Sitting behind a small desk in Gentry Hall on the University of Missouri Campus, Colleen Abbott, LEAP coordinator and MU professional development specialist, is starting off her day with a bright smile on her face and the motivation to start another day. Wherever she goes she leaves a lasting impression on her coworkers and students while also raising her family on their farm.
“Colleen and I are similar,” said John Tummons, assistant teaching professor and director of undergraduate studies for the MU agricultural education program. “She is very frank, intelligent, and very forward thinking. She’s very focused on student’s success. I like working with Colleen because she’s not afraid to tackle tough issues to do what she thinks is right.”
Tummons works closely with Abbott at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Although she works in the field of education, Abbott didn’t always want to be a teacher.
Before Abbott began her career, she was a graduate of North Shelby High School. There she was an active FFA member where she competed on multiple contest teams that made it to nationals. She also raised pigs on a farm called Perry Family Farm, and became a Missouri state FFA officer. Even though Abbott had a passion for agriculture, she didn’t originally plan on a career in it.
“I was headed to Truman State for political science pre-law when I got an FFA state office,” Abbott said. “I did not plan to be an ag teacher, but after all the workshops with the high school kids, I knew that was my calling”.
Abbott graduated from MU in 2003 with a B.S. in Ag Education and Educational Leadership. Not long after graduating from college, she settled down with her husband, Chad, in Tuscumbia, Missouri. They still reside there with their three boys.
Although Abbott stays busy with her work at the Eldon School District and MU, she also helps work on their family farm that consists of horses, cattle and chickens. Many nights she bonds with her family by riding horses and working cows with them. Abbott juggles both jobs while raising her three boys.
“A lot of my work ends up blending together. I am able to work with first- and second-year teachers and hear their concerns and they sometimes relate to the concerns that the teachers in our after school program have,” Abbott said. “When I work with the LEAP program, I get to be close with students and it keeps me grounded, while when I work at the University, I get to see a statewide overview about issues that are going on in education. Even though my work is important to me, my family always comes first. My support system helps keep me balanced and if I feel that if I need help, I can rely on them”.
Chad Abbott said that because he and Colleen are a team, they are able to handle their busy lifestyle.
“It is hard every now and then if she’s gone for work, but we make it work,” he said. “We try to both be there for the kids, but sometimes we have to take turns going to practices and stuff.”