includes Introduction to Agriculture, Applied Biological Systems, Plant Science and Advanced Plant Sciences. During his nine years of teaching, he has logged more than 18,000 hours of accident-free direct work experience with his students.

“If the students aren’t safe here, it can totally impact their entire future,” McPherson said. “Safety gives them a future, and they’re more likely to get employed if they come in with some safety knowledge, training and attitudes.”

His curriculum includes plant and animal science with laboratory activities in bio-security, sanitation, nutrition, environmental controls, husbandry, livestock and produce harvesting techniques, as well as agriculture building systems which expands into hand and power tools, tractors, construction and fabrication, welding and cutting, plumbing and other topics.

“I have the philosophy that if my student went to school and didn’t come back a little dirty or a little scuffed up, they probably didn’t learn anything that day,” McPherson said. “So now I like to expose my students to as many hands-on activities as they possibly do, but keep them safe the entire journey.”

Each year, all returning students must begin the school year with a refresher safety unit. Students must retake safety exams and their safety training records are updated before they’re allowed to work on or taught new material. Credentialing opportunities provide McPherson’s students the ability to show employers that they have extensive knowledge in various skill sets.

“Each year, Mr. McPherson elevates our Ag Ed Program to new heights by adding what eventually become award-winning programs,” said RRHS Principal Shelly Vroegh. “The common thread throughout is safety, his number one priority.  We’re fortunate to have such a phenomenal teacher.”

Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35 is a growing, dynamic school district covering approximately 267 square miles. The district operates five schools. Approximately 3,440 students are enrolled during the 2017-2018 school year.


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