Karen Geldmacher Receives Post-Secondary Teacher of the Year Award
By Angela Askey, Director of Marketing
Karen Geldmacher, Professor of Agriculture at Central Arizona College was recently named Post-Secondary Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Agriculture Teachers Association.
She was recognized for her efforts in making a positive difference in the lives of agriculture students both at Central Arizona College and throughout the state of Arizona.
Upon receiving this prestigious award, Geldmacher stated, "I admire and appreciate the outstanding Arizona high school agricultural educators who have championed our program throughout the years."
Geldmacher grew up in Mesa, AZ with her siblings, Kurt Geldmacher and Kris Johnson, during the 1960's when Dobson south of Baseline was a dirt road. Her father was a dentist and her mother, a homemaker.
In 1964 the family purchased the Holy Joe Ranch in Aravaipa Canyon, north of Tucson. Geldmacher recalls spending weekends and summers at the ranch, where together as a family they raised cross-bred Brangus cattle. They built a ranch house and developed a sustainable operation consisting of working corrals, barbed-wire fenced and irrigated pastures, livestock/wildlife water tanks, rotational grazing systems, and citrus and pecan orchards.
It was a love of animals, plants and the great-outdoors that inspired Geldmacher's passion for agriculture. After graduating high school she attended the University of Arizona and in 1980 earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture. This led to her first job with the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Coolidge, AZ designing irrigation systems for farmers.
During the construction boom of the 1980's, Geldmacher worked as a sales representative for A&G Sod Farms covering the golf and landscape industry in Arizona. She was instrumental in working on the golf course project at Red Mountain Ranch in east Mesa, AZ.
A decade later, Custom Farm Service of Arizona hired Geldmacher as a customer service representative. She enjoyed creating their monthly newsletter and organizing various education events for local farmers. During this same time and for a total of 25 years, Karen was a partner in Tierra Verde and Bar U7 Farms. They grew upland and Pima cotton, durum wheat, alfalfa, pecans, pistachios and watermelons.
For nearly the past twenty years, Geldmacher has been teaching others about agriculture at CAC. She began her career at the college teaching plant science and soil science courses part time following the passing of Professor Dean Merrell in 1996. One year later she was hired as faculty at the Signal Peak Campus to develop multi-media plant science and soil science courses for CAC through a United States Department of Agriculture Grant and in 1999, Karen transitioned to a permanent faculty position with CAC.
"It's important to recognize the CAC faculty who were my mentors as I learned the art of teaching. I would like to thank Ed Peters, Varr Myers, Pat Harrington and Bill Kinnison. I would also like to express my appreciation to the faculty and staff of the Engineering and Technology Division, the CAC Agriculture Department, and the entire CAC community for their support throughout my career," stated Geldmacher.
While educating others, Geldmacher continued her own education and earned a Master's Degree in Agriculture from the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 2001.
Currently, Geldmacher teaches multiple courses at CAC such as Natural Resources and Conservation, Plant Science, Soil Science, Agriculture Leadership Development, and Basic Surveying and Grade Staking. She has also served as a member of the college's curriculum committee, Sheldon University Building Committee, Personal Development Committee and as a Faculty Advisor.
When asked about highlights to her career, Geldmacher stated, "During my career I've experienced many advancements in agriculture including seed genetics, precision equipment engineering, irrigation water conservation techniques and integrated pest management systems. I include this new technology in my classroom for our students." She added, "I look at my responsibilities as an agricultural educator as an opportunity to meet great students and contribute to their personal growth and career success. I seek to inspire a passion for agriculture and our natural resources in every student. My favorite memories include student graduation ceremonies, observing personal achievements of our students and the realization of successful agricultural careers for our graduates."
Geldmacher is a champion for agriculture in the state of Arizona and is proud of the number of CAC graduates working in professional agriculture professions throughout Arizona.
Her passion has inspired her own children, Robyn Ollerton-Lawson & Byron Ollerton to also pursue agriculture careers.
Geldmacher currently resides in Casa Grande, AZ with her husband, Mitch Laudal.