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New York Agriculture in the Classroom


2021 Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to our 2021 NYAITC Teacher of the Year
Patricia Eshelman!
Patricia Eshelman

Each year, New York Agriculture in the Classroom recognizes an exceptional teacher who incorporates learning through a lens of agriculture into their curriculum. We are pleased to announce the selection of Patricia Eshelman, a high school teacher at the Bolivar Richburg Central School District, as the 2021 Teacher of the Year. Eshelman prioritizes learning through agriculture through relevant and engaging cross-curricular learning experiences and is well-deserving of this recognition.

Patricia Eshelman will be representing New York Agriculture in the Classroom as a model educator who incorporates agriculture as a context for learning in her biology and agriculture classrooms in Bolivar, New York. The Wolverine Environmental Center, also known as the WEE-Center, was an effort put forth by the Bolivar Richburg Central School District, students and community partners. Over the last three years it has blossomed into an agricultural learning center offering students opportunities to experiment with various agricultural technologies. There, Eshelman recognized a need to reconnect the rural students with the agricultural industries around them and sought to create a brand-new course at her school that would teach thoughtful food choices, make a connection between them and natural resources, and give them a basic knowledge and understanding of agriculture. Thus, the Sustainable Living and Agriculture course was formed.

The Sustainable Living and Agriculture course provides students with a survey of a broad range of agricultural topics from botany to ethics, gives students hands-on experiences, and engages the community by bringing in guest speakers each week with different areas of expertise. Eshelman empowers her students to ask questions and guide the focus of the lessons for a truly interactive experience. The students have conducted studies of food waste which led them to explore composting and vermicomposting food from the school cafeteria and thought-provoking conversations about nutrient recycling.

The class also created a garden space where the composted soil could be utilized. In their garden they planted garlic, asparagus, blueberries, black raspberries, fruit trees, perennial flowers, and tomatoes.

With this garden and other herbs and vegetables grown in the classroom, the class was able to provide fresh foods for the school cafeteria and expose the rest of the school to the fruits of their hard labor. The success of the Sustainable Living and Agriculture course was obvious, and the school quickly saw the need to expand their offerings with a Sustainable Agriculture 2 class, also taught by Eshelman. The Sustainable Agriculture 2 class builds on the concepts taught in the first class and dives deeper.

Eshelman also helped jumpstart another initiative regarding employment opportunities for students at the WEE-Center. A civil service job of Youth Laborer was created through Allegany County where each summer the WEE-Center offers employment opportunities to two or three students. This provides students with valuable opportunities to instill work ethic, time management skills, teamwork experience, and more that future employers will be looking for. Graduates of Bolivar Richburg are more prepared for the workforce or further education due to their experiences with the WEE-Center.

Patricia Eshelman is an exemplary educator who's passion shines through her everyday interactions in the classroom. Bolivar Richburg Central School District Principal, Daniel J. Quartley, said, "In my opinion no one deserves the honor of Teacher of the Year more than Patricia Eshelman. Her hard work, determination, vision and love of agricultural science has made all the things that the WEE-Center represents possible. She is an educator, visionary, supervisor of youth workers and developer of dreams. I feel blessed, proud and grateful to have been a part of all of this".

Katie Carpenter, Director of New York Agriculture in the Classroom, shares, "We could not be prouder to honor Patricia Eshelman as our Teacher of the Year and share her story over the next year to inspire teachers across the state. It has been a joy over the past years having Patricia as part of our network with her enthusiastic attendance at the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference for professional development and her creative grant proposals to enhance her curriculum. She is a model educator for creating authentic learning experiences for her students."

For her excellence in teaching through agriculture, Eshelman will receive an expense-paid professional development experience to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Des Moines, Iowa and receive a recognition of her and her accomplishments. 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.

For more information about the New York Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year program, visit the website at New York Agriculture in the Classroom is an outreach program of Cornell University. Working with classroom teachers, volunteers, and agriculture's stakeholders throughout the state, New York Agriculture in the Classroom fosters an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of our food and fiber system.

Past Winners