One is “very, very, very outgoing,” whereas the other is “much more laid back.”
Either way, both approaches have proven effective as married couple Jordan and Stephanie Donnerbauer embrace their roles as agriculture teachers in west-central Wisconsin.
Jordan, in his 11th year teaching for Stanley-Boyd Area Schools, received the Outstanding Agriculture Educator Award earlier this month at the Wisconsin FFA Alumni Convention in Stevens Point.
“Honestly, I was really surprised,” Jordan said. “I know that I have a good program and do a good job, but you never think you’ll be selected as a state winner. I was honored to receive the award.”
Caleb Green, one of his former high school students, recently expressed appreciation for his former teaching on Facebook, writing: "I would like to give a shoutout to Mr. Jordan Donnerbauer. Where do I even begin. This guy has been there for me throughout my time in the FFA. He has shown me what it truly means to make a positive difference in the lives of students. He has not only selflessly helped me, but hundreds of other members during his time as an advisor.
"Stanley-Boyd is very lucky to have such a fantastic educator and I am superbly lucky to call him my advisor, mentor, colleague and friend. Mr. Donnerbauer is the reason why I wish to be an educator in the future. If I have half the influence he has had, I would be grateful. Thank you for all of the great memories and I look forward to many yet to come."
Stephanie, in her fourth year teaching for the School District of Loyal, said she’s proud of Jordan's award and accomplishments over the years as well.
“I think his biggest thing is his passion for teaching his ag students,” she said. “I’m much more laid back than he is. He’s very, very, very outgoing. The kids feed off of that with him.
“They know he expects excellence, and that’s why they get so many awards in so many FFA events — because he’s willing to put in the time. He’s there early every morning, late every night. I know most ag teachers are like that, but I think he’s like that even more so. I think they want to work hard for him because he’s so passionate about what he does.”
Jordan was equally complimentary, saying of his wife: “Her passion for her students makes her a great teacher. She’s similar to me in establishing that rapport for kids and setting high expectations for her students.”
Both husband and wife enjoy being married to an agriculture teacher, saying they’re aware of only a handful of husband-wife ag teaching tandems in the state.
“She and I collaborate and share ideas,” Jordan said. “Not too long ago I was working on updating my animal nutrition unit and I asked Stephanie what labs she did and other things she does. It’s pretty awesome to have somebody right in the house who's skilled and does a lot of the same things you do.”
Stephanie concurred, saying: “If we had a hard day, it’s really nice to be able to come home and talk about it. But we have so many other interests we like, that’s not all we talk about. We’re both big into camping and fishing, too, and other outdoor activities.”
Jordan and Stephanie live in the Clark County city of Neillsville.
Stephanie grew up not far from their home on her family’s hobby farm. She graduated from Neillsville High School and went on to major in agricultural education at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
After earning her degree, she taught agricultural education in the Gilman School District for one year before transitioning to her current role at Loyal. She said about 80 students take ag classes there.
Jordan also was raised in a rural setting near Marshfield. Several relatives worked as farmers, so he spent countless hours getting his hands dirty.
“That’s where my agricultural passion began — definitely on the small-town Wisconsin dairy farm,” said Jordan, who helped feed calves and clean as a youngster before milking cows and helping with field work as he got older.
Jordan was a member of Marshfield’s FFA chapter from 1998 until he graduated high school in 2001. He was the first member of his immediate family to be in FFA.
“It was something where I knew I had a passion for agriculture, and it just seemed like a good opportunity so I got involved with FFA,” he said. “It was a place to belong, a place to compete with friends. It helped shape what I wanted to do.”
Jordan said his high school ag teachers, Tim Heeg and Mark Zee, were positive influences “and the things I learned from them and their passion for what they were doing affected my decision to major in agricultural education.”
After earning a degree in agricultural education from UW-River Falls, Jordan spent the next 2½ years teaching ag at Rushford-Peterson High School in Rushford, Minnesota, about 40 minutes west of La Crosse.
“I was ready to go. I finished student teaching on a Friday and started there on the next Monday,” Jordan said. He was one of two ag teachers at the school and helped develop its FFA chapter.
Jordan said that although he enjoyed his interactions with students, staff and the community in Minnesota, he wanted to work closer to home. So he began teaching at Stanley-Boyd in the fall of 2008 and has been there ever since.
He also serves as an assistant varsity coach for football and track. He said he met his future wife during one of the school’s athletic events.
“I’m proud of the fact we offer a wide variety of courses at Stanley-Boyd,” Jordan said. “We have our production-based animal science, dairy science, a horse-care class. We also have a horticulture class, fish and wildlife course, forestry. And I try to stay up to date with what’s going on in those by attending professional development conferences, networking with other ag teachers, trying to stay on top of my game.”
Jordan said about 175 students take ag classes at Stanley-Boyd, but not many are traditional farm kids.
“They’re few and far between,” he said. “The number of kids that live on an actual farm is in the single digits. And kids that work on farms, there's maybe 10 or 20 of them. We have fewer and fewer each year.”
Regardless of their farming background, Jordan wants his students to absorb as much information as possible.
“I’d like them to come away knowing the importance of agriculture and where their food comes from,” he said. “I hope they gain confidence in whatever they go on to do in life. And I’d like them to be good human beings, good citizens.”