The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Jess Macinko
News Editor 

Couple pairs up on ag studies


Jess Macinko

RIGHT COUPLE FOR THE JOB: Josh and Randi Krieg in classroom. Josh holds a sign made by students in his metal fabrication class. The signs are part of an FFA fundraiser.

Two years ago, Josh and Randi Krieg were living a double life. They both taught high school agriscience, but Randi taught in Mabton, while Josh taught in West Valley. They would leave their home in Zillah and drive a combined 47 miles in opposite directions, only to teach essentially the same course.

They would wonder, "Why are we spending so much effort on two separate programs?"

Now, the couple is pooling their efforts. In 2015, a serendipitous turn of events brought the Kriegs to Goldendale. It also laid the groundwork for a unique ag program, poised to develop lasting relationships with students and the community at large.

Ag in the family

Randi's father, Terri Nickels, taught ag at Goldendale High School for over thirty years. In 2015, he retired. Another biology teacher retired around the same time. So the Kriegs made their pitch.

"Hey, how about we both come? I can do science, and Josh can take my dad's job." And that's basically what happened. Josh teaches full time at the high school, while Randi divides her time between high and middle. Together, they share a suite of agriscience and technology classes, as well as advising the Goldendale FFA chapter.

Parental bias aside, Nickels thinks GHS was lucky to get a two-for-one deal. Hiring in education is "pretty tough right now," and ag teachers can be particularly hard to come by. Doubling down means the GHS program can offer more courses in general, as well as advanced courses geared specifically toward upperclassmen. Josh notes that in years prior, retaining older students had been difficult.

"When we first got here, it was hard for juniors and seniors to take ag classes." Now, even some running-start students are participating. "We're able to offer a lot of classes for dual credit."

Meanwhile, Randi's involvement with the middle school extends the program's reach in the other direction. Beginning with the seventh grade, the Kriegs could potentially teach the same students over the course of six years-an uncommonly long span.

Hands-on science

In his last year at GHS, Nickels worked on updating the school's traditional ag program to fit the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE), a nationwide initiative that aims to couple scientific rigor with practical skills. A hallmark of the program is its hands-on, inquiry-based approach. As opposed to the traditional, paint-by-numbers instruction, students are given problems to figure out-with little micromanaging. For some, that takes getting used to.

"Some of the kids, it drives them nuts. They're used to the book telling them what to do." But in the end, Randi says, the discomfort pays off.

"It's amazing, the skills they gain between ninth grade and tenth grade. When we first let them try the microscopes, they couldn't adjust them, they didn't know how to do the powers. Now they just plug it in and off they go. They need little instruction. It's neat to see."


The program is also garnering its share of attention. The ag department has been awarded several grants in recent months, and the FFA chapter won a three-star national rating, the highest rating possible.

But though the program has won its share of awards, Nickels says its success is measured in its ties to the community, not the trophies it brings home. "When you have kids that are successful in the ag program or the technology program, that reflects on the whole school. Everyone shares in that success."

The Kriegs share that view. Their ultimate goal for the program is student success that goes beyond the student.

"We want to see the kids get some kind of skill and come back and contribute to their own community."

Stay tuned

In part two, The Sentinel will return for a closer look at the GHS agriscience program.


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