Couple used soil, seeds to help students grow

Two veteran teachers retire from AHS Ag. Department


Jacque “Jack” Roszel won’t have to get up at 4:15 in the morning any more. After 37 years of teaching agricultural science at Allentown High School (AHS), he will retire on Jan. 1. He’ll still be an early riser, but may stay in bed until after dawn has broken. Jack and his wife, Cynthia “Cyndee,” who retired earlier this year after teaching in the same department for 28 years, still have to get up early to take care of the seven horses on their farm in the New Egypt section of Plumsted.

ERIC SUCAR staff Jacque "Jack" and Cynthia "Cyndee" Roszel, of Upper Freehold, who are retiring this year, were instrumental in helping Allentown High School's Agriculture Department and its students grow. ERIC SUCAR staff Jacque “Jack” and Cynthia “Cyndee” Roszel, of Upper Freehold, who are retiring this year, were instrumental in helping Allentown High School’s Agriculture Department and its students grow. Jack grew up on a West Windsor farm, where his grandfather moved in 1930, and helped his father grow grain crops. However, after graduating from Delaware Valley College in Pennsylvania, where he met Cyndee, Jack realized the farm was not big enough to support two families. At that time in 1972, AHS had split sessions and the need for a part-time agriculture teacher.

ERIC SUCAR staff Jacque "Jack" Roszel is retiring from teaching in the Allentown High School Agriculture Department after 37 years of service. His wife, Cynthia "Cyndee" Roszel, also retired from the department this year after 28 years of teaching. ERIC SUCAR staff Jacque “Jack” Roszel is retiring from teaching in the Allentown High School Agriculture Department after 37 years of service. His wife, Cynthia “Cyndee” Roszel, also retired from the department this year after 28 years of teaching. “I’d never thought about teaching agriculture,” he said. “I didn’t know there was an ag class in high school in 1972.”

When he started at AHS, Jack’s classes were geared toward traditional, production agriculture. There were four double-period classes called Agriculture 1-4, he said. Those students taking college prep classes couldn’t take the agriculture courses for two periods a day, and Jack saw the need to expand the program to single-period classes and get more kids involved.

In 1974, he wrote the school’s equine science curriculum, and AHS became the first in the country to have one. Two years later he divided Agriculture 1 into animal and plant science classes.

“I continued to break down the agriculture classes into different courses over the years,” Jack said. “Now it’s the model for most schools. We were the first to do it.”

The AHS agriculture program is now a choice program, which means students interested in studying agriculture within a 20- mile radius of the school can attend AHS to do so. Today, the various science courses offered in the department include plant science, equine science, environmental science, animal science and veterinary science. The courses count toward students’ science credits.

Cyndee, who worked in sales at Ralston Purina and taught at North Hunterdon High School in Annandale before she started teaching at AHS in 1980, said it is widely believed that she was the first female agriculture teacher east of the Mississippi. She has taught all the agricultural courses at AHS except agricultural mechanics and advanced agriculture.

Jack said that when he started teaching at AHS, 60-70 percent of the students had a background in agriculture. Now, only about 5 percent have that sort of background, he said. According to Cyndee, more students have an interest in equine and companion animal courses, as well as floral and landscape design.

The greatest satisfaction for the teaching couple has been seeing their students’ success.

“We’ve had the top program in New Jersey for 20 out of the last 25 years,” Jack said. “The kids have been successful once they graduated from AHS, in college and in their careers.”

While Jack will be retiring from teaching as of January, he will remain active with AHS’s FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) program for the remainder of the school year. FFA is largest in-school youth organization in the country, with 7,500 chapters, and AHS’s program is in the top 2 percent, he said.

Jack said the FFA is one of the integral components of agriculture education.

“The perception is that FFA is just farmers,” he said. “The FFA is a leadership organization. It teaches kids how to be leaders.”

His wife called FFA “one of the bestkept secrets in education.”

Jack said that FFA provides many different opportunities for students studying various subjects.

“There’s something in FFA for just about every student,” he said. “If you put something into FFA, you get tenfold out of it.”

Liz Lustgarten Pipman, who took agricultural science classes at AHS because her older brother, Art, had done so and recommended it, said, “Every person, if they’re lucky, has a high school teacher who inspires them to reach their goals” and added that she had two of them.

“They gave up their personal time, they put their whole lives and hearts into it,” Pipman said of the Roszels.

Although Pipman, who now calls St. Louis, Mo., home, did not pursue a career in agriculture, she has discovered that her agricultural studies at AHS and in the FFA are useful in her work in public relations and marketing. She said FFA’s emphasis on public speaking and presentational skills helped her.

“The Roszels made FFA what it was,” she said. “There was no other program in the state that could compare.”

Erin Zukus Noble, who entered the agricultural education program at AHS in 1996 as a freshman, said, ‘My intentions were to take zoology because I wanted to become a marine biologist. After being in the class and participating in the FFA, I developed an interest and passion for agriculture.”

Noble remembered going to Oklahoma for the National Land Judging event and to Kansas City, Kan., Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis, Ind., for the national FFA conventions. She also recalled when Jack left the van lights on when they visited the St. Louis Arch and they needed to get a jumpstart.

“The Roszels were there to experience my first plane ride and my first time out of the tri-state area,” Noble said. “Almost all of my high school memories go back to the ag program and the Roszels.”

Noble called the agriculture building at AHS her second home and the Roszels her second parents. She decided to become an agriculture teacher, and the Roszels supported her in the decision. She went to Delaware Valley College like her mentors, and majored in Agricultural Education.

Noble did her student teaching at AHS, and was later hired there to work with the Roszels as a third agriculture teacher. She taught at AHS until January and is now the state FFA specialist in the Office of Agricultural Education in the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

“I can truly say if it wasn’t for the Roszels I wouldn’t be here right now,” she said. “The Roszels helped me grow as an individual and as a leader. I have learned so much from them that I can’t even begin to put it into words. They mean the world to me.”

Her brother, Dustin Zukus, is currently the FFA chapter president at Allentown and Jack helped him find a career choice he is passionate about.

“Dustin will be going to Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Fla., this summer,” Noble said. “I never thought my little brother could be so ambitious.”

The NJ FFA Foundation has prepared a scholarship in honor of the Roszels.

For more information about the scholarship, visit the Web site www.jerseyageducation. Roszel%20Scholarship.pdf.