It’s tempting to say that great teaching is just part of Chad Warnick’s DNA. After all, being honored as Utah’s 2023 Teacher of the Year came 32 years after his father, Waldo Warnick, won the same award. But saying it all comes naturally discounts the tremendous amount of effort and care that Chad has invested in the thousands of young people he has taught during his 17-year career.
When Chad arrived as a freshman at Utah State University, he knew he wanted a career in youth development with agriculture. An academic advisor helped him chart a course in agricultural education, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in 2006 and a master’s degree in agricultural systems and technology in 2009. In the classroom and through leading FFA opportunities, Chad knows he can make a positive difference in the lives of his students and share the importance of agriculture.
His broad training at USU helped prepare him for a myriad of teaching roles — currently in agriculture, biology, leadership, and communications at the Delta Technical Center (DTC) in Millard County — or at least with the skills to keep learning. According to a Salt Lake Tribune story about his award, Chad was nervous when administrators told him his career and technical education courses would include teaching a floral design class. When he said he didn’t know how to do floral design, the response was that he’d better learn. He took that advice, and former students have since thanked him because they were confident enough to create bouquets for their weddings.
He involved students in planning and proposing the creation of facilities where agricultural education could be a hands-on experience. Encouraged by his father, who was teaching wood shop in Delta at the time, Chad and his students developed plans for a school farm which was approved by the school board. The result was a barn for goats, pigs, and cattle, and a greenhouse at the DTC. Work is underway this school year to establish an orchard.
Waldo, who earned his master’s degree in industrial education at USU in 1975, continues to cheer on his son’s efforts to teach skills that former students thank him for years after they graduated. Chad’s other supporters include his wife Traci, who teaches in the Tintic School District and earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture education at USU in 2005.
Beyond his family, Chad said his primary motivation remains his students.
“It’s the little things that keep me motivated,” he said. “It is a student winning a contest, a text telling me they got a job due to their job interviewing skills. It’s the thank you notes from students, it’s seeing a student grow as a person.”