CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas (VATAT) wrapped up their annual conference on Friday, sending teachers back into their communities with new skills and resources to advance agricultural education across the state.
Workshops, general sessions, guest speakers, and an exhibit hall with nearly 100 vendors attracted more than 2,000 teachers from across Texas to the Professional Development Conference at the American Bank Center.
"We've had explosive growth," said Barney McClure, Executive Director of VATAT. "In the last few years we have had courses that a student can take in agriculture education to get math credit, to get science credit, to get fine arts credit, and even speech credit. This has opened up our program to a whole new group of people that we weren't accessing 10 to 15 years ago."
Throughout the week educators participated in the teacher-led program with a their main focus being on the best agricultural practices and professional development.
"You know the best way to become a great teacher is to listen to other great teachers and how they do great things," McClure said. "We've had that in spades this week."
Some areas of interest at the conference this year were changes to rules and regulations at major livestock shows across the state; Texas House Bill 3, a finance bill benefiting classrooms and teacher salaries, and how it will impact the teachers; as well as ways to engaging students from all backgrounds in the learning environment.
"We have over 170,000 student in ag education today," said McClure. "It's thriving."
The conference moves around the state each year, but organizers are looking to bring the event back to Corpus Christi within the next few years.