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New York Agriculture in the Classroom


2015 Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to our 2015 NYAITC Teacher of the Year
Lisa Byers!
Lisa Byers

New York Agriculture in the Classroom (NYAITC) is pleased to announce the selection of Lisa Byers as the 2015 Teacher of the Year. Lisa will be representing NYAITC as a model educator who incorporates agriculture as a context for learning in her Kindergarten classes at Arcade Elementary in the Pioneer Central School District located in Arcade, NY.  Lisa's students are continuously exposed to agriculture, whether it is through their school garden or special guests teaching lessons about food and agriculture. Her classroom is a dynamic learning atmosphere focused on local and state food systems.

Lisa's tenure as an educator has spanned 22 years and she started the school garden program at Arcade Elementary. In the beginning there were only two classes working with the raised beds, and after surveying her class she found that only half of her students had ever tried salad. This motivated her to expose her students to foods they had not tried before, and use the school garden to allow those students to have a hand in planting, cultivating, and harvesting. Lettuce, spinach, and swiss chard quickly grew and Lisa brought in tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese for the students to dress their salads and taste test what they grew themselves.

Today, 90% of the teachers at Arcade Elementary are involved in the school garden and they are growing much more than greens. Pumpkins, vegetables, fruits, daffodils, tulips, and more are just a selection of what you might see growing in the schoolyard. Lisa finds that her students learn so much more than how to grow a tomato when working in the school garden, through rotating students through the various tasks in garden maintenance she is building strong responsibility skills in her students. Even throughout the summer, Lisa creates a schedule for weeding and watering to ensure that the garden is well maintained when the students get back to school in September.

Lisa Byers

Connecting the garden and agriculture to the curriculum is of top priority to Lisa, and she does this in many ways throughout the years. During her guided reading groups she selects agriculture-themed stories for the students. Many times during the year, her daily read aloud book will be a book about agriculture. Science and English Language Arts are some of Lisa's favorite ways in incorporate the garden, especially as she teaches her students how to write like a scientist. They must keep a journal as they prepare the raised beds, during planting, and then as the seeds begin to sprout they must measure growth and weigh their harvest. She finds that agriculture and school gardens can be all encompassing.

Through a partnership with Wyoming County Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Lisa was also able to enhance her curriculum by inviting Agriculture in the Classroom Educators to her class the last few years. Lisa was one of the first teachers to embrace the program. Regularly an educator will come to her class to teach a lesson complimentary to their current curriculum focus. The experiential learning lessons might include life cycles using apples and pumpkins as an example, and the students will have a chance to cut the apples, sort the seeds and varieties, and even make applesauce. Lisa credits CCE to helping her identify funding to support her projects.

Lisa Byers

Lisa Byers is an incredible example of an innovative and passionate educator who believes in the importance of today's students understanding and appreciating our food and fiber systems in New York. Because of the example she has led in her community, she will be awarded an expense paid opportunity to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Louisville, Kentucky in June. This exceptional professional development opportunity will allow her the chance to meet and learn from educators across the country, and become exposed to even more classroom resources and tools to teach through and about agriculture.

Past Winners