Cyndi's Two Cents

FFA Week and ag teachers


It is National FFA Week. Like many of you, I was a member of FFA in high school, and then a member of collegiate FFA. The heart and soul of National FFA is the local chapter. That is where it all begins. Without the local agriculture teacher who serves as the advisor for the chapter, there would be no local FFA chapter.

I have written about my high school ag teacher in the past:

“Mr. Bernard Goetze was a friend, a mentor, a counselor, and a confidante. He was a cook, an advisor, a bus driver, and a photographer. He was a travel agent, a welder, a plumber, and a carpenter. He was a librarian, an electrician, and a public speaker. He was a peacemaker, a custodian, a comedian, and a career guidance counselor. He was an animal scientist, a plant scientist, and a painter. He was a supporter, a promoter, and a parliamentarian. He was a farmer and an Army veteran.” 

“He was my high school agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor. He was always there, by the owl.” 

I have many friends who teach high school agriculture, and others who retired from the profession. Most, I believe, were noble of character and embraced their roles as ag educators with passion and integrity and the desire to prepare a next generation of men and women for whatever their futures might hold.

In addition to the three pillars of ag education, which include classroom/laboratory instruction, FFA, and Supervised Agricultural Educations Experiences known as SAEs, many ag teacher/advisors take on other roles at their schools. I know ag teachers who do everything from driving a school bus to coaching cheerleading.

The decision to pursue a career teaching high school agriculture seems less daunting when you are young and surrounded by others with similar excitement and personal experiences in FFA. Unfortunately, as with most jobs, there will be stress and unrealistic expectations. And although the decision to be an educator is the right thing “in one’s heart,” when they see friends and classmates accept jobs in agribusiness with salaries twice the size of their own with the opportunity to grow within the company, doubt sometimes creeps in.

One thing I hear more frequently than ever when talking to those seeking employment – any employment, not only in agriculture – is the desire for greater work/life balance. Many of us more seasoned folks scratch our heads hearing this. Yet perhaps they are on to something!

It takes an incredibly special person to stay the course as an ag teacher/FFA advisor. As members of local communities with high school ag programs we should all be concerned about the shortage of qualified agriculture teachers. It is concerning that 23 percent of teachers have five or fewer years of teaching experience. How do we keep them from jumping ship?

The ag teacher shortage is the greatest challenge facing FFA and agriculture education today.

During this week that we celebrate FFA, be sure to recognize the commitment of your local FFA advisors and ag teachers.

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