Agriculture teachers are becoming hard to find in agriculturally dependent Minnesota, and the same problem is expected to crop up in schools nationwide.
A recent story in the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minn., explored the issue for Minnesota, which has seen a 29 percent drop in the past five years in licenses for agriculture teachers. During the past 11 years, the state has had an average of 32 agriculture teacher vacancies with only an average of 13 agriculture teachers graduating annually. The issue is pronounced in that state because of the prominent role of its agriculture industry.
Rural schools in particular are desperate for agriculture teachers, and they’re recruiting from college campuses and getting permission for teachers of other subjects to lead agriculture classes.
So what caused the decline? The story says a major reason is the state is down to only one college campus offering an agriculture education degree. And when students graduate with an agriculture background, they often go into agribusiness rather than the classroom.
“It’s sometimes hard to take kids from the farm and bring them to the Twin Cities,” said Rhonda Bonnstetter, the chairwoman of the education department at Southwest Minnesota State University, in the story. “Sometimes that’s not a good fit, but it’s the only one we have.”
The story lacked strong national context or figures, so it made me wonder how many states were or will be experiencing this same problem. Kudos to Star Tribune reporter Kim McGuire on an interesting piece.
The same problem can be found across the country, with 33 states strugglign to fill positions, according to the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Nationally, there are 65 open positions in 22 states, and that doesn’t count positions filled with variance or emergency licenses. The shortage can be attributed to retirements as well as new and expanding programs. The National Teach Ag Campaign, which is an initiative led by the association, started in 2009 to address the shortage issue.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.