We have all heard the saying "no man is an island." This saying is certainly true for the local agricultural education teacher. In order for an agricultural education program to be effective it needs to be built upon collaborative efforts within the local community. Anyone who has been in agricultural education for any amount of time recognizes the importance of developing partners in the local community. These partnerships are the lifeblood of a program ensuring current support, as well as a vibrant future. Without community partnership, the agricultural education program will never reach its full potential.
Establishing partnerships is not always easy, but being an agricultural education teacher lends itself very well to building relationships in the community. For example, many agricultural education teachers are the defacto town veterinarian, horticulturist, unofficial school spokesperson, and basic jack of all trades. However, building professional relationships within the community goes beyond the teacher providing services. To build professional relationships means your program is partnering with someone or some entity for the enhancement of both. According to National FFA's Local Program Success Guide (National Council for Agricultural Education, 2002) there are five basic steps to building successful partnerships in the community.
1 . Identify potential partners
2. Determine benefits of involvement for potential partners
3. Present benefits of involvement to potential partners
4. Establish a plan for involving core partners
5. Reward partners by recognizing them for their contributions and support
Identifying potential partners is probably the most difficult task for teachers. Remember, building partnerships should lead to reciprocal benefits. This is where agriculrural education teachers may get into trouble; they often want to help everyone without taking time to think how these people may be able to help their program. There are people and businesses in your community who are more than willing to support your program; you just need to identify them. For many agricultural education programs, potential partners include extension; businesses; civic and professional organizations; and producers.
Collaboration with a local 4-H agent can be beneficial to students in both programs and students should be encouraged to be part of both organizations. This can be a tremendous help to you as a teacher. First, it can give you another set of eyes when it comes to evaluating SAE projects. Most agents are very knowledgeable at evaluating projects, especially entrepreneurship projects like livestock. This resource can be helpful if you need another opinion about a student's project. Agents can also be very helpful to assist your students if you are not around. Students participating in both programs know you and the agent, and if for some reason you are not available they can go to the agent with questions. Sharing students can also have its benefits when it comes time for Career Development Events. Students participating in both 4-H and FFA events will be better prepared and have the opportunity to attend more competitions than students who are only members of one organization. This could also allow the teacher to devote more time to other activities. It can also be helpful to collaborate with extension agents on community service, program development, or other educational activities. Additionally, agents make great guest speakers on a variety of subjects and usually have a variety of resources at their disposal. County agents can bring a lot to the table to help advance your program.
Community businesses are a great place for agricultural education teachers to seek out collaborative relationships. This experience can be rewarding for both the teacher and the business. Local businesses can provide many benefits to an agricultural education program. …