Monte Vista High ag advisor tailors program to students

Walk into Monte Vista High School and there’s a good chance you’ll run into Edwin Mondragon. He’s the one in suspenders merrily making his way through the school building. You might also hear chickens clucking or find baby trout growing in a tank in the back of a classroom.

It’s all part of Monte Vista High’s agriculture and natural resources program that Mondragon put in place four years ago, a program that now engages nearly half the student body through various classes and ag-related projects.

Jose Ortega, Edwin Mondragon, Chrissy McKinney, Paul Clark, Curtis Garcia
Monte Vista High School Principal Jose Ortega; Adams State January Educator Highlight Award recipient, Edwin Mondragon; Adams State Teacher Education Program Coordinator Advisor Chrissy McKinney; Adams State Teacher Education Program Coordinator Paul Clark; and Adams State School of Education Director Curtis Garcia, Ph.D.

“We went  from 25 students in our first year to 120 kids,” Mondragon says of Monte Vista High’s popular ag program. “Rather than other classes where you have a curriculum that the kids have to fit into, we survey them and find out what it is they want to do and then we provide the resources and the instruction to get it done. So every kid that’s in there is doing something different, but it’s all something they picked.”

For his work as the school’s Ag and FFA advisor, the Adams State School of Education presented Mondragon with its Educator Highlight Award for the month of January during a ceremony at Monte Vista High this week. Adams State makes it a priority each month to shine a spotlight on an outstanding educator working in a San Luis Valley school through the Educator Highlight Award.

Nominate for the Adams State Educator Highlight Award.

Mondragon was a Future Farmers of America student himself growing up and he found it odd that Monte Vista, located in the middle of the San Luis Valley agricultural economy, didn’t actively engage students through agriculture.

“We’re at the heart of agriculture and natural resources and we didn’t have a program. I knew what sorts of things it could do for kids,” he said.

So he got certified to be a high school ag advisor through Colorado FFA and now four years into the program, one out of every two students at Monte Vista High are finding their way into an ag-related classroom project.

“One of the things we run into is, we have such a high percentage of kids who don’t go to college or are going to colleges in ag- or mechanic-related fields. So we try to get them experience early and try to recruit them to things, too,” he said.

Welding is a popular trade Monte Vista High students have gravitated to, according to Mondragon. Becoming a teacher is another. “We’re working with kids on going into teaching careers. They can see education as a realistic career choice,” the ag advisor said.

Teaching runs through the blood veins of Mondragon’s family. His father was a career teacher, his mom’s family were all teachers, and Mondragon is proving that the school building is where he belongs as well.

“Being a teacher to me is passing down all that has been handed to me,” he said.

Past winners:

Presley Garcia, Monte Vista special education teacher
Nick Dionisio, Alamosa High English teacher
Aaron Miltenberger, Boys & Girls Club executive director
Anna Bishop, Center High School CLD teacher
Phyllis Vigil, Sierra Grande first-grade teacher
AlexAndria Moore-Guenter, Moffat Schools secondary counselor
Omar Gonzalez, Alamosa Elementary visual art and music teacher
Leanna Brazel, Alamosa Elementary kindergarten teacher
Freddy Lawrence, Alamosa Elementary custodian
Joe Guenther, South Conejos School District
Katie Turner, Del Norte math teacher


This monthly award recognizes Adams State University School of Education alumni, prominent local teachers, and other educators working within or hailing from the San Luis Valley. In so doing, Adams State University hopes to build familiarity with the community as a serious destination for future educators.