National Teach Ag Day

article image
courtesy Stephen Ausmus/Agricultural Research Service
John Duncan, a veterinarian with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Wyoming, clips a tiny piece of a third eyelid from a sheep while students watch.

On March 24,
National Teach Ag Day, agriculture teachers all over the United States
will be introducing students to an exciting and demanding career – their own.

Currently,
agricultural educators are in short supply all over the United States,
with an inadequate number of agricultural education graduates being produced
each year to fill job openings. Agricultural educators prepare students to fill
jobs in one of the only major sectors of the U.S. economy that grew in 2010. Last
year, agriculture exports increased by 11.9 percent to $107.5 billion dollars. USDA
studies show that every billion dollars in agricultural exports supports more
than 8,000 jobs. (1)

National Teach
Ag Day is a day to celebrate the contributions agricultural educators make in
their communities and in the lives of their students, and is also a way to
encourage young people to consider a career in agricultural education.

“School-based
agriculture programs are too important to lose, especially in the current
economic climate,” says Jay Jackman, executive director of the National
Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE), the organization that facilitates
National Teach Ag Day.

“A lack of
agricultural educators means we’re cutting off the supply of employees to the
agriculture industry at the wellhead,” Jackman says. “If there’s no one there
to prepare students for these careers, then one of the industries that has been
a corner post of American success will begin to weaken.”

Agriculture
programs teach the science and production of food, feed, and fiber, as well as
subjects like natural resources and veterinary science. Students in agriculture
programs learn a wide variety of skills and concepts through these subjects,
including science, math, communications, leadership, management and technology.

Agricultural
education follows a unique model – lessons are delivered in a hands-on way that
helps students more fully understand concepts, retain learned information, and
apply material to real world situations. Agricultural education also includes a
strong leadership component that helps develop students’ sense of responsibility
and civic service.

Teaching
agriculture can be a smart and fulfilling career choice for students from a
variety of backgrounds. Many agriculture programs are strengthening the rigor
of their already science- and math-rich courses to meet the needs of an
increasingly technology-driven agriculture industry. Agriculture programs are
teaching students concepts that will not only allow them to produce food on an
unmatched scale, but also become chemists, geneticists or engineers.

Expansion into
urban areas is also a current agricultural education trend, leading to even
more employment opportunities for agriculture teachers. There are currently
many agriculture programs in large urban centers, and the opportunity to open
more is growing.  Kimberly Fogle is a CTE
Agricultural Science teacher at W.E.B.
Dubois High
School in Baltimore,
Maryland This is the first year
for the agriculture program at her school.

“My students are
100 percent urban,” she says. “They like this class because it’s hands on, and
they like the interaction with animals and plants they get. It doesn’t take
them long to see that through our program they can become a scientist or
biologist or another professional in addition to farming. Our administrators
were very supportive in getting an agriculture program at the school. They feel
like students need hands-on activities, community involvement, and leadership
skills. This class brings that out. It also helps give them focus in other classes.
They know they have to stay out of that fight or get good grades in everything
if they want to run for FFA president, for instance. It gives them a goal to
work toward.”

“Agricultural
education is one of the best-kept secrets in education right now,” Jackman says.
“We need to let the secret out of the bag and show people what great
opportunities exist in a career as an agricultural educator. That’s what
National Teach Ag Day is all about.”

National Teach
Ag Day is a component of the National Teach Ag Campaign, an initiative of the
National Council for Agricultural Education, led by the National Association of
Agricultural Educators. The campaign is sponsored by Landmark Nurseries and the
CHS Foundation as a special project of the National FFA Foundation, and also by
Delmar Cengage Learning. For more about Teach Ag Day and the National Teach Ag
campaign, visit the website.

The National
Association of Agricultural Educators is a federation of state agricultural
educators associations with more than 7650 members. NAAE seeks to advance
agricultural education and promote the professional interest and growth of
agriculture teachers as well as recruit and prepare students who have a desire to
teach agriculture. For more information, visit the NAAE website.

(1) www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/09/01/continued-recovery-america-s-agricultural-economy