Illinois Groups Address Growing Need For Ag Teachers

Illinois has a growing need for agricultural education teachers, and now new, innovative opportunities are available to attract more students to teaching careers, including the new Web site, “Inspiring Minds to Grow” at http://teachag.net/.

“More than 60 openings for agriculture teachers in both rural and urban settings were available in 2007-08 with only 19 college graduates to fill those openings. Since 1992, the number of available positions has exceeded the number of graduates,” says Jay Runner, coordinator for Facilitating Communication in Agricultural Education (FCAE).

In 2007-08, the average agriculture teaching salary in Illinois was $45,822. Four percent of Illinois agriculture teachers reported earning more than $80,000 last year. Agricultural science teachers apply academic concepts to topics ranging from business management, to biological and veterinary science, to biotechnology and food science. Environmental science, landscape and turf management, floral design, mechanical technology and construction systems, and leadership and communications are also areas of study.

Illinois agricultural education groups are employing several tactics to address the teacher shortage. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is offering incentive grants under the Growing Agriculture Science Teachers (GAST) program. The goal is to help community colleges and universities recruit agriculture science teacher candidates, ensure their preparation, and offer support during their first five years of service.

“The grant funds activities that promote the recruitment, training, and retention of agricultural science teachers in both rural and urban areas,” says Harley Hepner, principal consultant for agricultural education with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). “Opportunities will be available for secondary and postsecondary students to enter into paid internships and other activities to explore and experience careers in agricultural education. The grant is a vital component to growing agriculture programs in Illinois schools at all educational levels and growing our own teachers and programs in order to produce future leaders and a skilled workforce for the agriculture industry.”

Individuals with agricultural-related business and industry experience are also encouraged to inquire about how they might become agricultural science teachers. The Web site, http://teachag.net/, guides users through opportunities available in agricultural education. Students can fill out the online form for more information about teaching careers in Illinois, and packets will be sent to those students that address questions and nurture their interests.

Teachag.net is a great tool to immediately connect students to the right person from each university, and allow students to begin to build relationships with them,” says Mindy Bunselmeyer, FCAE program advisor based in Monticello, IL. “The Web connection starts them on the best path for their future in agricultural education.”

High school juniors and seniors can also learn more about agricultural education by attending an “Elite Conference” during the school year. The hands-on, day-long conference is packed with activities designed to get students headed in the right direction for careers in agricultural education. Students learn about the profession, talk with university representatives and current teachers and more. Information about the conference is found at the same Web site, http://teachag.net/.

Note: The statewide agricultural education team includes the Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education (ILCAE), the Illinois Committee for Agricultural Education (ICAE), Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois FFA and its associated groups, Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers (IAVAT), Illinois Association Community College Agriculture Instructors (IACCAI), University Council, Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom, and FCAE.

The team works to help ensure a successful social, economical, and environmental future for the state with K-adult education programs in support of Illinois’ largest industry, agriculture. For more information, visit www.agriculturaleducation.org.

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