FFA members see careers in teaching
FARGO, N.D. -- North Dakota is in need of teachers, and FFA is a breeding ground for young people who might answer the call. A prime example is Mitchell Becker of Minot, N.D., state president of the organization for the past year and through the ...
FARGO, N.D. -- North Dakota is in need of teachers, and FFA is a breeding ground for young people who might answer the call.
A prime example is Mitchell Becker of Minot, N.D., state president of the organization for the past year and through the 79th North Dakota FFA Association State Convention June 2 to 6 at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
The event drew some 1,420 people. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer had to bow out because he was sent to Rome for the Food and Agriculture Organization's conference on world food security. He was replaced by Mark Rey, USDA undersecretary for natural resources and the environment.
Becker says that although North Dakota is a rural state, the depth of agricultural knowledge isn't as great as he'd like to see it among the state's youth.
"I'd really like to stay in North Dakota," Becker says. "It's not just that it's rural, but people get along here, and there's a small community type of feel to it."
Becker, 19, is the oldest of three brothers and just completed his freshman year at NDSU. He grew up on a 6-acre ranch, outside of Minot, N.D. His father, a native of Carrington, N.D., and his mother, from Des Lacs, N.D., were both from farms The family raises a few crossbred cattle and his father works for Hawkeye Breeders of Iowa.
Becker says he's one of only about 20 agricultural education majors at NDSU, one of the nation's land grant colleges whose focus started with agriculture. Only one ag education major graduated this past year, and jobs seem plentiful.
North Dakota has five openings for ag educators, according to Doug Vannurden, assistant state supervisor for the state association, recently conducted a study of budgets for the state's 85 secondary ag education instructors.
The average salary, including extended contracts and FFA pay, was $45,392. The average extended contract days was for 37 days, and the average extended contract salary was $7,894. Average pay for FFA duties was $2,675.
Of the state's 85 ag teachers, 31 percent had 11½- to 12-month contracts; 25 percent had 11- to 11½-month contracts; 35 percent had 10- to 10½-month contracts; and 10 percent had contracts of less than 10 months.
The average beginning salary was $31,731 in the 2007 to 2008 school year.
Of 21 teachers with less than five years teaching, the average salary was $33,895, including extended contracts and FFA pay.
Vannurden says the United States has about 7,400 secondary education ag education programs, and there is a national goal for increasing that to 10,000. He says it is ironic that cities like Fargo are so dependent upon agriculture but don't have an agriculture program in the high schools.
Becker says he started in agriculture in ninth grade at his mother's insistence to get some "hands-on learning" and quickly grew fond of the program. His teacher, Tracey Hartwig, started him in FFA creed competitions and soon he became a chapter officer.
"I'd volunteer to help teach kids about ag and FFA in all of the classes," he says.
He first thought about pursuing a state officer post four years ago. The job has meant a year of intensive training and activity, helping to organize FFA exhibits and events at the state fair and the North Dakota Winter Show, as well as the state convention, and speaking at district events.
"I really thoroughly enjoyed helping friends and other students in the FFA," Becker says.
Of course not all FFA's stars are heading into agricultural education.
Craig Goettle, a senior this fall at Kemare (N.D.) High School, says he's loved his FFA experience. The youngest of seven children, Goettle started with the organization when he was in the eighth grade. The fourth-oldest brother had started in FFA, and his only sister, Kay, "nagged on me" to get involved, he says joking.
"I started with crops judging and I was in the 'quiz,' and that was about it," he says. "Then in ninth grade, I started ag mechanics and I've been doing that up to now."
But Goettle's real talent is musical talent. He says he'd probably like pursuing engineering, like two of his brothers did, but Goettle's real dream is to become a choral director, so he's thinking of college at Mary College in Bismarck, N.D., or Dickinson (N.D.) State University.