2020 Teacher of the Year
New York Agriculture in the Classroom (NYAITC) is pleased to announce the selection of Jeremiah Best as our 2020 Teacher of the Year. Jeremiah will be representing NYAITC as a model educator who incorporates agriculture as a context for learning in his fifth-grade classroom at the Town of Webb Union Free School District (UFSD). Best recognized the need for incorporating agriculture into his classroom curriculum in order to advance student learning through relevant and engaging experiential learning experiences and is well-deserving of this recognition.
Best first brought the idea of cross-curricular agricultural education to his district five years ago. Identifying the obstacles to introducing agriculture to a non-agricultural community in the remote Adirondack Mountains as an exciting new opportunity, Best began to work with the entire K-12 building wide population to create agricultural spaces and opportunities.
The school is now in its fourth year of having a community garden that is used by multiple teachers and community members. Because of the garden, students have had the opportunity to add a drip irrigation system, receive visits from nutritionists, learned to re-engineer the raised bed design to keep out wildlife, and more. Students at Town of Webb UFSD have also planted a 3,000 square foot pollinator garden and develop an extensive maple sugarbush at their school, all because of Best's efforts and creativity. Their school brand, "Sandlot Maple", has sparked interest in teachers, students, and community members. This motivated community are working with local foresters, town boards, and county officials to potentially develop the region into a maple producing powerhouse for the state.
Best's students participate in the Trout in the Classroom program, where his students grow trout from eggs until they become fingerlings, which is when they stock a local lake. This multi-curricular program allows students to participate in field studies and use their knowledge as well as work with professionals to draw conclusions and create understanding about global cycles and the world around them.
Best's students can often be found 3D printing parts for tanks, converting measurements in metrics, writing articles about their progress, and brainstorming how to improve their projects. Through an extensive compost project led by Best's class, Sandlot Compost, students learn about the carbon and nitrogen cycles, decomposers, energy cycles, and more by using coffee grinds and other biomass from a local coffee shop, combined with leaves, and manure from other sources to create soil for the school garden. It is estimated to date that they have kept close to 40,000 lbs. of biomass out of landfills.
Jeremiah Best is an incredible example of an innovative and passionate educator who believes in the importance of his students understanding and appreciating our food and fiber systems in their community. One parent said of her daughter's experience, "Little did I know that [one] year with him would singlehandedly change her life and open so many doors for her future. Mr. Best is one of the few teachers I have seen that goes so very far above and beyond what is required of him as an elementary school teacher."
For his excellence in teaching through agriculture, Best will receive an expense-paid professional development experience to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah and receive an at-school recognition of him and his accomplishments. This exceptional professional development opportunity will allow him 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.
- 2020 - Jeremiah Best
- 2019 [Press Release]
- 2017 – Maria Plitt
- 2016 – Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz
- 2015 – Lisa Byers
- 2014 – Christine Bow
- 2013 – Amy Parr
- 2012 - Cathy Carr
- 2011 - Taura McMeekin
- 2007 - Sue Stradling
- 2006 - Joyce Nevison
- 2005 - Michelle Sutton