Program addresses Nebraska ag teacher shortage

A new program designed to entice more college students to become agricultural education teachers has been unveiled by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.

The program will include Student Teacher Scholarships for students enrolled in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Ag Education Teacher Education program—and a Teacher Loan Assistance Program to help current Nebraska ag education teachers pay existing student loans.

At a news conference during the state FFA Convention in Lincoln, Nebraska ag education state director Matt Kreifels said Nebraska is facing a critical shortage of ag education teachers.

“We have schools that are looking to hire an agricultural education teacher that cannot find one,” Kreifels said. “We have schools that want to start a program and an FFA chapter that cannot find a teacher and therefore cannot start that program for their students.”

Kreifels says about 20 percent of the current ag education teachers in Nebraska will retire or are eligible to retire over the next three years.

“Unfortunately we do not have the numbers of students enrolling in ag education that we need to fill those positions,” he says, “and on top of that, of those students that are enrolled to become ag teachers, many of them take industry jobs and work for companies in the ag industry rather than for schools to educate our students.”

Kreifels says ag ed teachers often struggle to justify entering a career where their first year’s salary is less than their total student loan amount. The average starting base salary for Nebraska teachers is about 31,000 dollars.

The Farm Bureau Foundation says it needs to raise 40 thousand dollars initially to get the program up and going.

AUDIO: Excerpt from news conference announcing the new ag teacher assistance program (8:51 MP3)

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