New agent joins county extension office

A public school teacher swapped her classroom for a less conventional learning space to be a county extension agent and intends to bring her skills to Midland-Odessa next.
For nearly a decade, Abigail Pritchard taught home economics in Monahans, she left the school district in 2000, and she said her background in teaching made for a smooth transition to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office in Ward County.
She was considering going into retirement this year before she received a call from Ector County Extension Agent Steve Paz about an opening for a family and community health agent.
Pritchard said the chance to work with a larger audience was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
The position offered to Pritchard will jointly serve Ector County and Midland County.
Recent restructuring efforts were made to combine some local extension offices this year to boost salaries and help with staff retention in energy-producing areas like Midland-Odessa where many businesses are competing to keep staff on board.
Midland County Extension Agent Jeff Floyd said the interlocal agreement between Midland-Odessa will be used as a pilot for comparable areas where financial setbacks are also occurring throughout the state.
Pritchard will not officially start her FCH agent role until the beginning of June; however, she has already met about 3,000 fourth-grade students of Ector County this week during the Kids, Kows and More program that lets children experience agriculture up close.
Pritchard led an interactive session during the event that focused on the water cycle and emphasized how even an elementary student can make a difference in their household and community by conserving water and turning off the faucet while brushing their teeth.
“Extension is about bringing education to people,” Pritchard said.
Paz said the role of a FCH agent is very similar to a home economics teacher.
He said the agent position helps individuals and families better understand topics such as nutrition, diabetes management, child passenger safety and financial management.
“They cover all of the different things utilized around the household and things people just may not have ever been taught,” Paz said.
AgriLife Extension creates programs based on what the community determines are educational needs and Pritchard said she will be working with other county officials to better learn the area and find her fit.
She said her two greatest areas of knowledge are in retail food safety and child passenger safety.
Pritchard is a certified child safety seat technician and said her passion for keeping children safe in vehicles goes back to the example her parents set for her and her siblings.
“I was born in the 50s so cars did not come equipped with seat belts in the back seat, they barely had seat belts in the front seat,” Pritchard said. “My mother and father would not buy a vehicle unless the dealership would retrofit it with lap belts in the back seat. My mother didn’t want us to be loose things in a car.”
Pritchard said her life and work experience will drive her to push safety and awareness for the residents of Ector and Midland counties and she is looking forward to having fun in the new role.