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Former Rugby Ag Teacher Moves On

By Staff | Aug 21, 2015


When classes at Rugby High School begin Thursday, Aug. 27, students in Ag 4, Ag Mechanics, Community Projects and eighth grade exploratory agriculture, among others, will be taught by a new face.

After 18 years at RHS, Rick Vannett announced his retirement at the end of the 2014-15 school year. In addition to mechanics, freshmen and sophomore courses and exploratory ag, he established the Community Projects class – a course in which students do needed projects in the area – and a class in meat cutting.

This summer he took a job teaching at Munich’s newly-created ag department.

“I’m really excited about getting them started,” Vannett said.

At Munich, which is a smaller school than Rugby, he will teach grades 7-12.

Vannett started teaching in March 1982, right after he was done with college. His first teaching position was in Powers Lake, which he held for six years. He taught in Jamestown for six years before coming to Rugby in 1997.

But Vannett knew he wanted to be involved in agriculture well before then.

“I always tell my students that when I was a freshman in high school I never heard of ‘ag class’ and I had a friend tell me to sign up for ag. I signed up for ag, and before the year was over, I made up my mind and I knew that’s what I wanted to do for a living. And fortunately I was able to,” Vannett said.

In 33 years of teaching, Vannett said the technology and the students have both changed. He recalled early in his career receiving a computer in the classroom.

“I told the kids it was probably a passing fad and I never used it the first year, I just let it sit,” Vannett said. He recalled a student showing him how to use the computer, and he used one ever since.

Vannett said students now, compared to when he started, are driven differently and have more activities and things to keep them occupied.

For 18 years, Vannett has also been an adviser to the Rugby FFA Chapter. He said tradition has been a big part of the chapter’s success over the years. In Rugby, he said, one tradition has been students joining, and those students had family involved in the program too.

“They know what the FFA offers, and they’re proud to be from Rugby,” Vannett said.

Another tradition, Vannett said, is in the teaching staff. According to him, he is the third lead ag-ed instructor in RHS history, succeeding Don Erickson – who taught for 30 years – and Quentin Christman – who taught for 26 years.

“I think that’s one of the things that helps,” Vannett said. “It’s not a turn-over of teachers, it’s the same person doing things the same.”

New Teacher

This fall, a former student becomes the teacher.

Travis Fritel, a 2007 graduate of RHS, is taking Vannett’s spot after teaching in Mohall for the past three years. He will teach eighth graders, a welding class, Ag 4, Community Projects and Ag Mechanics. He, along with Kasey Okke, will also serve as an adviser to the FFA chapter.

“I was just excited to get back to friends and family,” Fritel said of teaching in Rugby. “I also knew that [the] Rugby School District is very proactive and on the cutting edge in its education, and very competitive in sports and co-curriculars. It was also a great community to grow up in and gave me so much that I thought I could, in return, give some back.”

Fritel took classes from Vannett in his freshman and sophomore years of high school.

“I’m really excited about having Travis replace me,” Vannett said. “[He is an] incredibly sharp young man, very mechanically-driven. My weakness over the years was mechanics, so I really feel good that the kids are going to be getting a top-notch teacher helping them with their mechanical skills. Mr. Okke has more of a talent, skill similar to mine. He likes the leadership classes, and I think it would be a perfect blend to get Travis in the ag dept. and bring mechanical skills back to our program.”

Fritel said: “It will definitely be hard filling Mr. Vannett’s shoes because he had so many years of experience. But Kasey and I are ambitious and work well together. Each of us bring different strengths to the program and this will help provide a balanced ag program.”

Since July, the chapter, under Fritel and Okke’s leadership, has competed in state land judging and had a presence at the Chapter Presidents Conference.

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