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Jennifer Richards (right), a member of the ALEC faculty, working in a Tennessee classroom.

Agricultural Education Program Recognized for Outstanding Postsecondary Education

The Herbert College of Agriculture’s Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications Department Wins National Association of Agricultural Educators Award

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A program within the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has been recognized as the nation’s leading educator of high school agriculture teachers.

The Herbert College of Agriculture’s Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications Department (ALEC) received the 2021 National Association of Agricultural Educators Outstanding Postsecondary Agriculture Program during the 2021 NAAE Convention in New Orleans last month. The award is presented to postsecondary programs that emphasize lasting teaching methods, enhance student motivation and exemplify great experiential learning. The award is sponsored by Bayer, and Christopher Stripling, professor and head of the department, accepted the award on behalf of the faculty and college.

ALEC partners with the UT Knoxville College of Education, Health and Human Sciences (CEHHS) and through ALEC students may earn a bachelor of science degree with a concentration in agriculture education. With more than 30,500 students enrolled in more than 900 programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, UT Knoxville serves as the flagship institution of University of Tennessee system. Currently the Knoxville campus has a 17-1 student-to-faculty ratio and their educator preparation programs are ranked as a top institution for teacher preparation.

David Cihak, Associate Dean of Professional Licensure and Director of the David T. Bailey Graduate School of Education at CEHHS, says the ALEC partnership is essential to prepare educators to address the challenges of the 2020’s and beyond, “This distinguished acknowledgement signifies the leadership and commitment of the agricultural education faculty, staff and students not to be content with the status quo; but rather, extend the educational horizons of teachers who are equipped to meet the expectations of 21st-century teaching and learning,” said Cihak.

Stripling says ALEC is an evolving, dynamic community composed of individuals dedicated to teaching, learning, leading and self-reflecting for continuous improvement. The UT Knoxville teacher preparation program focuses on career-focused learning experiences in secondary classrooms, and ALEC emphasizes experiences that prepare candidates to teach the nation’s youth about one of the pillars of the national economy – agriculture. Each semester during student teaching, candidates are required to submit instructional materials and assessments along with a portfolio and journal observations of other teachers.

Leadership development is infused into every facet of the experience and is a key component of the ALEC academic program. Teacher candidates’ successes include organization and club officers in groups such as Collegiate 4-H and FFA (Future Farmers of America), Sigma Alpha, Young Farmers and Ranchers, Student Government, National 4-H and National FFA.

UT Knoxville is proud of the many partnerships created over the years to ensure success in their agriculture education program. Currently the program sustains partnerships with 73 school districts throughout Tennessee within multiple community environments. This network of stakeholders collaborates to establish and provide high-quality, purposeful and clinical experiences for all teachers educated at UT Knoxville.

NAAE is the professional organization for agricultural educators with more than 8,000 members nationwide. It provides members with professional networking and development opportunities, professional liability coverage, and extensive awards and recognition programs. The mission of NAAE is “professionals providing agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy and service.”

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.