Rushford’s Colbenson receives FFA Lifetime Achievement Award

Craig Colbenson, left, was the recipient of the Minnesota FFA’s Day-Frederick Award at the Minnesota State Fair this year. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Longtime ag teacher and FFA Advisor Craig Colbenson of Rush- ford was awarded the Minnesota FFA’s Day-Frederick Award for 2018 at this year’s Minnesota State Fair.

The Day-Frederick Award is given to those demonstrating a lifetime of service to the FFA and its alumni. The Minnesota FFA presented the award to Colbenson during FFA Day at this year’s Min- nesota State Fair.

“I was very honored and very humbled,” Colbenson said. “In all honesty, it’s not just given to me. It’s given to my students as well. Without fabulous students, parents, and even communities, I would have not enjoyed teaching as much as I did. It wasn’t so much a job, it was a fabulous experience and a fabulous ride.”

Colbenson graduated from the University of Minnesota before heading off to start his teaching career at Wabasha-Kellogg in 1975. From 1977 to 1985, he lived and taught in Caledonia. Then, the superintendent at Rushford called with a job offer for both Colbenson and his wife, Nancy. In the spring of ’85, they moved to Rushford and he wound up teaching at Rushford-Peterson for 27 years.

 “Growing up, I liked my teachers, especially my ag teachers, and the impact they made on me,” Colbenson recalled. “Growing up on a farm, it felt like a natural fit for me to look into going to school for ag education at that point in my life.

“I grew up on a dairy farm just north of Rushford on Highway 43. That’s where I learned the value of hard work. I really enjoyed living on a farm as I went to school in Rushford through elementary and high school. From there, it was off to the University of Minnesota.”

Colbenson said it was a “blessing” to come back to his home- town of Rushford to teach agriculture. He knew a great many of the families, as well as the community itself.

And as proof that a love for teaching others never truly stops, Colbenson has brought his ag-teaching career full circle. “When I was at Caledonia, I had an outstanding family I worked with,” he recalled. “It was Kevin McCormick’s family. [Now] I mentor young ag teachers for the University of Minnesota. One of the people I’m mentoring is Connor McCormick, a son of Kevin’s. Connor has returned to his hometown and teaches at Caledonia.

“I’ve been mentoring first-year ag teachers who are coming out of school and entering the workforce. I’ve been doing it for five years now. It keeps me in touch with both students and teachers, the ag community, and the University of Minnesota. Teaching never really gets out of your blood. It’s a love of working with kids and a love of agriculture.”

In addition to teaching agricul- ture, Colbenson also spent most of his long career as an FFA Advisor. He calls the FFA one of the best avenues for teaching leadership skills to young people. Colbenson feels this is a time in our history in which America needs strong leaders.

Colbenson first found out he’d won the Day-Frederick Award when he got a phone call from the FFA Alumni Association. Colben- son said there are a lot of qualified FFA Advisors and Ag Teachers working in Minnesota, which meant he felt truly honored to be selected for the award. He put the award into some perspective to show just how much it meant.

“Back in 2004, the Minnesota FFA organization created a Hall of Fame,” Colbenson said. “I was one of the first teachers in that introductory group of teachers.

At that time, I thought that was the pinnacle because I was really proud to be selected. To be honest, when I received the call about the Day-Frederick award, it means even more. It recognizes the hard work of both me and my students.

“I would like to make sure I give a special thank-you to all

of my students over the years,” Colbenson added. “I truly hope I made half the impact on their lives that they did on mine.”