Southeast Student Selected to Serve as National Teach Ag Ambassador

Rylyn SmallCAPE GIRARDEAU, Missouri, April 24, 2015 – Southeast Missouri State University sophomore Rylyn Small of East Prairie, Missouri, has been named a 2015-2016 National Teach Ag Ambassador and will participate in the 2015 National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Convention Oct. 28-30 in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Teach Ag Ambassador program is a component of the National Teach Ag Campaign, an initiative to raise awareness of the need for more agriculture teachers and celebrate the contributions made by current agriculture teachers.

It is expected that more than 700 agriculture teachers will retire in the next three years, and with new programs opening every year, the demand for high-quality agriculture teachers is real. The Teach Ag Ambassador Program provides these future agriculture teachers the opportunity to share their passion for teaching agriculture, build their professional network, and develop valuable communication and leadership skills – all valuable assets of high-quality agriculture teachers.

Small, an agriculture education major at Southeast Missouri State University-Sikeston, says he aspires to be a high school agriculture teacher and give back for the quality agriculture education he received while in high school. Unfortunately, he said, agriculture educators are declining both nationwide and across Missouri.

“I want to use this experience to recruit students to become ag educators in Missouri and why not Southeast Missouri State University?” Small said. “I am really excited to go to the national convention,” where, he says, 60,000 students are expected to be on hand.

Small, who trains quarter horses and owns his own rodeo company, is currently a Missouri Teach Ag Ambassador after serving last year as vice president of Missouri FFA.

“Rylyn is a former state FFA officer who is very articulate and has complete command of providing information to an audience,” said Dr. Mike Aide, chair of the Department of Agriculture at Southeast. “He will be a tremendous agriculture educator in a local high school.”

Small will be among 11 other students representing universities such as Louisiana State University, University of Missouri, University of New Hampshire, University of Arizona, West Virginia University, University of Georgia, University of Connecticut, University of Nebraska –Lincoln, The Pennsylvania State University and Purdue University.

During the 2015 National FFA Convention, Small will work with high school students exploring the opportunities for students to pursue careers as secondary education agriculture teachers as well as inform them why they should choose Southeast for their agriculture education.

“As the National Teach Ag Campaign continues its focus on effective and sustainable recruitment and retention strategies, the ambassador program allows preservice agriculture teachers the opportunity to network with current agriculture teachers and share their passion for agricultural education with high school students,” said Ellen Thompson, National Teach Ag Campaign Coordinator. “Their efforts will help us recruit high-quality teachers into the profession, in order to address the national shortage of agriculture teachers.”

In addition, the Teach Ag ambassadors will take their knowledge and skills gained at the National FFA Convention back to their college campuses and communities to spread the Teach Ag message even further. They will work alongside state leaders in agricultural education to implement sustainable and effective teacher recruitment strategies. They will use their connections to local schools and communities to raise awareness for the need for agriculture teachers and promote agricultural education as a major and career.

The National Teach Ag Campaign is an initiative of the National Council for Agricultural Education led by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Funded by the CHS Foundation, DuPont Pioneer, and Growth Energy as a special project of the National FFA Foundation, the campaign is designed to raise an awareness of the career opportunities in agricultural education, encourage others to consider a career as an agriculture teacher and celebrate the positive contributions that agriculture teachers make in their schools and communities. For more information about the National Teach Ag Campaign, visit http://www.naae.org/teachag.