July 11, 2018
Wanda Small, a K-6 grade Project-Based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, agriculture, art and math) teacher at Atchison County Community Elementary School, recently received the 2018 USDA-NIFA National Award for Excellence in Teaching at the National Agriculture in the Classroom Summer Conference in Portland, Maine. Small was named the 2018 Janet Sims Memorial Teacher of the Year by the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom last fall, and she was later nominated for this award.
Small was honored along with seven other award winners from across the nation. Wanda received a travel grant from USDA-NIFA to allow her to attend the conference free of charge.
"The best part of the conference was hearing from other teachers through video, private conversation and workshops," Small says. "Everyone is so willing to give resources they have researched and created. It truly brings tears to your eyes to learn of the caring educators who are introducing agriculture to our students across the nation."
Small says bringing agriculture into her classroom has opened many doors of project-based learning for her students, as well as providing a vital, real world link to agriculture producers and business in the area. She feels the ripple effect in full swing where her students are excited take home information about agriculture to share with friends and family.
Small is in her 17th year of teaching and uses agriculture as an anchor for project-based learning classes, which reach more than 150 students. Curricula include food and nutrition, wind power, natural resources, livestock, robotics, and gardening, among others. She credits Atchison County Community Elementary School's administration and the greater community for their support and "all-in" approach to the success of her program.
More than 350 teachers attended this national conference where select teachers were given the opportunity to present lesson plans they had developed. KFAC was pleased to have two Kansas High School teachers, Ruth Hutson and Carrie Newdigger, selected to present a workshop on wheat genetics. Their lesson plan, titled, "Wheat, It’s All in the Family," was attended by more than 45 conference participants, who left with some great hands-on resources that explain genetics at a high school level.
Ten Kansas teachers and facilitators attended the conference: Anita DeWeese, Pratt; Jerry Esfeld, Great Bend; Laura Handke, Atchison; Ruth Hutson, Blue Rapids; Carrie Newdigger, Macksville; Rhonda Roux, Jason Chalashtari and Aaron Voth, Walton Rural Life Center; Lesa Searles and Rochelle Sheddrick, Service Valley Charter Academy, Owego.
Source: Kansas Foundation for Ag in the Classroom
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