Almost right after Andrew McMullen found out that he got his first job after graduating from college and was supposed to start teaching agriculture at Solanco High School in September of 2005, he was called to serve in Iraq.
After spending almost seven months in civil affairs working with the Iraqi people trying to rebuild their community and government after the war, McMullen, a Marine Staff Sergeant, has started teaching agriculture at Solanco High School two days a week for the rest of the school year until he begins teaching full-time in the fall.
"It was a good experience," said McMullen, 24, of Morgantown. "I liked working with the Iraqi people."
McMullen, who was called to active duty June 1 and spent three months training at Camp Lejune, N.C., landed in Iraq on Sept. 12. He spent most of his time there in the town of Haqlaniyah with an infantry unit and was part of the action. He said there were instances in which his life was in immediate danger.
McMullen is out of the reserves now and will be completely finished in June. He said there is a slim chance he would be called to go to Iraq again.
"I enjoyed being over there," he said, "but you look back to what you left behind."
After going through the interview process, Solanco principal Gerard Rosolie offered McMullen the teaching position over the phone. Almost immediately after he accepted it, he was called to active duty.
After Rosolie talked to superintendent Jon Rednak, McMullen said, "They said they would hold the job for me."
A graduate of Twin Valley High School in Elverson, McMullen enlisted in the Marines in high school. He took a year off from college and started at one of Penn State University's branch campuses in the fall of 2001. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in agriculture education with an environmental option in the spring of 2005.
"When I was a kid I liked the idea of going into the military and also to go on to college and start a career," he said.
McMullen, who was chaplain of Twin Valley's FFA chapter, said working with other students and helping them is what made him decide to go into teaching ag education.
"Even in FFA I loved aquatics, forestry and wildlife," he said. "I would help the underclassmen with their projects and get them ready for competitions. I like working with the students and learning alongside with them."
McMullen, who is a recipient of the Keystone and American degrees, the highest degrees awarded by the state FFA organization, said Twin Valley's FFA program was geared more toward the environment rather than farming.
The project he did for his Keystone Degree was building bluebird boxes as a habitat restoration on his grandmother's 30-acre horse farm, which his family now owns. He has also been raising honeybees as a hobby since he was 14.
McMullen is one of three ag teachers at Solanco. He went to high school with Kelly Andrews, who was hired a few years ago as an ag teacher and attended college with Stephanie Fiester, who was his replacement for the year when he was in Iraq.
In the fall, McMullen will teach hand and power tools, workplace and the community, which is a new class, basic wiring and electricity, agribusiness opportunities, small animals and advanced animal science.
McMullen said there's a lot more to agriculture than just farming.
"It's so broad and so vast," he said. "Everyone thinks agriculture is just farming - there's a lot of knowledge that needs to be known or learned."
McMullen said he is looking forward to getting out and visiting some of the farms in the area.
"Agriculture is huge," he said. "It's not just cows, plows and sows like a lot of people think."