Pontiac Township High School ag educator Parker Bane was recently named president-elect of the National Association of Agricultural Educators during its annual conference at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio hotel, in San Antonio, Texas, from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1.
    Bane is finishing his 16th year of teaching at PTHS. As a Curriculum for Agricultural Sciences Education certified teacher, he currently offers CASE Intro to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources as one of his numerous courses, in addition to Woods, Landscaping, Natural Resources and Agricultural Business Management.
    As president-elect for the NAAE, Bane’s primary goal is to provide an outstanding experience for each member of the organization. He wants to engage each of the NAAE committees in renewing the NAAE mission statement, strengthen the leadership development programming of the organization and set a clear national advocacy platform for agricultural education.
    “It’s a tall order to fill, but mainly it involves answering the question, ‘why should I join?’” Bane said. “If you look at the three main things that the NAAE provides, professional development is a significant chunk of the value for our typical member.”
    Bane said the NAAE is the national association for professionals that are involved in agricultural education. The vast majority of the members are high school teachers, but there are also postsecondary teachers, community college professors, members of state departments of education and members that work at the university level.
    “It’s a pretty diverse group, but the largest chunk of our members is school-based agricultural educators like me,” Bane said. “One of the events that are managed by the NAAE is the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education initiative that we host at the high school during the summer. The NAAE is an excellent provider of professional development for people in agricultural education and CASE is one of those initiatives that provide professional development.”
    In addition to professional development, the organization also conducts advocacy work. Each March, the national organization hosts a conference called the National Policy Seminar. The goal of the conference is to educate members on upcoming educational policy changes and educate policymakers on the needs of ag education programs and the students they serve.
    “We have to educate our members about educational policy, because what changes at the federal and state levels eventually filters its way down to the local classrooms,” Bane said. The other piece of that puzzle is educating our policymakers on the needs of our ag education programs.”
    The NAAE also offers other services, such as professional liability insurance. Bane said the insurance is necessary for educational courses with potential liabilities, such as woods or agricultural mechanics.
    “If, for example, you’re working in a classroom and there is some sort of accident, that professional liability insurance kicks in and protects the educator from any legal actions that might come out of that,” Bane said. “We have a full list of discount programs and things like that, but in general, we’re just wanting to make the lives of agricultural educators better.”
    As president-elect, Bane will assist the current president in setting the tone and direction for agricultural education initiatives in the upcoming year. Bane said they are currently talking about a number of changes taking place at the national level.
    “The FFA has a tremendous amount of resources and so does the NAAE. So, what we’re looking at, is how we can share those resources,” Bane said. “How can we grow agricultural education to reach a wider audience?”
    In the state of Illinois, Bane said there are a still significant number of students that don’t have access to agricultural education in public schools. As people are further removed from farm life, the knowledge of how food is produced and where it comes from can become lost.
    “School-based agricultural education is a big part of teaching students how their food is produced and where it comes from,” Bane said. “So, the tone at the national level is all about maximizing our resources so that all of the organizations that are involved in agricultural education on a national level are going in the same direction and getting the most out of their resources.”
    Bane has served on the NAAE’s board of directors as the regional vice president of Region 4, which includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan and Ohio, for the last three years. When his term was up, he  chose to run for the president-elect position.
    “I’ve found a lot of value in serving the organizations and the relationships that I’ve built along the way,” he said. “It’s really excellent professional development because you get to discuss the issues on a big scale and then I think that really helps focus what goes on down at the local level. So, it’s a huge responsibility, but it’s an honor to be entrusted with that responsibility.”