BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — As Illinois continues to face an agricultural education teacher shortage, one group is tackling the issue through a grant program for beginning ag teachers.

This month, four new ag teachers in Illinois were selected to receive recognition as recipients of this teacher grant: Cody Carman, Neoga High School, Neoga; Abby Jacobs, Peotone High School, Peotone; Caseelynn Johnston, Bureau Valley High School, Manlius; and Kelley Koester, Forreston High School, Forreston.

Each teacher was selected based on excellent efforts in the classroom, as well as strong short- and long-term personal and program goals.

Illinois Farm Bureau, through its charitable arm, the IAA Foundation, created the Illinois Agricultural Education Teacher Grant Program.

Illinois Farm Bureau provided seed money to begin the program, and the IAA Foundation will administer the program, while actively seeking more funding partners to continue adding new groups of first year teachers into the grant program. All told, the program hopes to fund 32 teachers over a 12-year timeframe.

Over the last six years, the state of Illinois has continued to see a severe shortage of agriculture teachers. Of the 135 student teachers graduating from the four major universities, only 103 went on to pursue a career in the classroom.

Additionally, over that same period, Illinois agricultural education lost an average of 30 teachers each year, not including retirements.

“This program addresses a real issue in a real-time manner. Our hope is that these funds will not only motivate a great teacher to stay in the profession, but also help them feel supported by the ag community as a whole,” said Susan Moore, IAA Foundation director. “This is one small part, but will hopefully inspire others to think about how they can better support their local ag teachers.”

Illinois agricultural education teachers completing their first year in the classroom are eligible to apply for this grant. The amount of the grant payment will increase over the course of the teacher’s first five years in the classroom, up to $10,000 total in personal income, if they remain active as an agricultural education teacher in the state of Illinois.

More program information can be found online at www.iaafoundation.org under “What We Support.”

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