During National Agriculture week, March 13-19, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) announced the winners of its 2016 Educator of the Year awards. DJ Logan of St. Johns Public Schools was honored as the K-12 Educator of the Year; Jennifer Wheeler of Sand Creek Community Schools was honored as the Agriscience Educator of the Year. The awards will be formally presented at MFB's 97th State Annual Meeting in November.
As a 37 year veteran teacher, DJ Logan was an unexpected leader as Gateway North Elementary embarked on a new learning adventure; becoming an agriculture-based Science, Engineering, Technology and Math (STEM) school. Teachers were required to revamp their lessons to incorporate a focus on these concepts, including teaching a minimum of one agriculture lesson per trimester all with little to no additional funding. DJ took this challenge head-on, revamping her tried and true lessons to include STEM-focused agriculture concepts. She sought out partnerships with the county Farm Bureau to learn more about local agriculture, creating programs to bring farmers into classrooms.
"As a city girl herself, it is beyond exciting to see DJ take the lead on this endeavor," wrote nominator Erin West of Clinton County Farm Bureau. "She's taken so much of her personal time to attend agricultural meetings to learn and grow her program. She's learning what agriculture means right along with her students."
DJ has worked with other teachers to add an agriculture spin to current events such as the school's field day, adding straw bale crawl, rolling squash through field tile pipes, and egg and spoon races. She attended the 2015 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, bringing back lessons to share across all grade levels in her school. Even creating "Ag News" a newsletter for her colleagues to help distribute lessons, resources and facts to assist in teaching about agriculture at their school.
As the agriscience teacher at Sand Creek Community Schools, Jennifer Wheeler has brought the agricultural community together to develop the Agricultural Education and Enrichment Center in the school district. Though she teaches at the high school level, she has worked with her students to bring additional agricultural awareness to all grade levels. She trains the high school students to teach elementary students about the school's livestock at several different events throughout the year.
Jennifer works to incorporate current events with the use of technology and hands-on learning to develop students' critical thinking skills to round out her Career and Technical Education curriculum. In the past five years, FFA membership has increased by thirty percent. Each student in her Botany, Leadership and Zoology classes are members of the school's FFA Chapter. In addition, junior high students and freshman enrolled in her Environmental Science class may join the student organization.
"Both of my children are adults now but the lessons they learned in her classes have been an asset to their undergraduate education and job placement. College professors have complimented both of them on their public speaking abilities," said Anna Simpkins, Sand Creek Community Schools parent. "Organizational skills, responsibility and the ability to complete tasks are important life lessons that they learned in her program."
MFB's Educator of the Year awards recognize teachers who excel at integrating agricultural concepts into school curricula and who challenge students to develop critical thinking skills through the analysis of agricultural issues and information.