LINCOLN, Neb. (Press Release) - The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation has selected two teachers as their Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom 2017 Teachers of the Year. The Teacher of the Year is awarded to two outstanding teachers that incorporate agriculture into their classroom through innovative ideas.
Jane Gundvaldson, a fourth grade teacher at Thomas Elementary School in Gretna and Matthew Koth, a third grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Omaha were honored.
“Both of these educators demonstrate how teachers can incorporate agriculture examples and hands on teaching methods into standards-based curriculum to engage the next generation in critical thinking about where their food, fiber and fuel comes from,” said Megahn Schafer, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.
Gundvaldson, brings agriculture into her classroom by paralleling what foods her students eat on a regular basis to the farms where the food is grown and raised.
“I believe these lessons linking Nebraskans to where their food comes from are the most fulfilling part of my teaching career,” Gundvaldson said. “I find it more important than ever to help my students understand that the hamburgers or pork chops that they are eating come from Nebraska.”
In addition, Mrs. Gundvaldson’s fourth graders participate in the Foundation’s Ag Pen Pal Program, where their classroom is matched with a farmer in Nebraska. Chuck Homolka, a Merrick County Farm Bureau member, sends videos and pictures of planting and harvest to the students so they can understand what it really takes to grow their food. For the past two years the students have visited Homolka’s farm in Central City to see first-hand the equipment necessary to grow popcorn and corn for ethanol plants and raise cattle.
Koth’s classroom is also involved in the Ag Pen Pal Program and is matched with Arlan and Sarah Paxton in Stapleton.
“The Paxton’s have shared with us by sending video of how they care for the cattle and prepare for the winter by bailing hay,” Koth said. “The students learn first-hand how important agriculture is to the entire state of Nebraska through this program.”
Koth also incorporates agriculture into the classroom by reading the story Stone Soup by Jon Muth to his third graders. The students discuss and write the ingredients on the board then are tasked at finding where each ingredient in the soup is from. From there, they talk about how the food gets from the farm to the grocery store and if we are able to grow those foods in Nebraska.
“This activity brings up discussion about why some crops are grown in different areas of the country and world,” Koth said. “We then compare which ingredients have traveled the furthest and which are the closest to us in Nebraska.”
Each teacher is being awarded an all-expense paid trip to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Kansas City, Missouri June 20-23. The conference brings educators together from all over the United States to collaborate on how to incorporate agriculture into their curriculum and engage students. Teachers will have the opportunity to attend tours of local ag businesses and farms in the area.