Julie Fritsch

Where We Are, Where We're Going, and Getting There: 2012 NAAE President Ken Couture's Retiring Address

Blog Post created by Julie Fritsch on Dec 1, 2012

Text of 2011-2012 NAAE President Ken Couture's retiring address, given at the 2012 NAAE Convention in Atlanta


I would like to highlight a few of the positive things that we have accomplished over the past year. Earlier this year, the US Dept. of Labor withdrew their proposed regulations for child labor in agriculture. While we were not the only organization in opposition to these regulations, I believe we did have a significant impact through our advocacy efforts in cooperation with National FFA, Farm Bureau and many other groups in the agricultural industry. Your advocacy efforts at your home and state level helped to turn back regulations that would have negatively impacted our ability as teachers to teach students to safely handle many agricultural situations both on the farm and in the industry. The issue of youth safety has not gone away but we now have a voice in implementing safety education that makes sense. This effort shows that we can make a difference through advocacy at all levels. However, we were operating in a reactive mode not a proactive one. To become proactive, we need to develop those relationships so that our voices are heard when it counts. Also on the advocacy front, we had a record turnout of agricultural educators at the last National Policy Seminar. We are still awaiting Perkins Reauthorization, School reform legislation and a new Farm Bill. With new House members and Senators coming to Washington, the next NPS should be a must attend event for every state association. As state budgets continue to feel the squeeze, you can’t afford to be without a state advocacy plan. Our NAAE resources and staff are available to help you.


The National Teach Ag Campaign, a Council initiative and a special project of the National FFA Foundation continues to address teacher retention and recruitment. The 2013 National Agricultural Education Summit will focus on this issue exclusively. The Summit will be conducted in Indianapolis and live streamed across the country on January 30 and 31st. This format will allow for many more educators and partners to take part in the Summit than ever before.  Ellen Thompson continues to bring passion and organization to a campaign that is so critical to our future. She was also able to get data with cooperation from teacher educators across the country this past summer.


Finally, the NAAE Board began the work of developing a new strategic plan for our association. As I looked at the existing strategic plan, which had been developed in 2003 and revised somewhat since, it occurred to me that much of what was in the plan had become standard operating procedure. The Board felt that it was time to take a visionary look at where we want our association to be in the next 3-5 years. Dr. Laurie Garkovich at the Univ. of Kentucky led the Board through the process last summer and we have developed a draft that was reviewed by the Strategic Planning Committee here during the convention. The Board will take their feedback and move the plan forward in the near future.


I see a few challenges ahead as well. If you have read my News & Views columns you already know that I believe that the Common Core will change how we teach and perhaps, what we teach. Our focus will have to be on how we can purposefully integrate technical reading, writing and mathematics into our content. Agricultural Education should be the leader in our schools to accomplish this. The new science standards, combined with more inquiry-based science professional development like the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy, and curriculums like CASE, we can also step up the rigor and relevance of agriscience nationwide. I honestly believe that if we are not a part of helping our students meet these standards, we won’t have them in our elective programs. They will be sitting in remediation classes.


Our ability to collect nationwide data for agricultural education has been a challenge to say the very least. It has never been more important than right now. National FFA Foundation sponsors are critical to our ability to address the issues facing agricultural education today and into the future. Those sponsors are looking for data that show that their investment in an initiative is making a real, quantifiable difference. I can not understate how critical this need is. The Ag Career Network is currently our best hope for mitigating this situation. The Council is also looking for ways to address this issue. I want to ask you to do everything you can as state leaders to push for full implementation of AgCN in your state. It will be a tremendous benefit to us a teachers and to our students but only if we and they make it part of our classroom routine. The data we can collect will increase over time but unless we get everyone on board, we can’t accurately tell the agricultural education story.


Finally, as I said last year, never forget that agricultural education is a program, not a class. Our model is our strength and it is what sets us apart from every other class in our schools. We need to be true to that model. That means mentoring a new teacher, providing professional development opportunities to strengthen all teachers and remembering that if we always do what is best for kids, we will do what is best for agricultural education.


It has been an honor and privilege to serve on the NAAE Board for the past 5 years and as President this year. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I encourage you to consider stepping up to lead our profession in the future. I am pleased that the Board has appointed me to represent NAAE on the The Council for two more years and I will do my best to give a voice to our concerns.


In our program we talk about our ag education family and I believe that we do so nationwide. We may disagree and argue but we also makeup and do what is best for our family.


I have been blessed to work with a Board that has always reflected what it means to be a servant leader. I want to thank them for their dedication to our association. I also want to thank all of you for the support and fellowship as I visited regional meetings over the past year. I want to especially thank my friends in Region VI for their support. Finally, I want to thank our staff for their work on our behalf. I’m not sure you realize how hard they work to keep our association moving forward every day of the year. We are indeed fortunate to have them as part of our team. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013! Thank you.