School will be back in session soon. While kids are going through some big changes, so are the teachers. This is a nationwide crisis for filling empty agricultural education positions across school districts. However, the demand for agriculture teachers continues due to program growth, expansion, retirements and openings.
Sally Ladsten, education consultant with DPI, shares more on how agriculture teacher numbers are looking for the fall and the license options to help fill vacancies.
Throughout this past year, there have been over 50 teacher changes. These changes happen because a teacher in a current school applies for an opening and then they move to that position, creating an opening in their district. However, some of the positions are also new positions being created.
“We’re seeing quite a few schools that are looking for different types of career and technical education teachers and looking for ways to fill some of those roles,” says Ladsten. “There are a few positions that initially started looking for a tech ed teacher, but weren’t able to find one so the district said, are there ways that we could transition these classes into agriculture classes and hire an agriculture teacher instead.”
There is growth in numbers just in that perspective, not necessarily growing the number of total teachers in the state, but specifically the number of agriculture teachers in the state. That’s due to the shortage that we’re seeing across all of career and technical education in terms of trying to find teachers.
Right now, there are still nine agriculture teacher positions needing to be filled for the fall. Thankfully though, there are different routes available to becoming a teacher. There’s a variety of pathways to licensure that are available and these pathways are a little bit broader than some other teaching positions might have.
There is the traditional licensure where individuals can go to a four year university to obtain a major in agricultural education. Becoming more relevant in the last few years, is an emergency license where individuals can get a one year license from a school district as they’re obtaining the credentials needed to get that more permanent type of license. There is also an experience based license which is a process where a school district can utilize a points system that looks at both an individual’s experience in the industry of agriculture as well as their knowledge and experience in a classroom type setting.
“When we talk about those experience based licensure, I would say, from what I’m seeing so far, that seems to be a quick growing route, ” adds Ladsten. “When people are taking advantage of it, they’re really working with the school district themselves and saying, you know, I really want to teach. I have an interest in this, let’s work together to figure out how I can get the training needed in order to be ready to be a teacher.”
Some of the people that come back into the classroom are folks that maybe went to school for agricultural education initially and changed plans part way through school or some of them even graduated with that degree but maybe didn’t fulfill the requirements to become a licensed teacher.
There’s a variety of reasons that there is an agriculture teacher shortage. Agricultural education has had a shortage for a long time, but we’re starting to see other areas approaching those needs levels as well.
Ladsten adds that part of it is the time that it takes to put into a classroom and get it to the level that we want it to be. In agricultural education, we talk about the three component model and so those three components are the classroom instruction, the typical classroom setting, leadership development through the National FFA Organization, and then hands-on learning through their supervised agricultural experiences.
“When we think about that three component model in agriculture education, we are really proud of that model and the strength that it has in enforcing different concepts for students. But we also recognize the amount of time and dedication that that takes on the teacher’s end, because their work isn’t ending at the end of the classroom day. That work continues on into the weekends and into the summers,” adds Ladsten.
As a state agency, one of DPI’s primary goals is trying to find ways to support teachers to make their workload a little bit more manageable and easier. They work with the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators to find ways to support teachers and take things off of their plates.
Ladsten adds, “we recognize that it’s hard to be a teacher right now and it’s really hard to be an agriculture teacher. But I know at a department level in particular, we’re doing everything that we can to try and make it a little bit easier and finding ways for teachers to have the support that they need in order to ensure that they can be successful as long as they want to stay in the classroom.”
There is a demand for agricultural education as students are interested. The popular classes right now are those related to farm to table and connecting students to their food supply. These classes make sure that students not only are prepared for agricultural careers, but in some cases, also prepared to be educated consumers.
If anyone’s interested in becoming an agriculture teacher, they can reach out to DPI here.