Two from College of Ag Sciences named National Teach Ag Ambassadors

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Two students in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have been selected as National Teach Ag Ambassadors for 2013.

The students, Agricultural and Extension Education majors Meagan Slates and Jillian Gordon, were chosen by the National Association of Agricultural Educators to represent the profession of agricultural education and encourage others to consider careers in the field.

Penn State is the only school to have two students selected in two consecutive years.

Both Slates and Gordon will attend the 2013 National FFA Convention career show this fall in Louisville, Ky. At the convention, the ambassadors will run an interactive Teach Ag booth where they will promote and raise awareness of agricultural education.

"Everyone should care about agriculture because everyone likes to eat," said Gordon, a junior from Birdsboro.

In addition to staffing a booth, ambassadors are also responsible for creating an agriculture-based lesson plan that they will deliver to a Louisville-area middle school classroom.

"We need more agriculture teachers so we can have more students going into agricultural careers," said Slates, a senior from Hickory.

There are many agricultural teaching positions open across the country, but not enough teachers to fill those spots, added Gordon. "This is causing agriculture programs in schools to close," she said.

For Slates and Gordon, the classroom aspect of the convention is both highly anticipated and personal.

"Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and then I fell in love with agriculture," Slates explained. "I never would have been introduced to it if it wasn't for my high school agriculture classes and teacher, and now it's a huge part of my life."

An agriculture teacher can be a teacher, friend, guidance counselor and parent all wrapped into one, Gordon noted. "They truly have the opportunity to make an impact on students," she said.  "It is so sad to think that there are open positions for people who are qualified but choose not to teach and make a difference."

This is Gordon's second year as a Teach Ag Ambassador. "I want to take advantage of all the opportunities this campaign has to offer and really reach out to students this second year," she said.

As a first-time ambassador, Slates also looks forward to promoting her field. "This is a chance to get out of Pennsylvania and talk to students all over the United States about ag education," she said. "To be a part of this national campaign is a great opportunity."

Daniel Foster, assistant professor and student teacher coordinator in Penn State's Agricultural and Extension Education program, pointed out that there is "literally a crisis of not enough school-based agricultural educators." He noted that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack both publicly have discussed the problem.

There are amazing jobs and opportunities available for students to engage as positive agents of change in communities across the nation delivering applied STEM -- or science, technology, engineering and math -- instructional content, he explained.

"Our students are prepared to be great teacher-leaders in their communities delivering secondary agricultural education programs," he added. "Jill and Meagan make me proud to embrace the opportunity of letting others know about this awesome career opportunity in agricultural education.

"If you want to have fun, if you like working with different subjects all day, and love being a part of a community, then agricultural education is the major and profession for you."

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Last Updated July 23, 2013