Retention Isn’t a Simple Issue

Being an educator is an extremely taxing yet rewarding experience. Early mornings, long days, and late nights are to be expected. For agricultural teachers across the nation, the mornings come earlier, the days seem longer, and the nights run later. 

Samantha Gaddie, a recent Texas Tech University graduate and agricultural science teacher for Green County Central School District in Kentucky, studied a mixed methods approach to understanding retention of female agriculture educators. 

“With the amount of teachers leaving the education setting, I wanted to figure out why they stay,” Gaddie said when explaining her inspiration for the study topic. 

“With the amount of teachers leaving the education setting, I wanted to figure out why they stay.”

Samantha Gaddie

 In 2019, the Agricultural Teachers Association of Texas found that 42% of agricultural educators are women. The number of female agricultural educators has continued to increase throughout the last decade. 

Agricultural education has been a male dominated field for years, however according to Gaddie’s research, 75% of new agricultural education teachers are female. There is no concrete evidence as to why this shift has begun, but it is speculated a change in curriculum could have caused this curve. Even with this influx in women entering the profession, females are leaving at a rate 2% higher than males. In 2021, 30 agricultural programs nationwide closed due to the lack of qualified teachers. 

“As the profession grows increasingly female, it is important to retain high numbers of this population in order to fill the needed open positions for secondary ag teachers,” Gaddie explained in her dissertation. 

The foremost problem female agriculture teachers are facing is work-life balance. Being an agricultural educator is an extremely taxing profession, particularly during stock show and Career Development Event (CDE) seasons. The long hours make it difficult for females with children and families. There is very little data present on retention rates in women specifically. Gaddie focused her study on the question “What perceptions do late career (beyond 20 years of teaching) female agriculture teachers have about the factors which allowed them to persist in the classroom rather than changing careers?” She also produced a Qualtrics survey asking female agricultural teachers in what areas support was most needed to assist these teachers to remain in their profession. 

The results of Gaddie’s questions gives insight into what female agriculture teachers feel they need to be successful in their careers. All participants agree the need for a supportive family is vital to work-life balance. It is also mentioned that one of their biggest stressors was the number of classes taught and the preparation required to teach them. Experience and having already developed curriculum over the years helped ease the stress of these classes the longer they taught. 

Many of the women participants in the study had considered leaving for another career. 73.5% had felt burnout symptoms strongly enough they considered leaving their job as an educator. Nonetheless, all female participants felt strongly they made an impact on students and their students were driving factors for them to continue to teach. 

The results of the study conclude that the importance of family, administrative and community support are essential to female educator retention. Their work ethic, patience, knowledge, and resilience are a testimony of their character and traits to be passed down to the future generations of agricultural educators.