Non-traditional ag teachers filling gap in Illinois classrooms

More students than ever are enrolled in Illinois FFA, and their teachers are coming from some unlikely sources.

Jennifer Waters, state coordinator at Illinois Facilitating Coordination In Agricultural Education, says the state produces around thirty new ag teachers per year in its universities, but the needs are much greater…

“Typically, you know we do look at about 80 to 100 openings in the state of Illinois for ag teachers annually,” she says.

She tells Brownfield that’s led to nearly a quarter of the ag teacher positions in the state being filled by non-traditional candidates…

“Teachers who were not traditionally trained,” she says, “who didn’t go to college to be an ag teacher, but they have experience in industry, and they have experience in agriculture that they’re able to bring to the classroom.”

Waters says those non-traditional candidates enter ag education at various stages of their careers…

“We love finding those people in the community who either thought they might want to be an ag teacher, but they went into another profession or,” she says, “you know, we also have those who went into another profession in agriculture and now they realize they want to give back in their community by being an ag teacher.”

Waters says they’ve also seen success recruiting current teachers in other subjects to take up an ag education role.  Currently 38-percent of Illinois ag teachers are under thirty years of age. 

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