Nick Nelson, an animal science instructor at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, is set to become the first teacher from Oregon and first from a postsecondary institution to serve as president of the National Association of Agricultural Educators.
Nelson was chosen during the NAAE annual convention Dec. 5-9 in Nashville. The group represents more than 7,800 members and 12,000 agriculture teachers across the country.
As NAAE president, Nelson said his primary focus will be working to solve the agriculture teacher shortage nationwide. According to the association, there were 770 open teaching positions in 2016, and 98 schools were forced to eliminate their agriculture programs due to budget cuts, low enrollments or inability to find a qualified instructor.
“Ag teachers are truly dynamic individuals that wear numerous hats,” Nelson said in a statement. “They teach in the classroom, serve as the FFA advisor and then make project visits to students’ homes all year long.
“They are also very active in the community, doing numerous tasks, all the while raising a family and farming on the side,” Nelson said. “It is no wonder why we are seeing an increase in the number of schools that want ag programs, but not enough ag teachers to fill the positions.”
Nelson said the biggest thing is to get more states participating in the NAAE Teach Ag campaign, which helps to recruit, retain and mentor more young agriculture teachers.
Nelson is a second-generation teacher whose father, Veril Nelson, taught agriculture in Roseburg. Together, they also raise Red Angus cattle and market bulls through the Lorenzen Red Angus program.
Before arriving at BMCC, Nelson taught high school in Clackamas and Hermiston. He will serve one year as NAAE president, and travel to Washington, D.C., for board meetings as well as the National Policy Seminar, hosted by the Association for Career and Technical Education.
“It’s a service job, and the Western states really pushed me to continue that on,” Nelson said. “That’s really why I did it, to represent them.”