There are 29 young ag teachers in Indiana enrolled in a mentoring program funded by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Former ag teachers Beth Theobald and Charity Keffaber coordinate the program. More than half of the teachers Theobald and Keffaber work with have emergency licenses, and don't have ag education degrees.
"We're losing many teachers in the first three years on the job," Theobald says. "Our goal is to improve teacher retention."
The effort is two-fold, Keffaber says. Either she or Theobald visit the new teacher as needed and visit with school administrators. In addition they match each one with a veteran teacher as a mentor.
"The new teacher often visits the mentor's classroom, and vice-versa," Keffaber says. "It gives the new teacher another person to talk with and another place to go to for help. It's a whole new ballgame when you're out there on your own, especially in one-teacher departments."
Warren Giegold is a fist-year ag teacher at Garrett High School in Dekalb County. His degree was in animal sciences, not teaching, and he spent several years managing premier horse farms in Kentucky, including Calumet Farms.
"I was ready for a change," he says. "I decided I could be more useful teaching kids than managing fancy horses for millionaires."
Still, he relies on his animal science background to help shape how he prepares lessons and teaches. His mentor under the mentoring program is veteran Neasa Kalme at Angola.
"My dad helps me too but sometimes he leaves me hanging to decide what to do," Giegold quips. His dad was the ag teacher at Garrett for three decades.
"I grew up going with him to events and being pestered by his students," he laughs. "Now I have some of their kids in class."
"This program definitely helps," he says. "Sometimes by the end of the day you run out of time. I've learned how to better manage my time, and have picked up tips on classroom management. I really love what I do."