Contact: Tonia Ritter, 517-679-5345
LANSING — During National Agriculture Week, March 15-21, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) announced the winners of its 2015 Educator of the Year Awards. Joseph Ankley of North Huron Schools was honored as the Agriscience Educator of the Year; Michele Butler of Paw Paw Early Elementary was honored as the K-12 Educator of the Year. The awards will be formally presented at MFB's 96th State Annual Meeting in December.
Joseph Ankley has single-handedly revitalized the agricultural program at North Huron Schools. His dedication to agricultural education, leadership development and community involvement has increased the demand for his program more than 300 percent in the last three years.
"Promoting agriculture and career options in agriculture is natural for Joe," said Jeremy Polega, Huron County Farm Bureau board member. "His passion for agriculture and ability to integrate various aspects of the industry into his classroom are what make him such an asset to the community."
Ankley's students are immersed in agriscience education throughout middle and high school. Using tools and techniques studied in the classroom, they transfer the knowledge into real-life skills raising animals, vegetables and flowers. Students also work with elementary classrooms teaching specialized Ag in the Classroom lesson plans.
With his passion for agriscience education leading the way, Ankley leads his students into elementary classrooms to teach kids about raising vegetables. He's also developed curricula to coincide with the Michigan FFA's poultry contest each fall and shared it with teachers across the state, and recently began instructing an introductory agriculture course at Delta College.
Butler connects all of her school's second-graders with hands-on agricultural experiences, utilizing resources from the 2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, partnerships with the Van Buren County Farm Bureau and her passion for teaching students about where their food comes from.
"Michele has done an amazing job integrating agriculture into her classroom," said Tod Kubiszak, Van Buren County Farm Bureau president. "She recognizes the importance of agriculture and does an outstanding job incorporating it into her lessons."
Her hands-on agricultural lesson plans immerse students in scientific inquiries and investigations. She's included in-depth experiments relating to corn, pumpkins, apples and peanuts, exploring life cycles, varieties and end products. Students planted marigold seeds in February which they'll give as presents on Mother's Day in May.
Butler has also partnered with various community members for agriculture lessons. The Village of Paw Paw taught her second-graders about the water cycle and conservation; the class will visit a local dairy farm in the spring to learn about milk quality and how farmers care for their animals; and she's planned for all second-graders to visit an Agricultural Awareness Day event at the Van Buren Fairgrounds, where students will learn about livestock varieties and plant tomatoes to grow at home.
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.