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Collaborative ag ed program could ease teacher shortage

By Jane Ver Steeg

Officials from Dordt College and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln publicly announced a cooperative agriculture education degree agreement at a signing ceremony and press conference on Tuesday, October 30, at Dordt College.

The new 3 + 1 articulation agreement offers students seeking careers as high school agriculture teachers the opportunity to take their first three years of classes at Dordt and then transfer to Nebraska’s UN-L for a final year of study. Graduates will receive an accredited bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from UN-L. Because Dordt course credit hours are pre-approved for transfer, students can complete their teaching certification in four years.

Dr. Carl Zylstra recently signed an agreement with officials from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to finalize a collaborative degree program that will train high school agriculture teachers.

Dr. Carl Zylstra recently signed an agreement with officials from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to finalize a collaborative degree program that will train high school agriculture teachers.

Only one institution in Iowa currently offers an agriculture education degree—Iowa State University, and UN-L is the only accredited program in Nebraska.

“We see this as a wonderful option for high school graduates who are looking for a Christian college education, for a smaller more rural campus setting, or who just prefer to make Northwest Iowa their home for most of their college years,” said Dr. Duane Bajema, professor of agriculture. “This cooperative agreement will serve as a litmus test to gauge the degree of interest in this major,” said Bajema. “It puts Dordt College in a position to move quickly and efficiently with further developments in agriculture education if warranted by student demand.”

Agriculture is among the top enrollment programs at Dordt College, with six different emphases within the four-year degree, as well as a two-year associate degree program and a pre-veterinary program of study. UN-L’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) is an internationally recognized land-grant college with a foundation in agriculture teacher education. Their program gives students an active role in the learning process which UN-L believes will better enable them to retain and use their education.

According to the Iowa Governor’s Council on Agricultural Education, a shortage of trained graduates in agriculture education currently exists. ISU Chairman Robert Martin reports that enrollment in teacher education programs in agriculture is at an all-time low, while the demand for well-educated agriculturalists is at an all-time high. He cites the retirement of baby boomers and attractive agriculture industry career options as contributing factors to the teacher shortage. This summer the governor’s council developed ten action steps to revitalize agricultural education in Iowa, based on a summit on school-based agricultural education held in March.

A national study of the supply and demand for teachers of agricultural education was published in May of this year by Adam J. Kantrovich, assistant professor at the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences College of Science and Technology, Morehead State University.

Kantrovich’s national study estimated that in the fall of 2006, forty agriculture education programs could not operate due to lack of qualified agriculture teachers, and that overall there were seventy-eight more existing positions than qualified teachers. He concludes, "...we are falling significantly short on the production of agriculture teachers and of those newly qualified actually taking jobs within the profession.”