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Waukee teacher wins Iowa Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture

Waukee, Iowa, teacher wins an award for teaching her students about agriculture and why it is important for everyone’s lives.

December 30, 2022

3 Min Read
Waukee APEX ag and bio science teacher Cindy Snell holding awardwith Bre Wagner, IAF board president and Kelly Foss, IALF exe
AWARD: Waukee APEX ag and bio science teacher Cindy Snell (center) is presented the Iowa Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture award by Bre Wagner (left), Iowa Agriculture Leadership Foundation board president, and Kelly Foss, IALF executive director. Courtesy of Iowa Agriculture Leadership Foundation

Cindy Snell, a Waukee, Iowa, Apex ag and bio science teacher, is the recipient of the Iowa Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture award presented by the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF). Snell competed against other elementary, middle school and high school teachers from across Iowa to earn the honor, presented recently during a ceremony at the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation board of directors meeting.

Snell has taught for 25 years in Des Moines Public Schools; Kofu, Japan; and Waukee Public Schools. She joined Waukee Public Schools in 2015 to start the district’s agriculture education program. She earned her Bachelor of Science in ag and science education from Iowa State University and her Master of Science in education from Drake University. Snell also serves as the Farm to School lead teacher and the Waukee FFA advisor.

Snell, who grew up on a farm in Floyd County, Iowa, discussed the importance of fostering community partnerships to further student education beyond the classroom with the IALF board members. “We wanted to start an agriculture program in an urban school setting, teaching all students the importance of agriculture and knowing where their food comes from,” Snell said. “With Waukee Community Schools having more than 13,000 students and me as the only agricultural teacher in the district, I have learned the importance of partnering with everyone will help in this effort. We’ve received grants and support from numerous organizations such as the USDA Farm to School, Iowa State University-Dallas County Extension, local farmers and agribusinesses, STEM Council, World Food Prize and more.”

Excellence in teaching

“Cindy was chosen from the numerous applicants because of her connections to National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes and cross-curricular teaching helping to show agriculture in all subject areas,” said Kelly Foss, IALF executive director. “She has a tremendous ability to create community partnerships to help students see agriculture beyond their classrooms, which increases future career opportunities for those students. And she uses real-world challenges to help students understand issues impacting the world around them, and help them to see how small solutions can help.”

Snell integrates the National Agricultural Literacy Outcomes into several different areas of classroom programs. For high school, one area is agriculture — and the environment where students are taught to identify conservation issues in the community and how they would change or improve the issue. Students research water issues, soil conservation, pollinator habitat, invasive species, use of pesticides and herbicides, no-till farming and more. At the end of the process, student groups develop solutions to improve the issue. Some of those student-developed solutions have included planting pollinator gardens, identifying no-spray areas, establishing teaching gardens and collecting food waste at schools for composting. Snell encourages students to see how small changes can lead to big improvements.

Students in all levels of Waukee classes have participated in agriculture learning through hands-on experiences such as plant walls, egg-hatching programs, hydroponics and dissections, vermicomposting, life gardens, ioponics (a combination of hydroponics and aquaponics), aquaponics, workshops, field trips, community service and school gardens.

“While my teaching assignment is with high school, much of my time and energy is working with teachers and students from pre-K to 12th grade to further expand agriculture education to all students,” Snell said.

Snell will receive a $500 stipend to support her continued efforts to integrate agriculture into her classroom curriculum. She will also attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference to be held in Orlando, Fla. in June.

Source: Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation

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