Teacher shortages, teacher recruitment, and teacher retention have been areas of concern for years in schools across the county and can often be found as a topic in daily news headlines. Agricultural education has shared this concern for decades as our profession has come together to analyze supply and demand trends, share best practices through the State Teach Ag Results (STAR) program, and support the Teach Ag campaign to recruit future teachers. However, as any good classroom teacher knows, the real impact is made by building relationships, and Minnesota has found great success in providing opportunities for networking within our profession for more than 25 years through me.
Recruiting the Future
Mentorship and network building in Minnesota occurs before a teacher ever enters their first classroom. Postsecondary agricultural education students in the Midwest are invited to participate in professional development. Minnesota has hosted four Midwest Regional Future Agriscience Teacher (FAST) Symposiums in conjunction with the mid-year Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators (MAAE)conference. Throughout the symposium, current teachers share advice and experiences related to student teaching, getting a teaching position, and preparing for the first year. Students from five universities in the Midwest participate in the symposium prior to the MAAE conference and then participate fully in the two days of professional development. Sponsorship from MAAE, Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC), the Minnesota FFA Foundation, and STAR funds reduce the registration costs to participants significantly. The MAAE also offers professional development through a four-day summer conference and additional two-to three-day content specific professional development. College students and current teachers can participate in these professional development experiences.
Future teachers also can experience the summer as a teacher through the Minnesota Agricultural Education Internship. This paid internship is made possible through generous company sponsorships and the MAELC. The purpose of the internship is to spark an interest in undergraduate students to consider entering the teaching profession and to provide hands-on experience in the teaching profession. Interns are partnered with one or two current agricultural education programs during the summer and spend those weeks teaching courses, attending FFA leadership conferences, visiting students, leading officer retreats, managing gardens, and so much more! Engaging future teachers has resulted in participants being retained in the degree and feeling more engaged and supported as they enter the profession.