Helping Educators Connect Diverse Students with Agriculture
From The Ohio State University’s earliest days, supporting agriculture has been at the heart of its mission. Few areas are more key to that aim than the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL). Located in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, this department develops tomorrow’s agriculture educators and leaders. Its faculty has impacted generations of agricultural leaders, none more so than Associate Professor Emeritus Dr. Jamie Cano, PhD ’88.
According to The Lantern, Cano was the first Hispanic member of the department’s faculty. In his 29 years at the university, he made tremendous contributions to addressing educational challenges, including helping Latino students and other underrepresented minorities overcome barriers in the classroom and beyond.
Cano came to Ohio State to earn his PhD after getting his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at New Mexico State University and teaching for several years. As a student Buckeye, Cano advocated for students as president of the Council of Graduate Students (CGS) and president of the Hispanic Graduate and Professional Student Organization. In his role with CGS, he contended with major issues including a state measure to tax graduate associates’ tuition waivers and a dispute over graduate students paying more than undergrads for undergraduate-level classes that their degree programs required. He also contributed to the creation of a nominating and appointing process for a new student seat on the university’s Board of Trustees.
"Improving the education of Latino students...will require the concerted efforts of all educators to respond to the crisis by insisting on immediate attention and accepting no more excuses."
After completing his doctorate in 1988, Cano joined the ACEL faculty and focused on future high school and county extension educators. He received the college’s Student Award in 1990, and an Outstanding Teacher Award the following year. In 1993, he was awarded a Kellogg National Fellowship to fund a self-designed plan of study. Beyond the classroom, Cano advanced efforts that encouraged young people to engage with agriculture such as a conference for high school girls to explore opportunities in agriculture, and he served as advisor to the Agriculture-Education Society, which provided tours of Ohio State’s dairy barns to learn about agriculture in person.
Much of Cano’s work shined a light on the importance of agriculture teachers and extension officers connecting with students from different ethnic and racial backgrounds to help them succeed. In a 2005 article titled “Planting Seeds: Growing Diversity,” he and co-author Warren Tyler Agner highlighted the low education level among Latinos in the United States and made the case for educators to make it a priority to remedy the situation they described as “dismal.”
“Improving the education of Latino students … will take more than just an awareness of the problems and knowledge of solutions,” they wrote. “It will require the concerted efforts of all educators to respond to the crisis by insisting on immediate attention and accepting no more excuses. It … will also require a change in attitudes to make educators aware of the severity of the problems facing Latino students and seriously commit to reversing the cycle of educational failure that Latino students have unjustifiably endured.”
Cano’s insights around making agriculture education more inclusive centered on the interpersonal dynamics between educators and students, highlighting the uniquely humanist aspect of an educator’s calling. He published on topics such as self-efficacy and motivation, teacher job satisfaction and burnout, and how personality types and teaching and learning styles can affect student performance. He co-authored the book Discovering Learning Preferences and Learning Differences in the Classroom. Teaching “goes far beyond mere ‘talk,’” he wrote in a 2005 Agricultural Education Magazine article. “Teaching always involves a relationship between the mind of one person and the mind of another.”