Teach Ag Campaign Recognizes Three Agricultural Educators With Outstanding Contribution Award
The National Teach Ag Campaign, in cooperation with the National FFA Organization, recently recognized three agricultural educators for their impact on the profession of agricultural education at the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) conference in Atlanta.
(l-r) Dr. Alvin Larke, Jr., Dr. Antoine Alston & Dr. Dexter Wakefield
Dr. Alvin Larke, Jr, Dr. Antoine Alston and Dr. Dexter Wakefield have spent their careers serving the agricultural education profession. They have had tremendous influence in every area, from recruiting new agricultural education professionals, teaching the craft, and mentoring those already in the profession.
Dr. Larke is a professor in the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications department at Texas A&M where he focuses on teacher education, youth mentoring, diversity, and the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in agriculture.
“I want to impact the next generation of learners,” said Dr. Larke. He cites the influence his agriculture teachers had on him, and says he sees every new class of potential agricultural educators as impacting the next generation of learners – a continuous cycle.
Dr. Alston is professor and interim associate dean, Academic Studies, in the school of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at North Carolina A&T State University. His areas of concentration include courses related to instructional technology, teaching methods, and instructional methodology.
"The two biggest issues facing new agriculture teachers of today is the increased national emphasis on STEM and the increasing diversity of our student populations," said Dr. Alston. "Agriculture teacher preparation programs must include subjects such as biotechnology (genetics, etc.) within the technical core of the degree program. More curriculum integration must be emphasized and practiced if agricultural education is going to remain relevant."
"Agricultural education must begin by encouraging individuals who would not normally take agriculture courses to enroll....This curricula must be culturally inclusive, STEM-based, and intellectually engaging."
Dr. Wakefield is an associate professor in the department of Plant, Soil Science and Agricultural Systems at Southern Illinois University. His primary responsibilities are academic advising and teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in teacher preparation.
“We need to be marketing in those schools that aren’t ag based,” he said. “There should be some kind of incentive for those already in the profession who are bringing in diverse students.”
He also pointed out that it’s becoming less economically viable for students to become agricultural educators. “Our students have to pay nearly $1,000 just to be certified,” he said. In addition, he continued, there are multiple other tests and fees and hurdles to enter the profession that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
“Many of our students don’t come from that farm background now,” he said. “It’s going to have to be incentive-based for them to get into the profession.”
"The guidance of these men will help move agricultural education to where it needs to be in the next decade and beyond,” said Ellen Thompson, National Teach Ag Campaign Coordinator. "They understand the needs of today's learners and teachers, and have the vision to help us all achieve growth in agricultural education."
“These men are great leaders and educators who have been planting the seeds for global success for generations. They have invested in education and their reach stretches around the world,” said Erica Flores, National FFA Organization Diversity and Inclusion coordinator.
The Outstanding Contribution award is designed to highlight individuals who have had a tremendous impact on the agricultural education profession through service, mentorship, and leadership.
“Each year we want to recognize individuals who are doing good work in agricultural education, because without their influence, there would be no next generation of agriculture teachers,” said Thompson.
Keep up with news from the Teach Ag Campaign at www.naae.org/teachag/news.