Like most young high school students, Katie Greenwood wasn’t spending a lot of time thinking about her future during that summer of 1999.
She was about to enter her sophomore year at Platte Valley High School in Kersey, Colo. She was already practicing with her cheerleading teammates for the upcoming fall sports season, and she was busy participating in the annual Weld County Fair.
That’s when life took a dramatic turn.
Her sister, Ashley, was killed in a car accident. The two were very close – Ashley was also a cheerleader and was active in 4-H and FFA. She was headed home to wash her steer to show at the county fair when the fatal accident occurred.
“It was a pretty traumatic experience for me,” Greenwood said. “I was really sad, and I was in a pretty dark place. But I had two ag teachers at school who really helped me through. They shaped and molded me into who I am today. And it’s because of them that I knew I was going to be a teacher.”
She also knew that Colorado State University was where she could best develop the skills to pursue her career in education. Jim Heird, former director of the Equine Sciences program, had started mentoring her when she was in middle school as a horse judge, and he convinced her that she needed to be a Ram.
“Dr. Heird was really close to our family; he even gave the eulogy at my sister’s funeral,” she said. “He wasn’t going to let me go anywhere but CSU.”
While in Fort Collins, Greenwood’s love of agriculture and commitment to education grew. Her talent for evaluation allowed her to compete on both the horse and livestock judging teams at CSU – a rare combination. She earned both undergraduate and master’s degrees in agricultural education.
Extremely close with her family – her mom still works for the Weld County Extension Office – she was determined to land a high school teaching job on the Front Range. But after she interviewed for a position at Cedaredge High School in Delta County on the Western Slope, she knew she had found her new home.
“I love the community and the area, and I love the kids and my job,” she said. “This is where I needed to be.”
Over the past 15 years, Greenwood has built a life that “makes me happy.” She is married (Jared), has two young daughters (Annabelle and Cassidy), and they live on a 45-acre farm just outside of Cedaredge.
As you might expect, her daughters already are very involved in agriculture. Both have their own horses they ride and care for, and Annabelle has been showing lambs at the county fair since age 3.
At school, she has built an FFA program that includes 80 students – nearly one-third of the student body. She loves to share her practical knowledge but also her passion for competition.
“If you’re not there to win, why are you there?” she said.
Along the way she has seen the remarkable way that FFA can transform lives. She talked about a student she had a few years back who had few friends, lived with his grandparents and was struggling in school. He discovered the ag program and blossomed, becoming chapter president his senior year. He’s now a successful technician for a farm equipment company.
“You can meet someone at their lowest level and help them rise,” she said. “I love that about FFA.”
Every year in May, CSU hosts the annual Colorado FFA CDEs (Career Development Events) on campus. In 2023, more than 1,750 FFA students from across Colorado competed in ag-related skills competitions. Greenwood and her team were there, bringing home multiple awards.
“I knew when Katie was a student that she was going to make a great teacher, and that’s what she has become,” said Kellie Enns, associate professor of agriculture and resource economics at CSU. “What I really appreciate about her is that she is very competitive, and her students arrive ready to compete. She gets the very best out of them, and that’s what makes her a great teacher.”
To Greenwood, however, it’s all about loving the job and inspiring her students.
“Some of my chapter presidents have gone on to become valedictorians, some of them have been among our best athletes. I’ve got a student right now who has received the Daniels Scholarship and will reach the highest heights,” she said. “At the same time, I’ve had some kids who have really struggled and have found some joy in ag. I love them all.”