Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy teacher Karen Garland, left, celebrates the news she is a 2021 Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award winner, one of only eight educators honored nationwide, with her Principal Joey Moss.
A Cherokee County School District teacher is a top agriculture teacher in the Nation!
Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy teacher Karen Garland on Wednesday was surprised with the announcement that she is a 2021 Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award winner, one of only eight educators honored nationwide.
[NOTE: A gallery with more photos from the presentation is online here.]
The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) and Farm Credit each year together recognize the top teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade for innovation in using agricultural concepts to teach across the curriculum. Ms. Garland, who teaches science lab classes to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, in October was named the state winner for her success in showing students the impact of agriculture in their lives each day.
Ms. Garland will be honored at the 2021 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference this summer in Des Moines, Iowa. Upon winning her state award, she earned a $500 cash prize and an expense-paid trip to the Conference. The outdoor presentation and reception at the school on Wednesday was attended by leaders from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia and Cherokee County Farm Bureau, Cherokee’s UGA Cooperative Extension Office and 4H Program, Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and other special guests, including Ms. Garland’s husband.
The National award judges recognized Ms. Garland for “using a school garden to teach kindergarteners about the five senses, first-graders about the water cycle, second-graders about plant and animal life cycles, third-graders about habitat conservation and soil health, fourth-graders about the weather and ecosystems and fifth-graders about erosion and other destructive forces in the garden and classification systems.”
“Many people think that agriculture teaches hard work and perseverance, and it does. But, these outstanding teachers recognize that agriculture also is fertile ground for teaching botany, biology, chemistry, finance, climatology, and arts, in ways that any age or level of students can understand, appreciate and apply to their daily life,” said Dr. Carrie Castille, director of USDA-NIFA. “When a student makes that real-life connection to the lessons their teachers share, students continue to learn and absorb the true meaning of those lessons when they leave the classroom. Innovative teachers like these are often responsible for awakening a student’s love of learning, nature and science.”
Dr. Hightower said National recognition for Ms. Garland comes as no surprise and is certainly deserved.
She was named the Georgia Science Teachers Association 2020 Teacher of the Year for Elementary Schools in January, and was honored as her school’s 2020 Teacher of the Year and as one of four finalists for the CCSD title. She has earned the Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia’s Odum Lifetime Achievement Award, the Department of Natural Resources’ Georgia Conservation Teacher of the Year award and the title of Georgia Department of Education Science Ambassador. Prior to beginning her classroom teaching career at Clark Creek in 2012, Ms. Garland worked for many years in community education including as the Georgia Conservancy’s environmental education senior manager.
“Karen truly is the cream of the crop and we’re so proud of her success,” Dr. Hightower said. “She came to us with an incredible gift for teaching science and has continued to grow professionally to the benefit of her students, whether they’re studying at their desks or checking on their classroom’s baby chicks or planting and harvesting in the school garden. She also is a generous colleague, sharing her knowledge with fellow teachers at her school and statewide, sowing seeds that will pay off for generations of teaching and learning.”
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From left to right: Clark Creek ES STEM Academy Principal Joey Moss, Cherokee Farm Bureau representative Shirley Pahl, 2021 Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award winner Karen Garland, Georgia Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom Coordinator Lauren Goble and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.