Putting emphasis on agriculture educators

"Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." That's the old quotation that somehow has made its way into our culture and has insulted many a teacher over the years. When it comes to agricultural education, however, enthusiasts are hoping that those who can will teach others who want to do.

Quotations aside, teaching is a respectable profession that has become increasingly difficult. America relies on quality educators to keep our nation exceptional. Every doctor, lawyer and entrepreneur acquired essential skills from teachers and their rely on those skills in their professions. We simply cannot do without teachers.

Certain fields have a greater need of certain teachers in certain parts of the country. Missouri is experiencing this with agriculture. Southeast Missouri State University is doing its part to promote agricultural education through its Teach Ag Ambassador program, a part of the National Teach Ag Campaign. Its purpose is to shine a spotlight on agricultural education as a profession and to support agricultural educators.

And there certainly is a need. Based on a recent study, the Southeast Missourian reported that "there is an average 35,400 new graduates with a bachelor's degree or higher in agriculture-related fields -- 22,500 short of the jobs available annually." The study added that the employment opportunities are wide-ranging: management, business, food and biometrics production, government services, and yes, education, among others.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a news release, "Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world's most pressing challenges." In stressing the "tremendous demand" for people with a degree centered in agriculture, he added, "These jobs will become more important as we continue to develop solutions to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050." Companies such as John Deere and DuPont Pioneer are waiting to hire these graduates. With so many open doors, we need enough teachers to prepare students to walk through them. It would be a shame for students to miss out because of a shortage of teachers to prepare them.

Mike Aide, chairman of the Department of Agriculture at Southeast, said student interest has skyrocketed. But a lack of educators makes it difficult to get students into the field and meet the growing demand.

The question of how to encourage people to become teachers is not a new one. Whether we need to figure out a way to pay teachers more or a method to garner more respect for the profession, the challenge remains, and as it pertains to agriculture, it's obviously a worthy one.

So to tweak that old quotation slightly, "When those who can, teach, those who want to, can." And we're all the better for it.