Local school feels impact of national agriculture teacher shortage

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU)- Area school districts continue to struggle to fill open teaching positions, especially in agriculture programs.

According to the National Association of Agriculture Educators, 30 states are seeing this shortage. Now agriculture programs may not be in every school, but Ag teachers say whether you're from an urban community or rural one, agriculture affects you every day from understanding food labels to working on a farm.

That's why the Chippewa Falls Area School District says amidst the Ag teacher shortage, they strive to provide these opportunities for students.

Agriscience Instructor Jeanna James has been teaching students in Wisconsin now for 9 years.

“We are teachers because we care about students, we want to see them succeed,” James said.

But being an Ag teacher in today's world can be a bit of a heavy load.

“I’m teaching four different classes this semester and then next semester, I change and then I’m teaching four different classes next semester,” James added.

A nationwide agriculture teacher shortage has school districts struggling to fill qualified ag-teaching positions, even in Chippewa Falls.

“We did have a part-time position posted and we didn't have any applicants,” said Michelle Golden, the Executive Director of Human Resources and Public Relations for the Chippewa Falls School District.

To fill these vacancies, options the district has looked into are interns from surrounding universities.

Interns like Loghan Hallet from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, who teaches the 6th grade agriculture courses at Chippewa Falls Middle School and student teaches with James in the high school.

“It does give me a little bit more job security or availability, and I can make more ambitious plans about where I want to be and where I want to teach and explore,” Hallet said.

“We would prefer to hire a person who has experience in agriculture, but we legally can do it, and they do have a strong background in agriculture and that helps with our needs,” Golden added.

Which is one of the reasons James, a passionate agriculture teacher, is trying to help more students interested in the field.

“Just knowing those basic things that would go along with that would go a long way for our entire society,” James added.

Next Thursday, September 22nd is National Teach Ag Day, which instructors like James says is another tool to try and get more kids interested in the field.

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