Today is National Teach Ag Day

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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.

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

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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.

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“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.”

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.

 

Teachers Take Time To Learn This Summer

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Pre-service and current agriculture teachers from Nebraska and other states attending CASE Institute at UNL in July.

Teachers may have a little break during the summer, but most of Nebraska’s agriculture teachers chose to fill their summer months with professional development opportunities.

In its fourth year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education Institute (CASE) was filled with teachers eager to become certified instructors in the Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources course. Teachers attending the CASE Institute are provided with the tools necessary to take the curriculum for the Introduction class and the knowledge and hands-on experience to implement it right into their classroom. CASE Institutes occur at sites across the US in the summer and some of Nebraska’s teachers attended other Institutes to become certified in Animal Systems and Principals of Agricultural Science – Plant. In order to become certified in a CASE curriculum, a teacher must participate in an 80-hour Institute.

New this year, the Tri-State Delta Conference was a five-day experience for agriculture teachers that focuses on becoming a better teacher and leader for students. Participants leave as better teachers, better at articulating value of their program to stakeholders and an understanding of building a sustainable and innovative agricultural education program.  The conference was held July 7-11 in Curtis and was targeted for teachers in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. It was highlighted on KNOP and click here to see the full report.

These are only two unique opportunities for Nebraska’s agriculture teachers. If you look at the professional development list for teachers, there are twelve different options for teachers! When we look at the impact a teacher can have on Nebraska’s agricultural education, I think it’s easy to see how important this is for our teachers. I hope you see the importance in your local communities of giving agriculture teachers the tools they need to be successful teachers and leaders in our schools and communities, so they can make a lasting impact on students.

Mark Your Calendars for Give to Lincoln Day on May 28

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Thursday, May 28 marks Lincoln’s annual Give to Lincoln Day.

Give to Lincoln Day is your chance to make a real impact in Lincoln, Nebraska by supporting Lincoln’s non-profit organizations. Every donation made to the Nebraska FFA Foundation on May 28 helps more than almost any other day. The Lincoln Community Foundation and their partners will provide a challenge match fund of $300,000 this year. At the end of the day, the Nebraska FFA Foundation will receive a proportional share of this fund based on the percentage the total dollars raised. Your generous donations help us receive more and more of that challenge match pool!

Your support on Give to Lincoln Day is an investment in Nebraska’s agricultural education and FFA programs. All monies received support the Nebraska FFA Foundation’s four strategy areas related to the mission:

  1. Growing FFA in more communities
  2. Getting students plugged in to the ag industry
  3. Supporting agriculture teachers
  4. Supporting statewide leadership capacity

New this year: You can donate now and your donation will automatically be applied to the Give to Lincoln Day total. Your donation made between May 1 and midnight on May 28, will be applied to the Give to Lincoln Day total for the Nebraska FFA Foundation. Click here or on the banner above to give now.

Badertscher Family Establishes Endowment for Nebraska FFA

Braden Badertscher posed for senior pictures in front of the tractor he restored for his Supervised Agricultural Experience.
Braden Badertscher posed for senior pictures in front of the tractor he restored for his Supervised Agricultural Experience.

Joining FFA was one of the best things that happened to Braden Badertscher. “He always had a love for agriculture,” according to his parents Tony and Jane Badertscher. “His first toys were John Deere tractors and his favorite place to be was at the farm.”

Tony and Jane say that FFA taught him confidence, public speaking and leadership skills. He even restored an old John Deere tractor for his Supervised Agriculture Education project. “How ironic that the little toys he enjoyed playing with would eventually earn him a bronze award in Ag Mechanics Repair and Maintenance – Placement at National FFA Convention.”

Not only did FFA help Braden grow in all of these ways, but it brought normalcy to his life when he was diagnosed with cancer. Jane says FFA helped give him something positive to focus on instead of all the bad that was happening. “The Holdrege FFA Chapter and advisor became part of Braden’s ‘family’ and was a huge support system throughout this illness.

After Braden passed away, Tony and Jane realized just how much of an impact FFA had on him. They also learned how much of an impact Braden had on other FFA members and decided to give back to Nebraska FFA. Jane says, “We can only hope that this small gift will help others to discover their potential, and that Braden’s memory will live on through their involvement in FFA.”

The Braden Badertscher “Power Your Potential” Memorial Endowment supports a proficiency award recognizing excellence in a student’s Supervised Agricultural Experience in the Power, Structure and Technical Systems Pathway and a $1,000 cash award for that student. This endowment is the first of its kind in endowing a proficiency award through the Nebraska FFA Foundation.