HARTINGTON — Preparing for three-day trips with over 50 high school students may seem like a logistics nightmare, unless you have a routine.
This week, Fritz Steinhoff and the Hartington FFA Chapter will travel to Lincoln for the 83rd annual Nebraska State FFA Convention. As he prepares to depart with 67 FFA students, Steinhoff will follow a routine he has perfected over his many years at Hartington Public School.
“I have a routine and I keep to it,” said Steinhoff, “plus the Convention has a set schedule.”
State convention preparation begins with a mandatory meeting where Steinhoff and the FFA students “iron out” all the rules and trip logistics.
The group stays at the Cornhusker Hotel, downtown Lincoln, where a high percentage of convention events are held.
Between volunteer chaperone parents, a shuttle system and walking, the students are able to travel between the Cornhusker, Pershing Auditorium, UNL-East Campus, and the Southeast Community College campus with relative ease.
However, no matter how routine the preparations may be for Steinhoff, the 2011 State Convention trip will be different.
It will be Steinhoff’s last convention as the Ag Instructor and FFA Advisor for Hartington.
“I might take things slower and soak it all in,” said Steinhoff.
Steinhoff has been an Ag Instructor for 38 years. He began his long teaching career in North Dakota, but quickly returned to teaching in Nebraska. He spent time at Conestoga, Clarkson, West Holt and Scribner-Snyder before finally settling in Hartington for the last 13 years.
“Watching the kids grow is one of my favorite things about this job,” said Steinhoff, “as freshman, they’re so timid, but by the time they’re seniors, they’re leaders who are ready to tackle the world.”
Each session of the convention is opened with a formal Opening Ceremony.
The current State Officers and State Advisor conduct the ceremony, which describes each officer post and the symbol next to which they are stationed.
Recently, the State Convention has honored retiring FFA Advisors by having them stand in for the State Advisor during the Opening Ceremony. This year, Steinhoff has been extended that privilege.
Next year, Amber Endres will be the Hartington FFA Advisor and Steinhoff is happy she is coming.
“She will help Hartington FFA get to the next level,” said Steinhoff.
Regardless, Endres has a large set of shoes to fill.
In 13 years, Steinhoff has made a profound impact on Hartington FFA. One of his students counted the number of State Degrees and American Degrees from Hartington.
Of 262 State Degrees, Steinhoff has advised 212. Equally impressive is his American Degree contribution, where 133 of 135 from Hartington have been advised by Steinhoff.
Yet, Steinhoff is ready for retirement.
Steinhoff and his wife, Cheryl, plan on hitching up the house and hitting the open road. They have sold their house and moved into an RV with the goal of road tripping through their retirement years.
However, preparing for retirement has been, and retirement itself will be, an interesting “trip” for the Steinhoffs.
A few years ago, the Steinhoffs were living on a farm outside of Hartington. However, after multiple years of rough winters and heavy snowfall, they opted to sell the farm and rent a home in Hartington.
“The lane to the farmplace was a quarter-mile long,” said Steinhoff, “and the snow we’ve had in the last few years made life difficult.”
In June 2010, the Steinhoffs bought a fifth-wheel RV. For several years, they toured RV factories during vacation trips. By 2010, they knew what they wanted and knew what they would be doing in the next few years.
Soon after the purchase, the Steinhoffs decided to move out of the rental house and into the RV. Steinhoff said life isn’t much different in the RV compared to a house.
“We used to travel a lot when we showed sheep and sold breeder stock,” said Steinhoff, “so we knew what we were getting into.”
After the school year concludes, the Steinhoffs will be around through most of the summer. The RV needs to be taken to Bellevue to have some warranty repairs addressed.
Although no longer an official member of the Cedar County Fair Board, Steinhoff has agreed to act as a special consultant for the Board in 2011. He is still the main contact for storage, concessions and 4-H and FFA livestock at the fair.
Once his fair duties are fulfilled and their RV is back from the shop, the Steinhoffs plan to hit the road. Oklahoma City, Okla.; Amarillo, Dallas, San Antonio and Waco, Texas are all on the list of destinations.