by Russell Boone

Posted on Mar 17, 2022

Dr. Veronica Sanders, a 1994 agricultural education graduate of Fort Valley State College (now University), teaches agriculture at Warner Robins High School in Warner Robins, Georgia.

Dr. Veronica Sanders, a 1994 agricultural education graduate of Fort Valley State College (now University), teaches agriculture at Warner Robins High School in Warner Robins, Georgia.

When Dr. Veronica Sanders accepted her first teaching job at Baldwin Middle School (BMS) in Milledgeville, Georgia, she achieved a groundbreaking milestone.

“It was shocking to everyone that I was the first African-American female teaching middle grades agriculture in Georgia in 1994. When I found out, I didn’t think of myself as a trailblazer,” she said.

Sanders, 49, graduated from Fort Valley State College (now Fort Valley State University) in 1994 with a degree in agricultural education. For the last 22 of her 27 years in education, Sanders has taught agriculture at Warner Robins High School (WRHS) in Warner Robins, Georgia.

The FVSU alumna and Elberton, Georgia native said she grew up on a small farm similar in size to the farm at WRHS. “We raised hogs, chickens and rabbits. My dad (Eddie Sanders) would always plant corn, tomatoes, peas, okra, sweet potatoes and butter beans,” she said.

Sanders said she decided to enroll at FVSU because a number of her relatives attended the institution. Furthermore, she said her parents (Eddie and Ledonia), Derrick Jones, an agricultural economics major from her hometown and Dr. Curtis Borne, FVSU professor of agricultural education, inspired her in selecting her field of study.

As a student at FVSU, Sanders said she has many fond memories of her time on campus. “I love my school. It was such a blessing to attend a university that had such a family atmosphere. Whether I was in the shop with Dr. Borne, or learning poultry science from (former FVSU instructor) Dr. Getter Huggins, I always created memories. We were and still are family. Family is vital to me and all of my friendships that started at FVSU continue today,” Sanders said.

While focusing on academics, Sanders still found time to participate in extracurricular activities. She joined the Baptist Student Union (BSU) and Future Farmers of America (FFA). In the fall of 1991, she was initiated into Zeta Phi Beta Incorporated and served as president for two years.

The veteran educator said she graduated from FVSU primed and ready for a career in agricultural education. “Fort Valley helped me to broaden my skills of communication. I was able to deal with various people and sit at several tables because I was trained for that. They not only prepared me for my professional life, but I gained the social skills needed to be successful in any area of life. This is one of the most significant aspects of going to Fort Valley State University,” Sanders said.

“I wanted to make opportunities and knowledge available to all teachers,” the Elberton native said in describing her teaching tenure at BMS. Sanders said that by taking part in writing the school’s agriculture curriculum, it was her way of paying it forward to others. “My principal was very supportive of my program. He allowed the students to attend field trips, national and state conventions and Camp John Hope Activity Day. My middle school students loved Camp John Hope,” Sanders said.

In the summer of 1999, Sanders started teaching agriculture at WRHS. She says most of the students in her classes have already taken agriculture courses in middle school, but she still seeks occasions to broaden their views. “Once they get in the class, that’s when I show them the opportunities in agriculture that could lead to profitable careers, and it’s just more than just cows, sows and plows,” Sanders said. The Houston County educator then tells students in addition to raising animals, there are jobs available in food processing, floral design and agribusiness. “The whole goal is to change their mindset and show them that anything is possible. I believe once you gain knowledge and wisdom, everything can change,” she said.

When it comes to convincing a student to attend FVSU, Sanders said she would ask them a series of questions. “I would ask them, ‘Do you want to experience a family culture while learning about the teaching profession? Do you want training that surpasses teaching in the classroom? Do you want to be a part of an education program that still lends assistance after 25 years? Do you want to learn from professors that have not only book knowledge but also have wisdom? If your answer is yes to all these questions, you need to be a part of the agricultural education department at FVSU,” Sanders said.

Additionally, the educator feels the shortage of African-American females teaching agriculture in Georgia is due to not being aware of opportunities in the field. “That’s why I’m constantly sharing about my family at FVSU,” Sanders said.

The FVSU alumna is married to Deon Sanders, an FVSU agricultural economics major. They are the parents of two daughters, Faith and Joy.

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