Today is National Teach Ag Day


Today is National Teach Ag Day. This is a day to celebrate school-based agricultural education and to encourage agricultural education advocates, especially current agricultural educators (middle school, high school, post-secondary, pre-service programs, etc.) to share with others the great career opportunities in agricultural education.

Many of you are aware of the shortage of teachers, which has been affecting Nebraska, among other states, for the last several years. So in addition to saying thank you to our agriculture education teachers, I wanted to share a few facts from Matt Kreifels, Nebraska’s State Director of Agricultural Education, about the ag teacher supply and demand as it stands today.

Here’s the update he gave me:

  • Nebraska schools posted 44 openings for teachers this last spring.  Compare that to 21 openings in 2011.
  • Nebraska has added 45 new agricultural education programs since 2010.
  • Nebraska now has 14 schools that have two agricultural education teachers on faculty.
  • UNL graduated 11 student teachers in the 2015-16 academic year with 100% teaching placements.
  • UNL expects to graduate 10 student teachers for the 2016-17 school year.
  • UNL is expecting between 25-30 UNL students  completing their student teaching semester during the 2017-18 academic year.

While there are many factors contributing to the growth of agriculture education teachers as a profession, we attribute part of the growth to the National State Teach Ag Results (STAR) initiative. This was a program that Nebraska’s Team Ag Ed engaged with three years ago. It included a collaborative support for pre-service teachers to engage with current teachers in professional development, retention programs for teachers and Teach Ag internships. The Nebraska FFA Foundation and its partners have helped make this program possible and we are excited to see the successes of the initiative.


FFA Jacket Impacts Teach Ag Intern

 By Nebraska Teach Ag Intern Miranda Paitz

When I enrolled in my first agricultural class my freshman year of high school, I had no idea what FFA was; all I knew was that there were a large amount of kids that showed under FFA at my county fair. It didn’t take me long to get involved in my FFA chapter at Wilcox-Hildreth and see just how much FFA had to offer.

My freshman year, I was able to attend the State FFA Convention as a participant in the Agriscience untitledcontest, and I was able to earn a ribbon while I was there. It was very inspirational to be able to go to the convention and see all of the other FFA students as well as the agricultural businesses that support FFA. I was then able to go to the National FFA Convention my sophomore year and I was amazed by the amount of blue jackets, FFA emblems, and positive atmosphere that I was surrounded by. At our first session, the National FFA Chorus was there to perform; they were incredible! I looked at my advisor and said “Mr. Johnson, wouldn’t it be cool if I was in that choir?” and he replied, “You could be in that choir someday if you wanted to, but you would need to try out, I believe that you would make it”. Our FFA chapter only attended the National FFA Convention every other year and so, the main focus of my junior year was being a chapter officer. However, my senior year, I decided to try out for the National FFA Chorus, and I was accepted! I was one of three people from my high school that had ever been a part of the National FFA Chorus and, thanks to the help of the Wilcox-Hildreth School Board, I was able to fly to Indianapolis a week before my chapter so that I could rehearse with the rest of the chorus. As if being a part of the National FFA Chorus wasn’t enough, I was able to sing a solo part in one of our songs!

The experiences that I’ve had while wearing my FFA jacket and being an FFA member are some that others can only dream about doing. Thanks to the support from my community, family, friends and chapter, I was able to reach high levels of achievement and I am very proud of my decision to enroll into an agricultural class my freshman year of high school. Now, I am planning on supporting FFA and agricultural education even more by becoming an agriculture teacher and an FFA advisor. Though I am not supposed to wear my jacket while in this role, I will embrace those that can and help to show them the potential that they gain just by putting it on. I hope that I can help my future students achieve in their own ways as FFA members when I start teaching in Cambridge next year.

Donating an FFA jacket to a student will change their life forever. They will benefit from this experience because they will be able to attend state convention and many other great activities and contests. I hope that you will consider donating $80 to the Blue Jackets. Bright Futures. Program to provide an FFA member with an FFA jacket and tie or scarf. You can go to the link below to donate online before the September 1st deadline.



Knabe Joins Nebraska Department of Education Staff

Growing up in the small town of Nehawka, Nebraska Krystl Knabe has always had a strong passion for agriculture. With the help and guidance of her father she was heavily involved in FFA and 4-H, and knew after high school that she wanted to stay in the agriculture untitledindustry.

She had several ag teachers contribute differently to her FFA career leading to various Leadership Skills Events (LSE) and Career Development Events (CDE)  during her high school years.  However, she didn’t stop there. Knabe also had an extensive Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) including beef and dairy cattle, hogs and row crops to name a few.  Her involvement in all aspects of agricultural education led her to serve as a chapter officer and later served as her chapter’s president.  Knabe then went on to receive her State and American Degrees, the highest awards a member can earn.

After high school, Knabe’s agricultural roots led her to the University of Nebraska –Lincoln where she studied agricultural education. Agricultural Education allowed her to combine her passion for agriculture with her desire to impact students’ lives.  Upon graduation in 2009 she began her teaching career in O’Neill, Nebraska where she started their program from the ground up.  During her time in O’Neill, Knabe also earned her master’s in Leadership Education from UNL.

Knabe speaks highly of her time in the classroom, and most enjoyed helping students find a career to pursue in the agricultural industry. With many students unsure of what they wanted to study, through involvement in the ag program she was able to help student identify a way to continue to make an impact in the agricultural industry.

Now, Knabe finds herself in a new role with the Nebraska State Department of Education.  She is most looking forward to working with the State Teach Ag Results (STAR) program along with the Nebraska Teach Ag Interns.  Knabe will also work with the younger teachers helping them start out their teaching career and assist the Nebraska FFA Association.

Outside of the office Krystl practices real estate and enjoys seeing agriculture in a different way though land and home sales, as well as helping on her family’s farm. Please help us in welcoming Krystl Knabe to Nebraska State Staff!

DuPont Pioneer and Nebraska Soybean Board Invest $45,000 for Agriculture Education Curriculum Training


Agriculture teachers from all over Nebraska were able to attend the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) on June 19-29. The CASE Institute is an 80-hour institute held each year for agricultural teachers. This year the Nebraska Soybean Board and DuPont Pioneer collaborated to invest $45,000 for Nebraska’s agriculture teachers to attend CASE and purchase equipment needed to implement the curriculum for their classrooms.

“This is a good effort for industry and a commodity board to further agricultural education in our schools. The program shares the expertise of others to raise the level of agricultural education in our schools,” says Victor Bohuslavsky, Executive Director of the Nebraska Soybean Board.

CASE currently provides many courses including Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources to Food Safety to Animal and Plant Biotechnology. The institute teaches agricultural teachers how to prepare their students for success in college and for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.


“Ensuring there is enough safe, affordable and nutritious food for all will require than more students understand agriculture and become future leaders in food production,” said Mark Deterding, Business Director for DuPont Pioneer’s Western Business Unit. “We know that we cannot do this alone and are working with others in agriculture and education to give teachers the best resources to encourage children to understand agriculture and consider careers in the industry.”

While teachers can attend any Institute, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) hosts an Institute each summer. Matt Kreifels, Assistant Professor of Practice with UNL’s Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication Department says, “we expect our teachers to know everything and teach all areas of agriculture, food and natural resources. The reality is they have very minimal resources to equip both themselves and their classrooms to teach this valuable information. The CASE Institute is unique and very beneficial to a teacher. They can easily implement that curriculum right in their classroom.”

Read Your 2016 June Newsletter Online

The printed version of True Blue Nebraska News will arrive in mailboxes soon! Get full details of the 2015-16 I Believe in the Future of Ag campaign, a past State FFA Officer update and find out what a UNL fraternity and sorority did to support the FFA Blue Jackets. Bright Futures. campaign in this issue. Click below to enlarge and read it online.

Dvorak Recognized For Influencing Bassett Community Programs

The Nebraska FFA Foundation presented Mrs. Ann Dvorak with the 2016 Gary Scharf Helping Hand Award at the Nebraska FFA Convention on April 6.

Ann Dvorak is the FFA Advisor for Rock County FFA. Numerous students, fellow teachers, community members, parents, and school officials supported her nomination of this award. Bethany Blackburn, former student, nominated Dvorak. She wrote that Dvorak has stepped up in the community with other members to work together and show commitment for the rural community that is declining in population. Dvorak helped establish the Rock County Growth Inc. and served on the Ranch Expo Board. Dvorak was also instrumental in helping nearby community, Keya Paha School, establish an agriculture education program. In addition, she showed concern for others needs after an FFA members family lost their home to a fire, Dvorak quickly responsed by organizing a food, clothing and furniture drive for the family in need.

Kristine Gale, Director of Economic Development of Bassett, also supported Dvorak’s nomination. She commented how Dvorak serves on the Rock County Ag Society, Bassett Tree Board, and Rock County Expo Board. Gale said, “Mrs. Dvorak’s leadership is important because she is a young professional and serves as a role model for other young professionals to begin taking on leadership responsibilities in our community.” Gale acknowledges what Dvorak has done in the past year. She earned her master’s degree in December, while working full time and having her first baby.

The FFA officer team at Rock County continued to prove why Dvorak was the perfect example of a great FFA Advisor and leader for the community. They wrote about how she started the Back Pack Program at their school. She also works with the Game and Parks Commission to have a pollination garden in the community. They feel that Dvorak has done much more in the school and community than what is expected of her.

The Gary Scharf Helping Hand Award recognizes a Nebraska agriculture teacher or FFA advisor for what he or she has done in helping others, specifically in the school and community, outside of agriculture education and FFA. Ann Dvorak was announced as the award winner during the Nebraska State FFA Convention in Lincoln. She received a plaque and $500 cash award from the Nebraska FFA Foundation.

The annual award is named for Gary Scharf, who was a victim of an Omaha mall shooting in December 2007. Scharf grew up on a family farm outside of Curtis, Nebraska and worked in the agricultural chemical industry. He made a significant contribution to Nebraska’s agricultural and FFA community through his years of service on the Nebraska FFA Foundation Board, including a year as Board President in 2002-2003.


Nebraska Teach Ag Interns Get Hands On Experience

Lacey Jo Peterson (left) and myself, senior agricultural majors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, are just completing the first Teach Ag internships.
Lacey Jo Peterson (left) and myself, senior agricultural majors at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, are just completing the first Teach Ag internships.

By Jessy Eggerling, Nebraska Teach Ag Intern

I’m sure by now, almost everyone has heard about the shortage of agriculture teachers in Nebraska. Last year, Nebraska was selected to be a part of the State Teach Ag Results (STAR) program, which was created to help states with agriculture teacher shortages to address the issues of recruitment and retention within the Ag Ed field.  As part of the STAR program, Nebraska has developed a summer Nebraska Teach Ag Internship, in which Lacey Jo Peterson and myself are the first interns.

When I first heard about the Nebraska Teach Ag Internship, I immediately knew it was something I needed in order to gain more experience in the field of Agricultural Education. The main thing that I want to take away from this internship is learning about all of the resources available to help the current Ag Ed teachers, but also those available to me as a pre-service teacher and student teacher.

Lacey Jo chose to apply for the internship to explore the career of Agricultural Education, network with current Ag Ed teachers and industry members, and learn about experiences available to her future students. Her hope is that she will be able to fill in some gaps in her knowledge of the Ag Ed industry and prepare to be a great teacher.

So far, both of us have attended Chapter Officer Leadership Training (COLT), Nebraska Career Education (NCE) Conference, the CASE Institute, NAAE Region III Conference, and NPower Conference. We are also attending training with the Nebraska FFA Foundation to learn about the programs available to Ag Ed teachers as well as interview donors for the True Blue Nebraska News newsletter. Finishing up the internship will include business and industry visits, shadowing Ag Ed teachers at the Lancaster County Fair and visiting our respective student teaching sites.

It has been a great experience for both of us, and we have really enjoyed networking with the current Ag Ed teachers at the various conferences. We’ve always heard people talk about how Ag Ed teachers are one big family, and we have both really experienced that so far this summer. Every teacher we have interacted with has offered us pieces of advice, as well as any help we may need in the future. Taking part in this internship has instilled in both of us the fact that being an agriculture teacher is what we are meant to do with our lives.