A new way to train the agricultural educators of tomorrow

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“Everyone wants an agricultural program, but trying to find a teacher to do it with is the challenge,” he said.

Montana has 98 agricultural education programs, and Rose says that’s a number that has grown over the past decade, during which time they added one to three programs per year.

It’s a similar story in North Dakota, where two to six new agricultural education teacher positions are posted each year.

“Right now, we are seeing unprecedented demand and growth in agricultural education across the state,” said Aaron Anderson, State Councilor for North Dakota FFA. “With this growth, along with an existing shortage, it has kind of exacerbated our teacher shortage issues.”

“There is a pressing need for agricultural education nationwide,” said Adam Marx, associate professor of agricultural education in teacher education at North Dakota State University.

In an attempt to alleviate this shortage across the region, Dickinson State University is teaming up with North Dakota State University to train more potential teachers in agriculture through an innovative masters program.

Adam Marx says a cooperative program between North Dakota State University and Dickinson State University should help reduce the shortage of agricultural teachers in the region.  Photo taken on April 13, 2021 in Fargo, ND (Emily Beal / Agweek)

Adam Marx says a cooperative program between North Dakota State University and Dickinson State University should help reduce the shortage of agricultural teachers in the region. Photo taken April 13, 2021 in Fargo, ND (Emily Beal / Agweek)

“We think this is a really creative and focused way of giving people access to become and become qualified educators,” Marx said.

“This will make it easier for students to access a degree in agricultural education and hopefully we will be able to place new teachers in programs all over North Dakota, but particularly in West Dakota. North as well as eastern Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming, ”Anderson said.

Western North Dakota and eastern Montana share many attributes, from landscape to agriculture. This includes the fact that communities tend to be small and remote.

Rose said that teaching positions in eastern Montana tend to pay less than their counterparts elsewhere in the state, and the addition of the remoteness of positions can exacerbate the problem of recruiting teachers.

Existing college agricultural education programs in the area are at Montana State University, Bozeman, Mt .; North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND; South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD; and University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo.

Brook Thiel is an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education at NDSU.  Photo taken April 13, 2021 (Emily Beal / Agweek)

Brook Thiel is an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education at NDSU. Photo taken April 13, 2021 (Emily Beal / Agweek)

“We are leaving a huge geographic divide in western North Dakota and eastern Montana and western South Dakota,” said Brook Thiel, assistant professor of agricultural education at NDSU.

Holly Gruhlke grew up in Wolf Point, MT, and she sees another problem.

Campuses with existing agricultural education programs are several times the size of the communities from which many agriculture-conscious students in eastern Montana and western North Dakota come, and they are far away, said Gruhlke, now dean of the College of Education, Business and Applied Sciences at DSU.

“The thought of going to Fargo is scary” for some students in a small town, she said.

This is how Gruhlke ended up at Dickinson State as a student years ago. A small campus in a small community seemed more welcoming to him. And she can see it’s a godsend in attracting rural students who want to become high school agriculture teachers.

Holly Gruhlke is the Dean of the College of Education, Business and Applied Science at Dickinson State University.  Photo taken on May 11, 2021 in Dickinson, ND (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

Holly Gruhlke is the Dean of the College of Education, Business and Applied Science at Dickinson State University. Photo taken on May 11, 2021 in Dickinson, ND (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

Dickinson State, explained Gruhlke, is a dual purpose institution, which means that the State Council for Higher Education has entrusted it with both the teaching of the liberal arts and the training of the workforce. of work. Since DSU started as a “normal school”, teacher training has been a big part of its history. Chip Poland, director of the agriculture department, said the school added a bachelor’s degree in agricultural studies about 20 years ago and other related programs, such as welding, were also added.

Poland started looking for ways to integrate agricultural education into the DSU curriculum around the time the baccalaureate was added. But it would take many years of planning, along with a push from COVID-19, to get the program in place.

Chip Poland is the Chairman of the Department of Agriculture at Dickinson State University.  Photo taken on May 11, 2021 in Dickinson, ND (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

Chip Poland is the Chairman of the Department of Agriculture at Dickinson State University. Photo taken on May 11, 2021 in Dickinson, ND (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

Poland said the DSU decided not to create its own agricultural education program from scratch for various reasons. Students looking to earn a bachelor’s degree to teach have a variety of options in the area, and it doesn’t make sense for students to compete with these institutions. But also, the NDSU already had the expertise in agricultural education, so working together was a way to efficiently use state resources.

Marx said that DSU offers a generalist approach to agricultural studies, which fits well with the nature of agricultural education. Plus, Dickinson is focusing on farming the way it looks in this part of the region, Thiel said, which is different from what it looks like in the Fargo area.

“For both of us, it works with strengths,” Marx said.

Students in the program will attend Dickinson State University to earn a major in agricultural studies and a minor in agricultural education. During their bachelor’s degree program, they will begin taking education classes and doing fieldwork, Thiel said. Students will be in DSU classrooms for education classes, but they will interact with Fargo classes at NDSU.

“We think we can offer our courses in a really high quality sense to these students,” Thiel said.

After obtaining their bachelor’s degree, they will complete their master’s degree in agricultural education in their fifth year of study. Like the undergraduate courses, these courses will be physically at Dickinson but taught at Fargo.

Several students already enrolled at DSU are interested in the program, Poland said, as well as several incoming students. Its ultimate goal would be to have at least eight to 12 students graduate with a master’s degree from the program as it gains traction.

North Dakota State University and Dickinson State University officials said COVID-19 offered surprising stimuli in their efforts to work together to train more teachers in agriculture .  Professors, including Adam Marx, associate professor of agricultural education in teacher education at North Dakota State University, left, gained more experience in engaging students remotely, and COVID-19 relief money has helped update technology for distance learning.  Photo taken April 13, 2021 in Fargo, ND (Emily Beal / Agweek)

North Dakota State University and Dickinson State University officials said COVID-19 offered surprising boost in their efforts to work together to train more agricultural teachers . Professors, including Adam Marx, associate professor of agricultural education in teacher education at North Dakota State University, left, gained more experience in engaging students remotely, and COVID-19 relief money has helped update technology for distance learning. Photo taken April 13, 2021 in Fargo, ND (Emily Beal / Agweek)

The time had come to start the program in 2021. Marx said having enough teachers at NDSU had been a problem before, but when Thiel came on board for the 2020-2021 school year, it created problems. opportunities. Plus, COVID-19, surprisingly, helped move the needle.

Gruhlke said parties involved in the two institutions would otherwise have scheduled in-person meetings to discuss the programs, but that due to COVID-19, precautions were able to use some remote technology to work together and see each other more often. only occasional face-to-face meetings. Additionally, faculty learned more about how to engage students in a remote environment, and COVID-19 relief programs have provided universities with funding for technologies that facilitate distance learning.

Getting a master’s degree isn’t an investment everyone will want to make, Thiel said, but it will provide early career teachers with higher pay opportunities.

“Hopefully it pays off in the long run,” she said.

Thiel taught agriculture in high school for seven years before joining the NDSU. She said career opportunities in the field include secondary education in agriculture, extension jobs and more.

“Agricultural education is an incredible career. There is a ton of joy in teaching agriculture to young people and living your passion for farming and influencing the next generation of farm leaders, ”she said. “You will always find a job.”

(Emily Beal contributed to this story.)



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