Earlier this month six undergraduate agricultural education majors were able to test their teaching skills on a group of 7th grade students at Stuart-Hobson Middle School in downtown Washington, D.C.  The program, which pairs future and seasoned agriculture teachers to deliver science-based agriculture lessons is the first of its kind.

The program participants, who were from various parts of the United States, had gathered in Washington, D.C. to celebrate national Ag day.  The teaching program was organized by the National Teach Ag Campaign, an initiative to increase the number of agricultural educators in the United States.

“We have a shortage of agriculture teachers right now,” Ellen Thompson, National Teach Ag Campaign Coordinator, said in a news release  “There aren’t enough students who are graduating with a degree in agricultural education, and those who do graduate are leaving the profession too soon.” 

Thompson explained that the program works on a variety of levels.  It gives urban students an opportunity to learn about the science behind agriculture, undergraduates an opportunity to get a feel for teaching, and experienced teachers a chance to share their wisdom.

“We need more students learning about agriculture,” said Thompson. “To do that, we not only have to graduate more ag education majors, but we have to keep them in the profession.  Giving them real-world experience and a mentor with whom they can continue a relationship after graduation is vital.  It would be great if all undergraduate students could be part of something like this.”

Matt Eddy, mentor teacher from Southeast Polk High School in Iowa was impressed by the experience. “Mr. Creef's students were exceptional -- they were receptive, engaged and excited to learn from our student teachers.  I probably learned more from the student teachers and 7th graders than they learned from me,” he said.

The six undergraduates were Jenna Moser from Penn State University, Nina Miller from Virginia Tech University, Bethany Markway from Missouri State University, Jodi Boe from North Dakota State University, and  April and Josh Johnson, both from South Dakota State University.  The three mentor teachers were Matt Eddy from South Polk High School in Pleasant Hill, Iowa; Aaron Geiman from North Carroll High School in Westminster, Maryland and Robin McLean from Northern Burlington County School District in Columbus, New Jersey. 

The event was a collaborative effort between the National Teach Ag Campaign, National Ag Day, Agriculture Future of America, and the National FFA Organization.