FHSU adds 2 new teacher education programs: agriculture, early childhood with special ed

Teachers in two areas, agriculture and early childhood with special education credentials, can now be trained at Fort Hays State University.

This year, the Kansas State Board of Education approved the two programs at FHSU. The agriculture program makes FHSU the only Kansas institution other than Kansas State University allowed to prepare teachers of agriculture for grades six through high school. In the Early Childhood Unified program, teachers are trained for birth through grade three with training for special education credentials included in the course of study.

For secondary school agriculture teachers, the state of Kansas has until now reserved that function for Kansas State, but a single program in the state has been unable to keep up with demand, said Dr. John Greathouse, chair of the Department of Agriculture at FHSU. He said a similar shortage of agriculture teachers is evident in Nebraska and Colorado.

Vernon Schweer, an agriculture education consultant with the Kansas Department of Education, asked FHSU if it had an interest in expanding its agricultural program offerings to include an agricultural education component. The answer was "yes," said Greathouse.

"This program is the result of a collaborative effort among programs here at the university," said Greathouse. "A combination of coursework from Department of Agriculture, the Department of Technology Studies, and the College of Education and Technology should provide a strong educational foundation that will be of tremendous value to our students who have the desire to pursue an agriculture teaching career."

"The university already has a strong tradition of preparing teachers in a variety of disciplines, so the addition of this program to help meet the need for new teachers of agriculture is a natural fit," he said.

Students who participate will receive a bachelor of science degree with a dual-major in agriculture and secondary education.

Mick Glaze, instructor of agriculture business at FHSU, will be the primary advisor to agricultural education students. The curriculum for the program consists of 136 credit hours, 55 of which are general education courses. Included in the curriculum are two new specialty courses: AGRI 277, Early Field Experience in Agriculture, and AGRI 460, Teaching Agriculture Education.
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AGRI 277 will mainly be an observation class to introduce students to the teaching field. AGRI 460 is a methods class that introduces students to different teaching methods and exposes them to successful instructional techniques that can be incorporated into the high school classroom.

For more information on the agriculture teaching program, contact Glaze at (785) 628-5853.

For the Early Childhood Unified (ECU) program, the primary differences from the TEAM (Together Everyone Accomplishes More) K-6 program are the addition of the birth to age 4 program and including the special education component. The ECU program is also available totally online through FHSU's Virtual College.

Elementary school teachers graduating from FHSU's TEAM program are trained to teach all subjects to all students -- math, reading, science and social science, said Dr. Germaine Taggart, interim chair of the Department of Teacher Education. They need special professional training to be licensed to teach the age range of birth through age 4 and for special needs children.

Methods courses -- how to teach individual subjects -- will be linked to three 40-hour internships for the early childhood program. In the 120 total hours of internships, said Taggart, the prospective teachers "work with young children, parents, mentoring teachers and schools." The internships involve working in three teaching areas: birth to age 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, and kindergarten through third grade.

Online, the same major is available in a different instructional format (Blackboard), and internships are done in or near students' hometowns. Supervision is performed through interactive Internet technology, which allows supervisors to observe students live in their internship classrooms.

"What is unique to FHSU's program is that it is online," said Taggart.

For more information on the Early Childhood Unified program, contact Taggart at gtaggart@fhsu.edu.

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