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New York Agriculture in the Classroom


2019 Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to our 2019 NYAITC Teacher of the Year
in the elementary division, Stephanie Locke!
Stephanie Locke

New York Agriculture in the Classroom (NYAITC) is pleased to announce the selection of Stephanie Locke as one of our 2019 Teachers of the Year. Stephanie will be representing NYAITC as a model educator who incorporates agriculture as a context for learning in her fifth-grade classroom at DeRuyter Central School in DeRuyter, New York. Stephanie's eagerness and willingness to make real life connections with her students is apparent to all who meet her.  She is opening student's eyes to the agriculture all around them and impressing upon them the importance of knowing our food systems.

Stephanie has been teaching at DeRuyter Central School since December 2007. She holds a degree in Elementary and Special Education and is currently working on her certificate of Advanced Study for Administration. Her passion for teaching students through a lens of agriculture stems from the local community of DeRuyter and her school's former Agriculture teacher, Mary Coolbaugh. Stephanie took notice of how excited and energetic Mary's students were to learn and wanted to learn more about what made Agriculture classes different. Upon attending the DeRuyter FFA chapter's annual banquet, Stephanie was blown away to see students in charge of a complete production and presenting themselves so well while receiving awards, making speeches and honoring those who had helped them throughout the year. She then set out to cultivate that type of environment where students could empower themselves and learn differently in her own classroom.

Stephanie has brought a collaborative approach to her teaching by working closely with the grades 10-12 Horticulture class. Currently, the Horticulture class has a 26x40 greenhouse and 6 raised garden beds. Each spring, the 5th grade classes visit the Horticulture class and help fill containers, plant flowers, and prep the raised garden beds for planting. Stephanie has invested her time and energy into teaching her students about the importance of growing, harvesting and consuming their own food. Their class starts seeds and plants them in their own raised garden bed located outside of their classroom window where they have grown several types of herbs and squash varieties for fall harvest.

Stephanie's eagerness to try new things and step outside of her comfort zone are what makes her an incredible educator. She offers her students countless opportunities that promote agriculture in a cross curricular way. Stephanie has incorporated ELA into these lessons through student's journaling what they see every day in their school garden. When students visited a local maple farm with over 5,000 taps, her students wrote thank you notes to the owners to thank them for teaching them about their business and the process of making syrup. During Science, her students have documented the amount of sap collected each day during the maple season, measured the circumference of the trees used to tap, and journaled about the process of boiling syrup by emphasizing terms such as reverse osmosis and boiling point. In the school and 5th grade garden, her students learned the importance of seed spacing and depth. She led lessons about what a vegetable needs to grow and produce and provided the opportunity for her students to seed, water, and transplant their vegetables and herbs into the garden. She has also talked to students about pest control in the greenhouse and in the garden, which led to her students helping release to 1,000 lady bugs in the greenhouse to help with aphid control. Throughout her Social Studies class, she has discussed the history behind plant growth and production agriculture. During her beef unit she has touched base on the history of the different breeds of cattle and their uses for both beef and milk. During the maple unit Stephanie works closely with the Agriculture students to teach her students about the different tools used throughout the years and how much the maple industry has changed and modernized. Her students have had the opportunity to install modern tubing onto trees as well as buckets. This comparison has allowed for her students to see the different sap collection techniques.

Stephanie has arranged many field trips throughout the area where her students have had the opportunity learn about on-the-farm processes and production. One such trip was to Trinity Valley where they have watched cows get milked and then watched milk be bottled at the processing facility. There, her class met Branden and Rebecca Brown who explained the processing procedure of bottling their own milk and making cheese curds. The relationship that has been formed with the Brown Family has opened up a lot of doors for Stephanie and her class that will be used well into the future. The 5th grade students have also worked closely with the owners of Lucky 13, a local beef farm, who have sponsored them during the Top Cut Beef Contest. Stephanie has formed a relationship with the owners where she has worked to purchase burger meat for her beef lessons. This past spring, she also started to incorporate making soups and roasts and discussing the nutritional value of the food they are making, as well as the health and safety aspect. Through the opportunities she is providing her students, she allows her students to practice their reading and measurement skills.

Their goal for the end of November is to have a formal meal incorporating the roasts from Lucky 13 and squash from their garden. With this dinner comes providing guidance to the students about table manners and positive behavior in a group setting.

Stephanie has also organized Earth Day for her students every year. She talks about the importance of decreasing your carbon footprint and keeping your community and world clean. Every year, on Earth Day, her and her class spend the afternoon walking around the village of DeRuyter where they pick up trash.

All of the opportunities that Stephanie provides to her students have greatly impacted their behavior and increased their positive attitudes as she strives to teach them authentically in a way that they can take charge of their own learning. Her willingness to try new things, her passion for teaching and her interest in the agricultural industry is one that has greatly benefited all of the students she comes in contact with. Stephanie will be awarded an expense paid opportunity to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas in June supported by New York Agriculture in the Classroom. 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