National Agriscience Teacher of the Year Awards

FTJEnthusiastic, motivated, inspiring. these are just a few words that describe an Outstanding Teacher. The NAAE Outstanding Teacher Awards go to agriculture teachers that have kept a tradition of excellence in their program along with the inborn love for agriculture.

All Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award pictures from 2012 NAAE Convention (For news releases, see each individual's information on this page.)

Region I Wes Crawford, OR
Region II Kim O'Byrne, NM
Region III Roger King, WI
Region IV Jesse Faber, IL
Region V Amy Kidd, NC
Region VI Bethany Knowlton, CT

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Region I
Wes Crawford
Sutherlin High School
Sutherlin, Oregon

news release

Crawford has been teaching agriculture at Sutherlin High School since 2007. He currently teaches 150 students per year - over 30 percent of the entire student population. Crawford teaches agricultural science, agricultural biology, animal science, plant science, and mechanics/metals. Over the past five years, the Agricultural Sciences and Technology program at Sutherlin has grown to include a wider student population due to the incorporation of agriscience and science credit in agriculture classes as well as expanded course offerings.

"Wes has really built a model program of what FFA and agricultural education should look like in today's high school," said Justin Huntley, principal at Sutherlin High School. "Not only has he integrated the science standards, but he has also articulated with both our local community college and Blue Mountain Community College to offer our high school students who can demonstrate the knowledge, college credit."

Crawford's AST program has seen its fair share of success. Students have competed in the National Environmental and Natural Resources Career Development Event and the National Meat Evaluation and Technology Career Development Event competitions. Students have also competed at the state level in various CDE's such as soil judging, forestry, and food science and technology. The Sutherlin FFA Chapter has placed in the top five at the Oregon Envirothon each year for the past three years. The program's success can be attributed to the four tenets Crawford uses in his daily lessons - challenge, relevance, application and responsibility. With these principles, students are not only able understand the importance of science in agriculture, but they are also able to leave the program prepared to excel in agricultural careers, leadership, and lifelong learning.

"There are two other guiding principles I keep in mind: learning is not limited to the classroom or the course; and that I am not a science teacher - I am an agricultural educator who teaches science in a contextual way that challenges students, creates understanding, and prepares and excites them for future endeavors," said Crawford.

Crawford also shares his guiding principles with other teachers through his participation in the DuPont Agriscience Ambassador program. Through the program, he travels around the United States and gives workshops to other teachers on integrating inquiry-based learning into their classrooms, specifically in the areas of science and math.

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Region II
Kim O'Byrne
Mayfield High School
Las Cruces, NM

news release

Kim O'Byrne

Before she taught agriculture at Mayfield High School, O'Byrne was a science teacher, so the transition to agriscience was a natural progression. After helping start the agriscience program and FFA chapter in 2008 in response to community interest, O'Byrne has taken a lead role in helping it triple in size and achieve national recognition in just four short years.

The focus of the Mayfield program is to stimulate students' interest in the science behind agriculture, and help them make the connections between high-level science concepts and their practical applications.

O'Byrne was also selected as a DuPont Agriscience Ambassador, a prestigious appointment that allows her to travel around the United States and teach other teachers how to integrate inquiry-based teaching techniques into their classrooms. This is something to which agricultural education especially lends itself, because of its focus on hands-on learning.

"I don't believe you can learn science from a book." said O'Byrne. "It must be minds-on, hands-on learning." Students in her classes get to become hydrologists who figure out the source of a water contaminant in a simulation, practice forensic science techniques in a CSI-type wildlife mystery, and participate in a national collaboration to collect data on the health of the Rio Grande River.

The FFA chapter is an integral part of the agriscience program at Mayfield. FFA members participate in a wide variety of community service projects, and students compete in many events, often taking home top honors. Recently the wildlife team competed at the national level.

"Students flock to her (O'Byrne's) classes in agriculture and science because they know they will be challenged and will learn," said J.B. Hawk, Mayfield High School's Principal. "Her classroom is one of engagement, discussion and growth."

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Region III
Roger King
Holmen High School
Holmen, Wisconsin

news release

King has been the agriculture teacher at Holmen High School since 1984. The agriculture program offers 16 different courses in the areas of animal, plant, environmental, and mechanical sciences. College credit is already offered for four of the classes and the program is in the process of adding science equivalency credits to three other classes. The program uses cutting edge technology to enhance the classroom and laboratory experience. Students have access to a wireless computer lab, interactive white board, digital microscopes, Ipads, a Wii Console, and many other resources to enrich their learning experiences.

With the help of a $13,000 USDA Challenge Grant, King has been able to implement several new agriscience-based lessons in his classroom. One of his most successful lessons is Animal Physicals. This lesson provides students the opportunity to perform physicals on dogs, cats, rabbits, poultry and horses in the classroom. In addition to the classroom experience, students are bused to King's personal farm to perform physicals on sheep, goats and chickens. Students are able to apply what they learn in the classroom first-hand, providing them with a well-rounded knowledge of the animal industry.

"In the classroom, Roger teaches through a hands-on-science approach with activity centers, analytical learning through critical thinking and discussion, and direct application of learning through project-based scenarios," said Linzi Gronning, Activities Director at Holmen High School. "This continuum of success is a tribute to Roger's investment of time for his students."

King has also been instrumental in the development of the Wisconsin Agriculture and Natural Resources state standards. He has developed many curricula units, which include recreating chicken skeletons, working with worm castings to test plant growth, and building a rain garden to apply environmental science to landscape curriculum. King is a graduate of the first DuPont National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy and the National Agriscience Integration Institute, allowing him to be a great resource for teachers who want to use the agriculture classroom to show students the practical application of science concepts. He has presented several agriscience workshops for the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators, at the National FFA Convention, and at the Region III and national conferences for NAAE. Currently, King is field testing an eToxiciology lesson in collaboration with Penn State University.

"Roger's positive impact on students and his dedication, commitment and efforts are truly unparalleled and I consider him one of the finest educators I have known in my professional career," said Gronning.

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Region IV
Jesse Faber
Pontiac Township High School
Pontiac, Illinois

news release

Tim Larrick

Faber has been teaching agriculture for six years; five of those at Pontiac Township, where he teaches agriscience and agricultural mechanics. While the school enrollment has decreased to 810 students, the agriculture program has continued to grow, and is currently nearly 250 students.

As an educator, Faber strives to make a positive impact not only with his students, but on the community as well. He works to promote the efficient, safe and responsible production of food on all fronts. Students are challenged to think critically to connect their lessons with the world around them through hands-on learning experiences.

One of Faber's biggest accomplishments in his short career is the development of his Renewable Energy course. Through vigorous research into the topic which led to the creation of a detailed course outline, lessons and labs, Faber was able to get approval for the course from the school district's curriculum advisory committee and the board of education. Currently in its third year, the course covers fermented and distilled corn products to make ethanol, and the physics and chemistry behind the process of converting those items to energy. Faber's class even converted waste vegetable oil to biodiesel through a biodiesel reactor that the class constructed. 

Faber also aligned the concepts in his welding class with those sought by nearby employer Caterpillar, so his students are Caterpillar MAP certified upon completion of the course.  Students who are MAP certified are flagged as priority hires when they apply for a job at Caterpillar. Caterpillar provided the workbooks and tools for students to use to complete the certification, and also arranged a plant tour in East Peoria, Ill. Students held mock interviews with a Caterpillar representative and then had to pass an exit test to become certified.
"Jesse does not simply rely on the gift of keen intellect; he also possesses an excellent work ethic and prodigious intellectual curiosity," said Eric Bohm, Assistant Principal at Pontiac Township High School.  "He participates enthusiastically in interdisciplinary curricular activities with other teachers. Through several of these activities students have been given opportunities they otherwise would not have been able to achieve."

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Region V
Amy Kidd
Providence Grove High School
Climax, North Carolina

news release

Douglas Latta

Kidd has been teaching agriculture for 15 years. Kidd has been the agriscience teacher at Providence Grove since its opening in 2008. She currently teaches over 200 students about agriscience, animal sciences, environmental/natural resources, biotechnology, and ag. mechanics.

Students in Kidd's program use their leadership skills and agriculture knowledge to teach local third graders about the food process through the Food for America program, a nation-wide initiative designed to educate youth, peers and communities about the world of agriculture with the goal of increasing agriculture literacy.

"Agriscience is more than teaching about agriculture, it is developing leaders for tomorrow," said Kidd.

This past year Kidd worked with the National FFA task force to develop the new Veterinary Science Career Development Event. She also worked with the North Carolina FFA Association to get the Vet Science CDE approved at the state level. To connect the CDE to classroom material, Kidd put together a team of teachers to write curriculum for a Veterinary Assistant course. This course will align with Veterinary Assistant standards from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. Students who take this course will be qualified to obtain Veterinary Assistant certification.

"I feel that we have to constantly evolve as teachers in order to reach today's students," said Kidd. "We strive to include in our lessons new and emerging studies and applications to scientific principles of agriculture."

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Region VI
Bethany Knowlton
Killingly High School
Dayville, Connecticut

news release

Bethany Knowlton

Knowlton has been teaching agriculture for six years.  She currently teaches 113 out of the 850 students in the high school with three other teachers. Knowlton is responsible for teaching plant sciences, including an Advanced Placement plant science course. Utilizing the school's four greenhouses, biotechnology lab and two environmental chambers, students are able to learn agriscience through inquiry-based teaching and better understand the concepts.

Knowlton was recently certified as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut for the Early College Experience Program. The ECE allows high school students to earn college credits through their high school classes and can be transferred to most colleges, giving students a head start on their first year. Knowlton teaches Introduction to Horticulture, Floral Design and Plant Biotechnology, giving students an opportunity to earn up to eight college credits. Knowlton's Plant Biotechnology class was only one of two to be piloted in the state.

"It is imperative for students to be given the opportunity to explore and inquire in the agriscience classroom, especially when using technology," said Knowlton. "If a student is enjoying what they are learning, they will be successful."

To help other teachers understand how to integrate inquiry-based learning into their agriscience classrooms, Knowlton serves as a DuPont Agriscience Ambassador, and gives workshops around the U.S. that show first-hand how to engage students effectively in the areas of agriculture-based science and math.

In today's world, Knowlton realizes the importance of incorporating technology into the classroom and the emphasis of integrating reading and writing skills into lessons as well. She has found an answer to both by blogging. Knowlton will post a question or article on the class blog for students to respond. She covers trending agricultural topics such as the Farm Bill, and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

A few years ago, a group of students approached Knowlton who were interested in becoming teachers. They worked with Knowlton to create an After School Agriculture Club. Knowlton and the students set up an eight week program at Killingly Memorial Elementary School with third graders. Meeting once a week, students built birdhouses, hatched chicks and dabbled in aquaculture. Science was incorporated into each lesson and elementary students record their scientific observations in a notebook. Since the club began, it has expanded to include fourth graders, and the other elementary school in town, Killingly Central School, and has received $800 grants for two years from the schools to buy materials.

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