By: Caitlin Powers
The agricultural science degree, formerly known as agriculture education, was the founding degree for the ALEC department. While the degree plan has changed throughout the years, one element of the degree plan has remained; student-teaching.
“It is a tradition that has always been part of the program,” Associate Professor Julie Harlin, Ph.D., who oversees the student-teachers, said.
That tradition continued Monday, January 28 when the ALEC department sent 38 agriculture science students to 25 schools across Texas to serve as student-teachers.
For most seniors, their last semester as a college student is a lighter one, but according to Harlin, not for these students. Their semester will be filled with eight-to-five days plus long nights and weekends.
Students note that though intense, this experience is one they look forward to.
“I believe that the student-teaching semester is the highlight of the ag science degree,” Ashley Hambleton, a senior agricultural education major, who is currently student-teaching, said. “This experience gives you the chance to take what you have learned and apply it in a classroom environment.”
According to Harlin, student-teaching is the required experiential piece of their education. It is an extensive, hands-on process.
“I believe the best way to learn how to do something is to do it yourself,” Hambleton said. “Student-teaching allows you to be placed in an environment that will allow you to learn what it takes to be an agricultural science teacher.”
Prior to the first day on the job as student-teachers, agriculture science students spent two weeks of class out at the Instructional Materials Services facilities on Texas A&M’s Riverside campus doing professional development activities that included guest speakers and livestock clinics. Each student also had to teach a total of four lessons to their peers.
“I hope to gain a lot of knowledge about my future profession including classroom management techniques, how to balance classroom and FFA responsibilities, and how to run a successful program,” said Hambleton.
Hambleton will have an opportunity to test those skills when she makes the transition to becoming a teacher after graduation, and other students will find that opportunities abound as well.
“There is currently a shortage of ag teachers in the nation and state,” Harlin said, “there are lots of opportunities for people who are considering it as career and want to get involved.”
The student-teaching experience prepares students for professions outside of teaching, as well. Harlin said many students, who did not become teachers, have come back to her to tell her how they found the experience useful in their career, especially in sales.
“Where else do you have the opportunity to sell kids on stuff every day,” Harlin said.
At the end of the student-teaching experience, Harlin said she hopes they come away with an appreciation of agricultural science teachers and what they do.
Harlin’s sentiments were echoed by current agriculture science teacher at Katy High School, Edie Boyd, who will be overseeing two student-teachers this spring.
“I would love for them to walk away with a want, love, and desire to teach students about agriculture,” Boyd said, “and have such a burning passion that they would want to ignite it in another student.”
Hambleton said she is most excited about getting to work with the students outside of classroom instruction. A big part of agricultural education is the experiences students have when they get involved in FFA.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to help students grow and develop into leaders and achievers.”