They Make a Difference
Ag Teachers share passion for the industry — and their students
By Alison Bos-Lovins
Looking for a career in agriculture where you can make a difference in the lives of others? As the industry faces a national shortage of agricultural educators, those in the field share why they teach ag and why they want to see students succeed.
Agricultural education teachers share a common passion — to teach students about the importance of agriculture and see their students succeed.
Even though some instructors have years of experience and others are just starting their careers, agricultural educators understand their importance. They embrace the reality of a nationwide shortage of agricultural educators and know that more people need to consider agricultural education as a career.
Jarred Sayre, agricultural education instructor at Milan High School, has been teaching for 22 years. Sayre wants to instill hard work, dedication, and a passion for agriculture in his students.
“Agriculture education is so important because as a society we are growing further away from the farm,” Sayre said. “We live in a society that does not understand where our food comes from, the steps it takes to get it to the store, and the hard work put in by all facets of agriculture.”
Seeing his students succeed is one of the most rewarding aspects of Sayre’s job.
Another veteran teacher, Jason Dieckhoff, has been teaching at the Cass Career Center in Harrisonville for 15 years. He also hopes to instill the importance of agriculture in his students and teach skills needed in today’s workforce. Dieckhoff helps develop youth into productive and active participants in the future of the industry by implementing a well-balanced program for students to receive the full agricultural education experience.
“We need agriculture education so the future in our industry not only has the necessary set of skills and knowledge but also has the same set of core beliefs — a faith in the future of agriculture born not of words but of deeds,” he said.
Despite the pleasure both Sayre and Dieckhoff find in working with students, being an agricultural education instructor often is challenging. According to Sayre, one the biggest hurdles of his job is working with students who are not as motivated by success. Dieckhoff has found that the most challenging part of his job is adapting his teaching methods to fit interests of students today.
“Young teachers can relate better to high school students and are used to the technology and social media current students are using, “Dieckhoff said.
Emily Reed, an agriculture education instructor at Saline County Career Center, and Rylyn Small, who teaches agriculture at East Prairie High School, are early in their agricultural education careers. Their advisors and their FFA experiences helped aid in their decision to become agriculture teachers.
“My goal as a teacher is to allow all students to feel and find their place in the agriculture classroom,” Small said. “I have a passion for student success.”
Reed and Small know agriculture education is important and needed. They hope to instill a passion for agriculture and teach students how to be informed.
“With the world population continuing to climb, it is very important to have people who are ready to educate those who may not understand agricultural topics,” Reed explained.
Despite the importance of agricultural education, the nationwide shortage has teachers concerned. Dieckhoff, Sayre, Small, and Reed know the extensive hours, demands, stress, and salary compared to other agricultural jobs are factors that likely affect the shortage.
“We put in several hours above and beyond what is required of us,” Sayre stated.
Dieckhoff said, “To teach today, you truly have to possess a passion for youth. If you do not, you will not last long or be very happy.”
According to Reed, she knows how some teachers can suffer from burnout. Plus, there are more teachers retiring than young professionals graduating with degrees to fill positions.
Small encourages FFA members to consider a career in the field as he said it is one of the most rewarding jobs to have. Plus, he knows agricultural education is a necessity.
“We need FFA members that have a passion for the industry, FFA and students,” Small explained. “Be prepared to stress, have late nights and early mornings and sometimes no sleep. But also be prepared to impact students and watch students grow into strong leaders in the agriculture industry.”