SD Ag education and FFA history: SDSU agricultural teacher education

Clark W. Hanson and Lon Moeller
South Dakota State University
FFA News

Authors’ Note: To commemorate the passage of the Smith Hughes Act of 1917, Professor Clark Hanson has written a historical summary of events that occurred in the South Dakota Agricultural Education program. Over a period of time, a series of articles will share how the South Dakota program originated and developed the past 100 years. Lon Moeller, professor of agricultural education, 1981 to 2010, is a co-author for this article.

The Smith-Hughes Act required participating states to create a state board of education for the purpose of administrating the Act. On Jan. 29, 1918, the board selected Professor E.D. Stivers to serve as director of agriculture at South Dakota State College, prepare a curriculum and determine if schools had interest in participating.

The Act contained three funding components supporting schools, supervision and teacher education. This was the first federal aid to state education. 

The teacher education programs at South Dakota State University are extensive and fulfill most needs of public education. To assist in assurance that such programs are based on best practice, SDSU maintained membership in the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. 

The agricultural education teacher education curriculum adhered to these standards. The current organization holding such certification power is known as the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation.

 At SDSU, the agricultural education major is a student in the College of Agriculture, while the teacher education staff are members of the College of Education and Human Sciences. The teacher education staff serve two areas: academic advisors for College of Agriculture and regular staff in the College of Education. The staff serve on the scholarship and curriculum committees for agriculture and full-blown staff members in education.

Since 1970, two professors have staffed agricultural education with an agricultural engineering staff member teaching a two-credit teaching agricultural mechanics class. The full-time equivalence of the ag ed staff varied from time to time, depending on the frequency of the student teaching block.

Over the years, the FTE would range from one-half to three-fourths FTE devoted to agricultural education. Two classes for all perspective teachers were frequently taught by ag ed staff; computers and human relations. Mixed in this teaching load, Professor Lon Moeller was frequently assigned the task of acting or fully responsible for the teaching and learning department, which consisted of a large staff.

Jim Ludens, adult farm business management instructor; Rich Hetland, Lake Area Tech.; and Clark Hanson started the South Dakota Farm & Agribusiness Career and

Development Event (CDE) in the mid 1970s.

Moeller has worked with the South Dakota Farm & Agribusiness Management CDE as the event superintendent since 1982. This involves creating, administering and scoring the written exam. Ag ed majors assist with the event by proctoring the exam and scoring the answers.

In 2017, South Dakota piloted the use of a new electronic scoring sheet where multiple choice and true-false questions are answered on a scan sheet. This new form was adopted by the National FFA at the convention in the fall of 2017. The computational answers are still hand scored at both the state and national levels. Professors Lon and Mary Moeller also sponsor the South Dakota State Agricultural Education Proficiency Award and assist with the selection of the award winners.

Since the 1960s, SDSU Agricultural Education majors have attended the National FFA Convention. In the mid-1970s, due to a contact with Bob Seefeldt (former agricultural education instructor at Ivanhoe, Minnesota), a member of the national FFA staff, suggested that the SDSU students could assist in assuming the responsibilities of registering all Career Development Event teams.

Starting in 1981, Lon transported the South Dakota National FFA Band and Chorus members to the convention in Kansas City. The students needed to arrive on the Saturday before the convention began. The students returned following the last session of the convention.

When the convention moved to Louisville and Indianapolis, the band and chorus students flew to the convention site. Following Lon's retirement in 2010, there were several years that the student teachers did not go to the convention. The student teachers again returned to attending the convention when Professor Troy White was hired as an agricultural education faculty member.

The main duties during the 1980s were to assist the National FFA staff with the taking of photos of the state judging teams. This involved lining up the team members for the photographers and insuring that paperwork was completed for the news releases. In the 1990s, the SDSU student teachers were given full responsibility for organizing the team pictures and National FFA staff no longer worked with this activity.

After the team photos were completed, the student teachers worked with the farm and agribusiness management CDE. The students assisted with setting up the exam tables, proctoring the written exam and correcting the completed exams. The student teachers attended the FAM Awards Banquet prior to returning to Brookings.

When the FAM CDE added the team activity, the student teachers served as judges for this phase of the event. The judging and scoring continued until 2020 when the CDEs were not conducted due to the COVID-19 restrictions. It is not anticipated that the student teachers will work with the event in 2021 as the written exam will be taken online as COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.

Over time, the above evolved into providing assistance in a number of the competitive events. Perhaps the best illustration was the connection between the SDSU students and the farm and agribusiness management CDE.

Professor Clark Hanson was a committee member of the sponsoring group and Professor Lon Moeller become National Chairperson. The students were involved with all phases of the event and were judged as competent.

Moeller was asked, “How do you select your students, what training is provided?” Moeller replied, “Well, it is open to all, some stay at their student teaching school, some attend the FFA Convention with their host schools and the remaining are attending the convention as workers. No selection process, just who they are.”

Microcomputers first made their appearance on the SDSU campus in 1981. The Division of Education (College of Education and Counseling at that time) submitted a grant application to fund a microcomputer lab. The grant was turned down because "microcomputers were just a passing fad." The application was reviewed by the SDSU Vice President of Academic Affairs and he decided that it was worthwhile and a lab was funded using internal funds.

In-service workshops and classes were taught for several years and focused upon computer programming, work processing, spreadsheets and databases. The clientele for these sessions were mainly practicing teachers. Agricultural education teachers were active participants in the sessions and many started purchasing computers for use in their classrooms.

A computer application in-service session was commonly taught during the summer agricultural teachers meetings. A spreadsheet program was developed to convert the supervised agricultural experience (SAE) records to a digital format.

After several years, computer programs were developed to meet teachers' needs. Some examples are grade book programs, test construction programs and worksheet creators.

As these programs developed popularity with teachers, a computer education class was developed that became a required course for all education majors. This class was eventually phased out by requiring that teacher education courses incorporate computer applications.

In the upper Midwest, agricultural education staff of the various universities sponsoring teacher education degree programs at undergraduate and graduate levels, conduct programs enhancing the growth and development of the profession. The SDSU program regularly took its turn in hosting the Central States Agricultural Education Seminar and Research Conference. A huge task for a relatively small staff.

In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, much of the attention when discussing education issues focused on teacher education. In fact, the discussion continues to this day. Major adjustments were made by adding classes to more adequately prepare student teachers for “what is out there.”

Also in the late 1990s, the South Dakota Board of Regents reduced the number of credits for graduation to 120, from the previous 128 credits. The increase of hours required and reduced credit placed a serious dent to an academic field composed of basically two majors, agriculture and education.

It is anyone’s guess as to when it started, but the agricultural education major’s role in supporting the SDSU-sponsored State FFA Career Development Events is noteworthy. Hours of planning and delivering service are both an educational adventure and a public service function.

Jim Clendenin, retired instructor at Lake Area Technical Institute, has this description of teacher education for agriculture, “The staff taught us, the preparation was solid and accurate and the first two years of teaching experience with our feet on the ground.”

The article is dedicated the individuals who served in the capacity of teacher educators in agriculture at South Dakota State University:

1918: Professor E.D. Stivers (State College, Director of Agriculture Education)

1919: C.H. Brady

1920: Fred E. Smith

1920-1921: C.R. Wiseman (3/4 time)

1921-1936: C.R. Wiseman (full time)

1936-1945: R.P. Bentley

1945-1956: Dr. Stanley Sundet 

1956-1981: Dr. Hilding Gadda                                                 

1970 -1972: Dr. Gary Leske

1973-2003: Dr. Clark Hanson

1981-2010: Dr. Lon Moeller (also Teacher Education Dept. Chair)                 

2003-2006: Dr. Phil Portillo

2006-2007: Dr. Don Edgar

2007-2011: Dr. Amy Smith

2010-Present: Dr. Troy White

2011-2014: Dr. Scott Smalley

2014-Present: Dr. Laura Hasselquist

Agricultural mechanics:

1958-1970: Marvin Larson

1970-1973: Dr. Gary McVey

Various: Harvey Young

1974-1978: Dr. Myron Kimmons

1978-1991: Dr. Van Kelley (current Chair, Agricultural Engineering)

1991-1910: Marty Schipull

2010-Present: Nicholas Uilk