Someone new stands in Don Sturgeon's classroom at Hagerstown High School today. The veteran retired at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. He knows the benefits and rewards of the profession. The trick, he notes, is helping young people see it.
Sturgeon realizes many schools scrambled to find qualified people to teach vo-ag and advise their FFA chapter this spring. He believes part of the solution starts with current teachers.
"We need to push current teachers to give names of students they think would be good candidates for ag education to Purdue University," he says. "That helps Purdue recruit students"
The current situation is not as dire as it appeared it might be just a few weeks ago.
There was lots of talk this spring about many open positions and few candidates to fill them. That's proven true to some extent, but Allen Talbert, a Purdue professor in Ag Education, says most if not all schools will end up with teachers.
"We've had smaller classes enrolling in the program since 2009 when the recession started," he says. "That is turning around and after the 2014-15 year, we should have bigger ag education classes. We could have up to 25 freshmen or transfer students in ag education this fall."
Whether the recession played a role in a downturn in numbers is unclear. Then state school superintendent Tony Bennett initiated major changes in teacher evaluation too. Right or wrong it discouraged many teachers. Instead of pushing students to consider ag ed, as Sturgeon advises, some discouraged students from teaching.
Related: Life Lessons Abound For FFA Students
In fact, some are still discouraging students form considering teaching as a profession. The National Ag Teachers Association are combatting that attitude by recognizing teachers who push students to consider ag education.
Several teachers and their students whom they 'tagged' as possible future ag teachers were recognized on stage at the recent Indiana FFA state convention in West Lafayette on the Purdue campus.