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  LIGHT A FIRE: TEACH AG
 
By: Morgan Gadd, Texas FFA News Staff
January 15, 2015

 
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It is estimated that there will be hundreds of unfilled agriculture education positions across the United States this year, simply because not enough students are choosing the career path.

While many professions make a positive difference in the need for agricultural products, no profession makes such a sizeable dent in serving the world as that of an agricultural educator. Teachers educate students about agriculture, food and natural resources while enhancing a wide variety of skills. 

Agricultural education first became a part of the public education system in 1917 when the U.S. Congress passed the Smith-Hughes Act. Today, over 800,000 students participate in formal agricultural education instructional programs. 

With the significant growth of agriculture education the demand for teachers is higher than the supply of new educators. According to the National Association of Agricultural Educators, there are approximately 460 annual agricultural education graduates nationwide pursuing a teaching career. The most recent National Teach Ag Campaign report noted that 576 agricultural educators left the profession, 134.5 new programs were implemented and 223.5 programs were expanded. The numbers simply do not add up in the favor of ag education. 

Challenges for agricultural educators are difficult and diverse. Lack of support among school boards, lack of mentoring, and the demands of the profession are all factors that may deter individuals from joining or staying in the teacher workforce. However, there are infinitely more benefits to teaching agriculture.

Agriculture teachers have a unique opportunity to teach students in an exciting setting that is centered on the development of the learner. Those who teach are making a direct difference in the future by cultivating America’s youth. Many students from agricultural programs will say that their agricultural educator was their main positive influence, or the reason they have pursued dreams they never would have believed possible. 

As knowledge of the educator shortage ramps up, initiatives to better the teaching lifestyle are increasing. These initiatives include mentoring programs, educator awards, student loan repayment options, improved compensation and increased grant availability.

The demand for teachers is on the rise. Pursuing a profession as an agricultural educator is a viable career path. While requirements to become certified vary from state to state, often a bachelor’s of science and completed accreditation test are the requirements to be considered for a position. Depending on their school district, certified ag teachers can also teach other core curricula (like biology) to become even more valuable to their school system. 

“Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.” - William Butler Yeats

Becoming an agricultural educator is a way to light the fires of the youth of today and tomorrow. This fire is one that will burn brightly and provide the world with a better society of capable, quality individuals. Agricultural education is an honorable calling; one that has an unlimited return on investment. 

Are you or someone you know interested in becoming an agricultural educator? If so, visit www.naae.org or www.vatat.org for more information.
 
 
 
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