Science teacher: “It’s normal to change career plans”

Professor of agricultural sciences

In this article, It’s farming talks to Roisin Coyle, secondary school agricultural science teacher in Donegal. We discuss studying agricultural science in high school, choice subjects, classroom life as an agricultural science teacher, student dynamics, and much more.

Roisin, 35, is an experienced agronomy teacher who has spent the past 13 years teaching the subject in high school.

She had been teaching for seven years and spent the last few years at a school in Donegal.

Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science involves the study of the science and technology underlying the principles and practices that promote the sustainability of agricultural resources and emphasizes the managed use of these resources.

Students study plants and types of animals associated with agriculture, and research is undertaken on aspects such as soil, ecology, plant and animal physiology, agricultural crops, farming practices, genetics and microbiology.

Class life

Teaching life varies for the teacher, Roisin, juggling different subjects and student levels every day.

“There are very few regular days in class. With four junior classes and three senior classes, I constantly teach slightly different subjects, practical or assessing my students, she says. It’s farming.

“Coupled with the fact that as agricultural science teachers, we share lab space. I could be in five different classes during school.

Undergraduate mathematics, biology and science are the subjects taught by Roisin.

“Class planning involves thinking about the students who will be in front of you and tailoring the information to be shared accordingly.”

“Appropriate activities should then be incorporated to assess ongoing learning.”

Teaching Plans

Roisin, who is also a part-time milk and sheep farmer, was also interested in a career in science.

“I’ve always had an interest in all things science, but it wasn’t until my third year of college that I discovered my love of teaching.”

Seeing students progress and develop an understanding of subjects is what Roisin enjoys most about the subject.

“I always share this fact with students as they find it difficult to make decisions about college courses etc.”

“It’s normal to change career plans, even after going to college,” Roisin said. It’s farming.

About 8 of the 24 current students of the Roisin baccalaureate plan to continue their studies in agricultural sciences at the third degree in September 2023.


Roisin explains that with the introduction of a new agricultural science curriculum, the subject as a whole has seen a drop in student enrolment.

The Ministry of Education introduced the new Agricultural Science curriculum in 2019.

However, since this change in the downward trend, the number of agricultural science students at the secondary level has started to increase.

“We are again seeing a steady increase for September 2023,” she explains.

Currently, Ms. Coyle’s agronomy class is 60% boys and 40% girls. However, the dynamics of this ratio change from year to year.

“Most of my students will have some sort of agricultural background, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be great at it.”

Part 2: soils can be a challenge

The subject of soils is known as stand two of the Leaving Certificate agricultural science curriculum.

Studying the Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science enables students to develop an understanding of the role and function of soils and appreciate their importance in the growth of grass and other crops.

In terms of soils, students learn:

  • Training and classification;
  • Properties;
  • Chemical;
  • Physical;
  • Biological;
  • Management.

According to Roisin, soils seem to be a difficult subject for students to visualize. With a “massive” amount of new key terminology, they struggle to perform well on exams.

“I don’t have a passion for teaching soil because I know how much students don’t like it. I tend to dive in and out of it throughout the year to give them and myself a break.

Part 4: Animals

In the Leaving Certificate in Agricultural Science, the study of animals includes traditional farm animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs, but also allows for the inclusion of other animals of importance and interest to the Agriculture. For example, horses and poultry.

Students show the most interest in the subject of animals in Roisin’s class.

“Most of my students will have pets at home and therefore understand the basics and management of them.”

This stand allows students to discover:

  • animal physiology;
  • Classification;
  • Identification;
  • Production;
  • System/enterprise;
  • Management;
  • Animal husbandry and health.
Adaptations and evolutions of agricultural sciences

In recent years, there have been “significant” differences in subject matter, such as a change in curriculum.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic imposed other plans on students studying the subject.

“The first cohort to take the new course was last year’s Leaving Certificate students. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, not all students took the exam; some opted for predicted grades.

During Covid-19, Roisin, alongside his fellow teachers, had to transform his teaching skills.

“We had to switch to online teaching methods, in which the students did not fully participate. They struggled to focus for an entire day online and to motivate themselves to work independently. »

“I like that it has become quite topical. News can be brought into the classroom on a daily basis and linked to one of the learning outcomes quite easily. I think that makes it a much more relevant and modern topic to the future.

Agricultural Science Career Opportunities

It is not necessary to have studied agricultural sciences at the secondary level to obtain an agricultural diploma.

An agriculture degree will provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to obtain an agricultural career or to work in agricultural sales, agriculture, food production, ecology, and many other sectors.

Related jobs include:

  • agricultural consultant/advisor;
  • Classification;
  • Veterinary surgeon/nurse;
  • Clinical research officer;
  • Farm manager;
  • Field Trials Officer;
  • forest manager;
  • animal breeder;
  • Horticultural Advisor;
  • Landscape Advisor;
  • Gardener.

Roisin concludes: “Teaching is a very fast career. You constantly try to cover and evaluate material in a short time frame while having to be flexible for activities and events that may disrupt your contact time with students. »

You can read our Career Focus and Student Focus series.

To share your story as this agricultural science teacher, email [email protected]

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