I am an agricultural educator by choice and not by chance. How many times have you heard this or read this during your career as a teacher? I am guessing a few to be sure, but I really believe in these words and honestly feel like I do have the best job in our entire school system. For 31 years, I have smiled every day I go to work because of what I get to do and the students I work with. I love what I do and I would not want to do anything else. I really feel we do have the best job ever.
The industry that our job represents is constantly changing and requires us to be life-long learners, but it also allows us to promote a career in agriculture to our students. As the world population increases and we lose land used in production agriculture on a daily basis, we must teach and prepare tomorrow's decision makers and problem solvers in these critical areas.
We have seen education reform in many different formats over the years, and I have done my share of work in developing many of these, as my administration embraced a new idea or program. I have always believed, though, that the true strengths of our programs lie in the experiential learning and leadership we provide to each student who enters our classroom.
Advocacy must always begin at the local level, working with local administration, school boards and our students' parents. Developing and promoting a quality program, that encompasses all phases of the three circle model, will gain more local supporters that build the base for more continued support at the state and national levels.
I also believe that it is our job to make sure we mentor other members to assist them in becoming better advocates for their programs. One of the greatest strengths of our organization is the grassroots work of members. We need to keep promoting this to our new members by more actively involving them in the process. If members will continue to use the tools that NAAE has developed and provides on our website, we can continue to develop those relationships needed to promote our profession.
RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Ten years ago, when I began serving as an officer with SDAAE, I felt recruitment and retention might be our biggest challenge, and it has not changed since then. I truly love my job, but I can't teach forever and I do not know who will someday replace me. Each fall, states are short teachers to fill all the open positions, so schools are forced to hire teachers not trained in agricultural education to fill the position until a qualified teacher can be found. Programs such as the Teach Ag Campaign, Teachers Turn the Key and XLR8 are all good programs promoted by NAAE and help in the process, yet the number one promoter for future teachers needs to be us. No one knows our students better than us for recruiting and identifying quality educators for the future. Once recruited, we must continue to mentor and encourage new teachers. Many states have mentoring programs for beginning teachers, to help them with time management and balancing the commitments of their jobs with their personal and family life. Each of us should make sure we encourage and assist whenever possible.
The tradition of agricultural education was founded on the three circle model and I believe in this concept heart and soul. This concept continues to be the basis for our programs as we move into the future. I realize that agriculture and agriculture programs are going to look different in all parts of the country, dependent on the needs of each community, and this will not change. We can, however, make a difference in each community by developing students who are passionate about agriculture, their communities, and in promoting citizenship through community service.
I believe agricultural courses must continue to be relevant and rigorous and that we also need to continue integrating more science and math into our curriculum. The uniqueness of our classes is what has made us so popular with many students and parents, and has led to many of the successes of our programs. We must also be able to demonstrate value to administrators and school boards to maintain our status.
In closing, I just want to say how much of a privilege and honor it has been to serve on the board the last three years. It has been a great experience to meet so many new teachers and supporters of our organization. I have a real passion for the NAAE and agricultural education, and would be honored to continue to serve you if elected as President-Elect. For those who know me, they will tell you I am not shy in speaking and fighting for those things I feel are important and will represent all teachers of the NAAE. Thank you for this amazing opportunity.