University News

Ag Ed Students/Alumni Benefit from GAST Grant Funding via ISBE

January 24, 2011

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MACOMB, IL -- Six Western Illinois University students majoring in agricultural education are benefiting from scholarships this semester, thanks to the Growing Agricultural Science Teachers (GAST) grant program, funded through the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). According to Andy Baker, professor of ag education in WIU's School of Agriculture, scholarships were awarded for Spring 2011 to six students classified as either transfer or freshman students who started in the program in Fall 2010.

The six students and their GAST scholarship award amounts include: Emily Bogner (Sparland, IL), junior, $1,500; Julie Herrmann (Hinckley, IL), sophomore, $500; Richard Houzenga (Mount Carroll, IL), freshman, $1,000; Kaylyn Schiber (Livingston, CA), freshman, $500; Rachel Shriver (Ursa, IL), junior, $1,000; and Kyle Wood (Claypool, IN), junior, $500.

"Western's agricultural education program was awarded $20,000 through the GAST incentive grant, which is a part of the agricultural education line item in the ISBE annual budget," Baker noted. "The funding has enabled these scholarships, which will help grow the supply of agricultural teachers in Illinois to meet the demand from school districts across the state. These scholarships have helped the agricultural education program at Western to establish an 80 percent placement rate and a 73 percent retention rate among its graduates. WIU agricultural education graduates filled 50 percent of the beginning teacher openings (six out of 12) in the state this past summer," he added.

In mid-2010, GAST grant program funding also enabled nine WIU ag education alumni to attend the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) Conference in Sidney (OH). Baker noted the GAST grant funding is directly linked to the four teacher-education institutions in the state (one of which is Western), as well as to the community colleges that offer the intro to ag ed course that transfers into the four-year institutions. He applied for the grant in Fall 2009, and he was notified of its funding status just before Christmas 2009.

"This grant was funded at the $42,000 level for recruitment and retention of agricultural science teachers," Baker explained. "A part of this grant stipulated an initiative to send practicing agriculture teachers to the NAAE conference. I was able to recruit nine of our former students, and through the grant, provided them a travel stipend to attend the conference."

For more information, contact Baker at (309) 298-1246 or Learn more about Western's School of Agriculture at

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