Leaders in agricultural education, September 15, 2022, hope to attract more prospective students and current professionals to consider career transition into the demanding and exciting field of agricultural education.
September 15 is National Agriculture Education Day, and this year’s main event will be in Minnesota.
The CHS Foundation is hosting a National Association of Ag Educators #TeachAg Day webcast at CHS Inc. Headquarters in Minneapolis. This webcast will celebrate the many contributions agricultural teachers make to youth, schools and communities. Funding for National Teach Ag Day is provided by the SCH Foundation and BASF.
To view the webcast, please visit naee.org/teachag/webcast.cfm.
“The teacher shortage isn’t new, but it continues to be an issue, and it continues to grow primarily because we’re adding new programs and current programs are adding more teaching positions,” said Ms. Sarah Dornink, Executive Director of the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC).
Minnesota has added 30 agricultural high school departments over the past 12 years, growing from 188 departments in 2010 to 218 departments in 2022. At the same time, 97 agricultural teaching positions have been added.
“We used to have 30 to 40 openings, and this year we’re already at 94 teacher openings,” Dornink said.
To fill these openings, school districts rely on both new agricultural education graduates and people with technical agricultural knowledge.
Especially in industrial classes, an experienced craftsman can teach skills like agricultural welding, mechanics, and construction. These people, who have not gone through a traditional teacher preparation program, help schools offer classes when a qualified agricultural teacher is not available.
An agricultural teacher is often more desirable because they have a flexible teaching license and can teach in eight different tracks – Animals, Plants, Agribusiness, Environmental and Natural Resources, Food Products and Processing, Structural and Technical Power, and Biotechnology. Virtually all agricultural teachers also coordinate FFA programs.
“We have the best agriculture teachers,” Dornink said. “They care about their students and they are super creative. I just can’t say enough good things about them.
Minnesota has a strong retention rate for agricultural teachers, she said, but recruiting enough teachers is difficult, according to surveys by the State Teach Ag Results Committee.
Minnesota has many initiatives and college majors designed to train agricultural teachers and support current agricultural teachers. College majors in agricultural education are offered at Southwest Minnesota State University; University of Minnesota, Crookston; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; and transfer programs from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
At the Minnesota FFA convention held in April, students who commit to teaching high school agricultural education can participate in a “signing off” celebration. MAELC, Minnesota Association of Ag Educators and Teach Ag Minnesota are all dedicated to helping them succeed.
A good agricultural teacher who was hardly one
In her early thirties, Mrs. Lisa Orren is in her eighth year as an agricultural teacher and FFA co-counsellor. She spent a year teaching at Sauk Rapids-Rice Schools, then transferred to schools in the Redwood Valley area where she teaches today.
His path to teaching was first diverted.
There was no agriculture department in his school for his years from 7th to 10th grade.
Fortunately, she was still in high school (a junior) when the Redwood Falls (Redwood Valley) school district restarted its agricultural programs.
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His first teacher was Mr. Jeremy Daberkow, who is now a faculty member of Farm Business Management.
“I only had two years of experience in agriculture classes. The first year was an introduction, but I played a part in the FFA and really enjoyed it,” Orren said.
Daberkow encouraged her to go to college to teach agriculture – but without those early years of study, it seemed too daunting.
“I was pretty determined to be a vet tech,” Orren said, and she started her college career at Ridgewater College in Willmar. “In the meantime, I was driving from Willmar to Redwood to mentor a small animal veterinary science career development event. This sparked my interest in working with young children and getting them interested in animals.
She graduated from the veterinary technology program, but her passion, she discovered, was teaching.
“So I took the leap to go back to school and pursue agricultural studies,” she explained.
This meant two more years at Ridgewater College, completing general courses and agriculture-specific content courses. Then she transferred to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities to complete her bachelor’s degree, graduating in 2015.
After a year in Sauk Rapids-Rice, she found her niche in Redwood Valley.
“I graduated from Redwood and now I teach here,” she said. “It’s been a great asset for me – making connections and continuing to make connections that I formed before as a student.”
She has given many lessons. This school year, Orren teaches Animal Science, Animal Health/Veterinary Science, Small Animal Care, Landscaping, Horticulture, Freshman Academy, and Agriculture 8 – a course of four weeks introducing eighth grade students to agriculture.
“For the first time ever, our college has an agricultural class on its register,” she said.
Based on her own experience, where Daberkow pointed to her potential as an agricultural teacher, Orren aims to recruit a new agricultural teacher every year.
“Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of alumni who are currently taking post-secondary options in agricultural education,” she says.
Its first Redwood Valley graduate will complete teacher training in 2022-23.
“I’m really proud that these students find the value of agricultural education, and I hope they all continue education,” Orren said. “I think if I have fun doing my job and show how much I love my job, it will inspire students to become agricultural teachers in the future.”
What matters to Gen Z
Students graduating from high school are now part of Generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2012), Dornink said, noting that this generation wants to maintain a good work-life balance and engage in meaningful work.
They want to be compensated for their value and to receive fair compensation.
“The younger generation is passionate about teaching and wants to do a good job, but they’re going to prioritize their time,” Dornink said. “They’re going to do the things that are important to their community and their students, but they’re going to make intentional choices about where their time is most valuable and set healthy boundaries on how much time they should spend,” she said. continued. “They have high expectations for how the job looks, and I think that’s been a game changer.”
The complexities of future agricultural education are almost impossible to imagine.
Fortunately, hard-working and thoughtful agricultural leadership teams have found new ways to engage individuals in teaching agricultural courses. With highly motivated and well-trained staff on board, Minnesota’s high school agricultural departments should perform well.