By Maddie Smith
National FFA Officer Candidate
September 17, 2020: National Teach Ag Day. It’s a day to recognize and celebrate our educators who work hard in the classroom. It’s a day to encourage potential teachers to take the next step towards a career in teaching. It’s an effort to recruit and retain diverse and quality ag teachers who strengthen our youth, industry, and communities.
Mrs. Brown (Fillmore Central), Ms. Fritz (Chatfield), Mr. Pliscott (Cannon Falls), Mr. Aarsvold (PEM), Mrs. Ruen (Lanesboro), and Mr. Lapham (Fillmore Central) are some of the past and present teachers and FFA advisors who have made a difference in my life and the lives of my peers and other students. In Fillmore County, teachers from the Leroy-Ostrander, Lanesboro, Spring Valley-Wykoff, Mabel-Canton, Fillmore Central, and Rushford-Peterson agricultural education programs impact some of Minnesota’s nearly 35,000 agricultural education students.
When the Smith-Hughes Act was passed in Congress in 1917, formally implementing agricultural education into the public school system, who would have thought we would have 13,000 agriculture teachers just over a century later! Saying that the profession has boomed would be an understatement — especially since it’s still growing. In 2018, the National Association of Agricultural Educators reported that all 50 states had a shortage of ag teachers. The shortage isn’t due to a lack of people entering the profession; it’s because more schools are trying to start and expand their agriculture programs. Across the country, the need for teachers has led to the closure of 45 programs, loss of 88 positions, and prevention of opening many new programs. The shortage of diverse and qualified teachers is one of the greatest threats to agricultural education.
This year, more than ever, teaching is a challenging position. However, the work of instructors yields students who have had experiences for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. Across all 50 states, programs are ready to open, and the only thing they need is a teacher to step into the classroom. The demand for the work of teachers — such as those from our six programs in Fillmore County — is an incredible opportunity for those looking to enter or redirect their career paths. Above all, our teachers are making a difference in the lives of students. Whether you are a student, community member, teacher, or potential future agriculture teacher, teaching ag is a career worth celebrating on September 17 and every other day.
As a way to thank their ag teachers, a few high school students and recent graduates from Fillmore County provided some remarks about the difference that their agriculture instructors made in their lives.
“My ag teacher doesn’t just teach, but she legitimately cares for her students. Being a student in her class isn’t just about agriculture, [Mrs. Fritz] has taught me amazing life lessons on patience remaining calm, and caring for others which have undeniably helped me as a new college student!” –Isaac Rain, a freshman studying Registered Nursing at Rochester Community and Technical College, comments on Mrs. Fritz, Chatfield FFA.
“My ag teacher, Mrs. Brown, has pushed me to do my best and explore new opportunities. Her persistence and belief towards me helped me earn my state degree and set new goals toward my future.” –Morgan Wingert, a freshman at South Dakota State University studying Dairy Manufacturing and Food Safety, on Mrs. Brown, Fillmore Central FFA.
“My ag teacher has influenced my life by supporting me to go outside of my comfort zone and try new things such as attending state camps and trying new CDEs through FFA.” –Julia Maynard, a high school senior, expresses appreciation for Mr. Lind, Rushford-Peterson FFA.
“My FFA teacher has helped me put myself into farming and be involved. They have shown me all the benefits of being a part of the farming community.” –Jeremy O’Connor, a high school senior, references Mrs. Brown, Fillmore Central FFA, and Mr. Lapham, past Fillmore Central FFA advisor.
Are you looking for ways to celebrate agricultural education beyond Teach Ag Day? Follow @teach_ag on Instagram to stay updated, nominate someone to become a future ag teacher, or send someone a teach ag kit. Teachers can connect students with the National Teach Ag Ambassadors and utilize online Teach Ag resources and curriculum. As a student, consider gaining a new perspective by shadowing a teacher at another school and talking to your FFA advisor about opportunities such as participating in the commitment to teach ag signing at the MN FFA State Convention. As community members, we are always able to show our appreciation for teachers by expressing gratitude to advisors, participating in FFA alumni (whether or not you were an FFA member), and encouraging agriculture students and current industry professionals to explore and determine if agricultural education is right for them.
FFA and agricultural education makes a difference in the lives of students. This wouldn’t be possible without the teachers who are in the classroom. People like Mrs. Fritz, Mrs. Brown, Mr. Lind, and Mr. Lapham serve the industry, community, and classroom. To all past, current, and future agriculture teachers who have been “tAGgED” to Teach Ag, we celebrate you today, tomorrow, and always.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing what I have learned and continue to learn from my experiences and conversations across the state. Topics will range from local stories to understanding the relevance of policies and current events in agriculture. Literacy is listening. To share any questions, story ideas, or comments on published or potential articles, please feel welcome to email me at email@example.com.