Reflecting on the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association Code of Ethics

By: Tim Donovan, CATA Post-Secondary Chair-Elect, Mechanized Agriculture Instructor at Merced College

As I was pondering for an appropriate article topic, I decided to review the agriculture educators Code of Ethics, Professional Ethics Position Paper and Conduct for CDEs, due in part to the many comments and concerns expressed in Zoom meetings and phone conversations over SAE, CDE and/or record books this past year. I decided to focus on the Code of Ethics, since it is the foundation for agricultural educators. Let’s start with the meaning: a code of ethics cannot guarantee ethical behavior, it sets values and principles in which a professional aspires and by which their actions can be judged. In short, it sets the bar for every new agricultural teacher and serves as a reminder of our purpose as agricultural educators. Let’s evaluate each of the statements.

“I am proud of my profession.” That is not to say there will not be those occasional days, but in general agricultural educators should value not only themselves, but agricultural education as a whole, for our students are the future of agriculture and education. 

“We as agricultural instructors need to take time to reflect on our career.” This is especially important given our current global stage. I think it is important for us to remember that we impact our students, at all different degrees. There are those that make a substantial difference that make us reflect on our actions inside and outside of the classroom. Recently, I needed to reflect on my career choice. This semester has weighed me down to the point of exhaustion, until just last week two former students reached out just to touch base and thank me for their success. This, in turn, reminded me why we (educators) do what we do.

“I shall conduct myself with dignity and in a professional manner” and “I shall treat others with dignity and respect.” I believe these statements are the most critical. As educators we need to remember that we influence our students on a daily basis: how we react to issues, how we conduct ourselves during FFA meetings/road trips, our choice of language, and our professional attire. Furthermore, we may serve as the only role model of these important traits and conduct. 

“I shall endeavor to grow and develop in my profession.” Agricultural education as a whole adhered to this statement over the past year very successfully! Teachers’ ability to quickly transition their curriculum, lab activities and instruction to an online platform did so with creativity and with added value for their students. Just as important, they continued to focus on connecting their work to the three ring model. The best part of this is that teachers learned to share their ideas with one another more than ever before. 

“I shall work in harmony with school authorities and other teachers of the school.” If you look at the successful agriculture programs throughout the state, you will most likely discover a program that has rapport with many of the school and district personnel. These programs recognize the value of developing relationships from the custodians to the superintendent, creating a connection that has the potential to support your chapter vision and goals. The key takeaway is to make friends not enemies, thus almost assuring future projects and funding.  

“I shall take an active part in school and community life.” Part of this statement relates back to having harmony with your school. As agricultural educators, we can easily get caught up in maintaining our agriculture program and duties within. However, it is critical that agriculture be present throughout the campus community. Teacher involvement in campus leadership roles or on committees keeps agriculture programs at the forefront of change, one thing to remember as administrative decisions change quickly; if you have to be on that bus, it’s better to be the driver then a passenger. 

“I shall work for the advancement of Agriculture and promote agricultural education.” This statement lends itself at many levels, as an agricultural educator you will need to decide how to advocate. You can keep your AG ED story within your community, or you can run for CATA offices at the sectional, regional or state level, thus ensuring the future of agricultural education. 

“I shall be patient, honest and fair in my dealings.” We can apply this towards the many aspects of both our personal and professional life. As it applies to CDEs, educators/coaches should be patient and fair when preparing students to compete at contests. We should always ensure students abide by rules and expectations, exhibit good sportsmanship and avoid encouraging or allowing students to break contest rules.  

“I shall strive to set before my students, by example, the highest standards of citizenship. I shall give of myself that each of my students may be inspired to make his future life more full and productive.” Agricultural education has stood as the model for CTE programs, which is reflected in our over 1,000 agricultural teachers in the state. However, we need to not rest on our laurels. With more than 50% of California Ag teachers having taught less than five years or less it is important we all remind ourselves of the importance of the Code of Ethics. Experienced teachers: it is our duty to actively live the words of this code and to pass on their value to the new teachers. Most importantly, living the words of this document makes us better role models for our students. 

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit

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