Ag-ed teacher shortage hits home


Karen Binder, AgriNews Publications (IL)

Apr 9, 2019


VIENNA, Ill. — It’s a rare occasion when ag students have three levels of educators in their classroom at the same time.


That recently happened to agriculture education teacher Jason West’s students at Vienna High School when Illinois ag ed chief Dean Dittmar checked up on Southern Illinois University Carbondale student teacher Vanessa Williams.


In one of his roles with the Illinois State Board of Education Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education until next August, Dittmar works with ag ed student teachers within his southern Illinois region as well as help them land ag teacher jobs in Illinois.


Yet, Dittmar also recently was promoted into a new position as the top coordinator of the state’s entire FCAE program.


While his regional position will be filled when school starts next fall, Dittmar is doing both jobs for now, and that included working with Williams and West. Here are their views on the state of ag education.


Dean Dittmar

FCAE Coordinator


Dittmar’s challenge these days is double edged – there’s a shortage of teachers in general in Illinois and especially for ag education teachers.


“The current state of ag education would be we need more young professions coming from not only family farms but also outside the family farm,” Dittmar said.


Through FCAE, Illinois is divided into five regions to help this situation. The work starts with such programs as Illinois Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom and FFA and continues through placement of not only new ag education teachers but also beginning professionals into all agricultural fields.


While agriculture has never enjoyed a broader definition than it does today, Dittmar agreed that agriculture is a wide, open world of opportunity but there simply aren’t enough ag graduates to fill the jobs, including in ag ed.


“We need more in the pipeline,” he said, adding that the latest published USDA information estimated a 39% shortage of ag graduates.


He’s hopeful that the updated report due in 2020 will see that number drop to 25%-30%.


He sees four priorities going into his position as the state FCAE coordinator: