West Carter High School agriculture teacher Will Davis was recognized during last week’s state agriculture teachers’ virtual conference for completing the Kentucky Master Agriculture Teacher Program.
KMAT, as the program is called, is a two-year leadership program for Kentucky agriculture teachers who have between five and 15 years of experience in the classroom. The program is built around the principles of leadership development, effective teaching practices, mentorship, and advocacy.
“The idea is to take good agriculture teachers who are hitting their stride and help them continue to progress in their careers,” said Matt Chaliff, an agricultural education consultant for the Kentucky Department of Education, and one of the program’s coordinators. “They are already master classroom teachers and community leaders. Through this program, we give them skills to be leaders within the profession.”
KMAT participants are selected through an application process that includes letters of support from their school administrators and community stakeholders.
“I think schools are happy that someone is giving their teachers an opportunity to grow,” said Chaliff. “They see the value in it, and administrators are typically very supportive of teachers who are seeking out professional development opportunities.”
Program participants engage in sessions about authentic leadership, preparing them to seek out increased leadership roles within their schools and communities.
“We want them to go back ready to be leaders and changemakers,” said Chaliff.
They also have the opportunity to think about how to continue their mission of being student-focused educators. “We hope they think about how to refocus their curriculum and teaching to really get at those things that are important to students,” he said. “Hopefully they take a step back and think something like ‘There’s a lot more science and business than I’ve been putting in…how can I tweak this?’”
KMAT participants also are highly encouraged to participate as mentors for first year Kentucky agriculture teachers, sharing the skills they gain through the program and providing a source of professional support for their newer colleagues.
“Through KMAT, we’re giving them that next shot of energy – a boost to take them from good ag teachers to great ag teachers,” said Chaliff. “We want to equip them to make a difference in their communities for the next 15-20 years.”
The KMAT program is sponsored by the Kentucky Corn Growers Association and the Kentucky FFA Foundation. This is the sixth year for the program, which has graduated 34 teachers.