For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ISBE working to grow future agriculture teachers

Partnering with university and community colleges to recruit and support future teachers

SPRINGFIELD - The Illinois State Board of Education announced today nearly $350,000 in grant money has been awarded to several universities and community colleges to help recruit and retain future high school agriculture teachers.

"Agriculture is the backbone of industry in Illinois. Having qualified instructors specialize in this field is essential to our standing in the world marketplace," said Christopher A. Koch, State Superintendent of Education. "The expertise agriculture teachers have in math and science helps students understand the applications of these core content areas. These grants will help create a pathway to becoming an agricultural teacher so that programs can grow throughout the state."

The "Growing Agriculture Science Teachers" incentive grants can help community colleges and universities recruit agriculture science teacher candidates, enrich their preparation and offer professional development during their first five years of service.  Plans for the grants include collaboration between high schools and Illinois universities and community colleges where students can gain experiences through paid internships or other career-related activities to become agriculture science teachers.

Since 1992, the number of available positions for agriculture teachers has exceeded the number of graduates, according to the Illinois Leadership Council for Agricultural Education (ILCAE). More than 60 openings for agriculture teachers in both rural and urban settings in Illinois were available in 2007-08 with only 19 college graduates to fill the spots, according to the Council.

"This grant presents the agricultural education community with a great opportunity," said Mike Massie, chair of the ILCAE. "The grant will fund activities that promote recruitment, training and retention of agricultural science teachers in rural and urban areas, and will be a vital component to growing agriculture programs in Illinois schools at all education levels."

High school students considering a career in agricultural education should visit the new Web site, "Inspiring Minds to Grow," at

Grants of up to $50,000 under the "Growing Agriculture Science Teachers" will be distributed to the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Western Illinois University and Southern Illinois University as well as Black Hawk College in Kewanee, Land Lake College in Mattoon and Joliet Junior College.