Not his first rodeo — English teacher who grew up on a dairy farm gets most student votes to kiss the cow as culmination of Future Farmers of America Awareness Week


Image used with permission from Jesse Reyes.

English teacher Randy Oudega (left) leans in to kiss “Tank,” the cow, on the cheek who is handled by senior Amy Sorgdrager, on Friday, Feb.26. Oudega was chosen by the students, who voted on a Google Form, to celebrate National FFA Week by kissing a cow.

By Alice Lee, Sunny Hills High School

English teacher Randy Oudega never thought he would get enough votes from students to be nominated for the honor of a Future Farmers of America [FFA] spring semester tradition: Kiss the Cow.

“Udder disbelief,” Oudega wrote in an email interview, using a cow-related pun instead of “utter.” “I only volunteered because I was certain I wouldn’t win. I’m pretty sure there was some kind of voter fraud going on here.”

Agriculture teacher Jeremy Cates said no ballot recount was needed for the Feb. 26 after school event, as the Advanced Placement Language and Composition and freshman honors English teacher won by receiving 12 percent more than second place, beating 8 teachers (Mrs. Deister, Mr. Haberaecker, Mrs. Stinson, Mrs. Fibrow, Mrs. Safe, Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Torres and Mrs. Johnson).  

Cates said students were informed through the FFA’s Instagram page, weekly newspaper, or through teacher emails. The Google Form to vote for the kisser was opened for around 10 days and closed on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 2 P.M. 

In a pre-COVID-19 situation, Kiss the Cow would have occurred during break in front of a live audience. But because of the coronavirus pandemic with Sunny Hills in a hybrid learning model, the agriculture department decided to hold its finale event to celebrate FFA Awareness Week from Feb. 22-26 without an audience — FFA secretary Jesse Reyes pre-recorded the event for students and staff to watch and released the video on the last day. The video was pre-recorded on Feb. 25 in front of the agricultural buildings at school. The students and teachers were able to watch the video when Cates shared his screen during Friday’s Zoom session. 

Udder disbelief.”

— Randy Oudega

Other COVID-19 safety measures — Cates jokingly referred them as “COWVID-19” — included the teacher having to keep his mask on at all times, even while kissing “Tank” the cow on the cheek and the 11 month old animal with a white belly and a brown back getting a good shampoo bath before meeting Oudega, he said.

Oudega said even though he’s never been so affectionate toward the kine, this wasn’t the first time he’s had a run-in with such a creature since his dad owned a farm in Cerritos, California.

“My father actually made a living milking cows, and my earliest memory is of a cow,” he said. “I also won $1,000 in a cow bingo contest (the cow has to poop on your number to win) at Sunny Hills many years ago.

“Cows have been pretty good to me overall.”

Perhaps not so much his students?

The following Monday, March 1, Oudega had suggested that a majority of his AP Lang students conspired to get him the most votes to be selected to give Tank the bovine a smooch on her right cheek.

Junior Jasmine Kim acted as the “ringleader” unintentionally and asked people to vote for Mr. Oudega after receiving a link from her vet science teacher. Despite her acts as the “ringleader,” Kim never had a chance to view the video of Oudega kissing the cow. 


— Jeremy Cates

However, FFA vice president junior Sophia Winters had a chance to view the Kiss the Cow video during Friday’s Zoom meeting when Cates shared his screen. 

“It was funny,” Winters said. “The cow seemed ‘nervous’ for her first kiss.” 

Oudega offers advice to the next “victim” to kiss the cow to show some kindness to the kine. 

“Wear a mask, quarantine or not,” Oudega said. 

Besides Kiss the Cow, agriculture students celebrated FFA week virtually instead of showing up on campus during break with various farm animals on display like in the past.

Through a Zoom meeting during break, FFA members played Among Us, Pictionary and Guess the Mystery Singer with the FFA members that joined the Zoom session.  

“It was really fun. There was a lot of participation in our games at break,” Winters said. “I also enjoyed working with my fellow officers to bring the whole week together and make it run smoothly.”

While many of the past events had to be scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic, Cates said he wanted to keep the Kiss the Cow tradition going since it has a nice alliteration to the title as well as illustrating some Sunny Hills traditions. 

“We hope that the student body here at Sunny Hills has enjoyed a light heart week of Agriculture Education,” Cates said. “We wanted to showcase what the FFA was about and show all of Sunny Hills the future of the industry that will feed them.”

This story was originally published on The Accolade on March 16, 2021.