Jason Peake was destined to teach agriculture. It’s in his DNA.
Peake, an associate professor of agricultural education at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Tifton, has a family full of ag teachers. His younger brother (Justin Michael Peake) and sister-in-law (Tiphanie) are also ag teachers, and Peake’s uncle (Howard Peake) was an ag teacher in central Kentucky, where Peake grew up.
“My uncle Howard was an honest man who worked hard and tried to do the right thing,” Peake said. “I always held him up as a role model and decided I wanted to be like him. He’s the one that inspired me to become an ag teacher.”
That inspiration has led to a 17-year teaching career for Peake.
“It is the greatest job in the world,” Peake said. “It’s high-impact with a smaller group of students. It is one of the most impactful positions that you can have to influence young people and turn their lives around. You can reach those young people while they are still malleable. You can have a hand in molding them and that makes a real difference in that student’s life.”
Peake began teaching high school agriculture classes in 1997 in Lakeland, Fla. He moved to UGA in February, 2004. During Peake’s teaching tenure, he has had a direct impact in the development of agriculture teachers across the Southeast. Those students include UGA graduates like Michael Barnes.
“I can easily say that 100 percent of what he taught is definitely applicable and effective in the classroom,” said Barnes, a UGA CAES Tifton campus graduate who is now a second-year ag teacher at Lowndes High School in Valdosta.
In his 10 years at UGA, Peake has taught some 90 undergraduate students with 65 to 70 of those eventually becoming ag teachers.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s very flattering and humbling that someone thought enough of what you do to follow in your footsteps and choose the same career path as you,” Peake said.
Not all of Peake’s students pursue a career in teaching agriculture. Though there is a high demand for ag teachers around the state, geography plays a key role in students finding a job. Many are faced with the dilemma of having to move, which is not a viable option for some.
As a result, many of Peake’s students take a science teaching position at a local school, and that is just fine with Peake. “I still consider those students a success because they’re carrying the message of agriculture, the importance of it, into the science classroom or the math classroom and still pushing that message across. I am happy to see my students enter the world of education and promote agricultural literacy,” he said.
Peake is also happy to assist his former pupils in whatever ag-related activity they’re working on. He recently helped former students Brittaney Schwing, an ag teacher at Northeast Campus of Tifton County High School in Tifton, and Adrien Gentry, an ag teacher at Colquitt County High School, with their respective FFA officer elections. Even though Peake is almost two decades removed from teaching high school, he keeps in touch with many of his former students, including six that are now ag teachers.
“I’m very close with my former students. I stay active in the Georgia ag education conferences, so that twice a year I am able to reconnect with my former students in person,” Peake said.
For more information about UGA Tifton’s academic program, visit students.caes.