Sifting for Teachers - New Practices for an Old Problem

Article excerpt

A few of us were discussing our past efforts in recruiting our students to become school-based agricultural educators. An alarming question was consistently asked. Did we do enough to encourage students to pursue careers in teaching secondary agriculture? While recruiting potential agricultural educators requires the effort of all of those involved in secondary agricultural education, as high school teachers, had we been sifting out the top students in our programs? Effective sifting should target all students with the potential to be great agricultural educators. Coordinating our recruitment programs at the local, regional, state, and national levels can ensure that we not only sift through our students for great potential educators, but also successfully recruit future agricultural educators into the profession. The national program, Teach Ag Campaign (NAAE, 2011), lays the ground work for recruiting future agricultural educators. So, let's discuss two effective programs at the state and regional level in Illinois and Tennessee, and then propose a unique local level activity for teacher recruitment.

State Level Initiative - Elite Conference in Illinois

Illinois agricultural education stakeholders have designed a daylong workshop for juniors and seniors in high school who are interested in teaching agriculture. The Elite Conference is coordinated by Mrs. Mindy Bunselmeyer, District Director of the Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education (FCAE) in Illinois, to encourage students to enter Career and Technical Education (CTE) teaching. The conference is an all inclusive experience in high school agricultural education. The Elite Conference features university and college representatives, presentations from agricultural education organizations, and high school teachers. The event has even stretched beyond agricultural education. Starting with the 4th year of the conference in 2009, five CTE areas have been included in the event: agriculture, business, family & consumer sciences, health occupations, and industrial technology. The conference has grown to 67 students attending the workshop in 2010 for the agriculture section alone.

The Elite Conference is a six hour long event and the location has rotated throughout Illinois. Students meet with university and junior college representatives about the educational requirements needed for becoming an agricultural educator. Breakout sessions allow students from the different CTE areas to meet together. Agriculture students learn about Illinois's Agriculture in the Classroom program and listen to current educators about the joys of teaching. They even have the chance to do teaching activities and talk about their experiences. A lunch is provided and snacks are offered during the breaks. Door prizes are also given out at the end of the conference.

The conference is by no means a small project. Mindy has to worry about facilities to host the ever growing conference and funds for hosting the conference. She has to organize representatives and speakers from a variety of places. Agricultural educators and students must be able to take a day off from school and find transportation to the event. But, the impact that the Elite Conference has on students is great. A student who attended the conference said, "Everything was amazing; it really continued to give me the punch to keep going; the teacher panel was the best - to see real life situations" (Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education, 2010). These types of events are valuable tools needed to recruit every possible future educator of agriculture.

Regional Level Initiative Teach Ag Rally in Tennessee

Agricultural educators and university teacher educators in Tennessee are taking it upon themselves to recruit potential agricultural educators. For the past two years at the Tennessee State FFA Convention a small group of agricultural educators have organized the Teach Ag Rally. …