University News

Two WIU Ag Students Accept Teaching Positions in District With Rich Leatherneck History

December 22, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – As two Western Illinois University School of Agriculture students graduated virtually over the weekend, both finished their undergraduate degrees knowing they have jobs in place, teaching agriculture together close to home.

Brandon Livingston, of Marietta, IL, and Hannah Libby, of Oneida, IL, both received their degrees in agriculture-teacher education Saturday. In Fall 2021, both will be teaching in an expanded agriculture program in the Mercer County School District in Aledo, IL. They will be working alongside 2001 Leatherneck alumnus Aaron Heartt, who has been teaching at the school for 20 years.

Livingston finished his time at WIU student teaching at Eastland High School in Lanark, IL, while Libby was a student teacher in the Mercer County School District. When Libby learned the district's second agriculture teacher, Michael Chausse, who has taken graduate-level classes at WIU, planned to retire in May 2021, she applied for the open position. She then encouraged Livingston to apply as well, because the district was considering expanding its program offerings and adding a third teacher.

Ironically, Heartt was in the first WIU class taught by School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker and Livingston and Libby were in the most recent class. Heartt served as a student teacher in Chausse's classroom during his time at WIU.

"It is a great feeling knowing that when you go and interview that a particular school would be so impressed that they would create a second teaching position to secure both candidates," said Baker. "That's just what Mercer County did to secure both Hannah and Brandon for the 2021-2022 school year. I am extremely excited for both Hannah and Brandon that they can start their teaching careers together in the same school with another WIU alum in Mr. Aaron Heartt. It will be fun to watch their progression as beginning teachers knowing they have a great mentor in the same program."

Livingston and Libby will join Heartt at the high school in a department that will now be able to offer more classes.

"We had the support of the school board and the superintendent who lobbied for this idea," said Heartt. "Now we have the ability to meet everyone's strengths and we are able to diversify classes so we can offer students a more well-rounded program."

Livingston said he is grateful for the agriculture education he received at WIU and believes he is well prepared to begin his teaching career.

"In the classroom, when our peers were teaching us, we behaved how students might and we learned things can get out of control very quickly," he said. "That really helped us as we moved into student teaching."

Libby said WIU and its faculty instilled in her the resources needed to be a successful teacher.

"I am going to be focusing on the animal sciences in the fall," she said. "Since accepting the job, we've had discussions about our plans and we are working on a promotional video so students are aware of the new and changing courses."

Heartt said the expanded program will make Mercer County one of only a handful of Illinois high school agriculture programs with three teachers. It will also allow him to do specialized teaching he has recently trained for in programming such as welding, mechanics and environmental science.

While waiting for the contracts to begin in the fall, Livingston and Libby will serve as substitute teachers in the Mercer County School District.

Baker said the end of each semester brings a sense of excitement as students begin job searches in their field of study.

"In the field of agricultural education, students can search for teaching positions in Illinois, or anywhere in the country," he said. "Each cohort group establishes strong bonds with one another and lifelong friendships. Hannah and Brandon began searching for job opportunities together, but who knew they would be teaching together at Mercer County?"

For more information about the WIU School of Agriculture, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing