Inspiration takes an agricultural spin at Nauvoo-Colusa Elementary in Hancock County. Behind it all, you’ll find fourth-grade teacher Rena Rose, the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (IAITC) Teacher of the Year.
Inspired by an essay assignment about pumpkins, two students received permission and their parents’ cooperation to travel to a local pumpkin farm and interview the grower. Dawn Weinberg, Hancock County Farm Bureau ag literacy coordinator, marvels as she tells how the students convinced their parents to drive them to the farm outside of school time. First the kids received an enthusiastic, “You bet!” from their teacher.
“She has such a huge love and passion for agriculture,” Weinberg said of Rose. “It’s all the little things she does.”
Rose, a 15-year, veteran teacher, continually seeks new resources to incorporate agriculture into lessons and experiences for her students, said Kristin Huls, Hancock County Farm Bureau manager.
As an unofficial IAITC school ambassador, Rose inaugurated the use of ag literacy materials that quickly spread to other classrooms. “I try to incorporate agriculture into curriculum for the entire elementary school,” Rose stated.
Huls praised Rose for returning from Summer Ag Institutes and other learning opportunities with materials and ideas to share with fellow teachers. After each session of a recent national AITC conference, Rose “was bursting with ideas to try in her classroom,” Weinberg added.
This year, Rose organized a family ag night with learning stations, allowing parents and children to learn together. She involved the whole school in a pollinator habitat project that involved planting a pollinator field on school property. Teachers now use the site as an outdoor classroom.
Rose’s efforts aren’t only recognized on the county and state levels but the national level as well. In 2015, she won the American Farm Bureau Foundation ag bulletin board contest with her creative bulletin board of the pumpkin life cycle.
Rose will receive a plaque and a trip to the 2017 national AITC Conference, June 23-27 in Kansas City, Missouri. She also will represent Illinois in the National Excellence in Teaching Agriculture Award competition.
Stacy McQueen, a first-grade teacher at Gard Elementary in Beardstown, Cass County, was selected runner-up.
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