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Missaukee County teacher earns national recognition for excellence in teaching about agriculture

From taking field trips to farms and the Missaukee Conservation District to inviting local farmers into her classrooms, Nichols has built the community’s agricultural connections into her first-grade classroom for many years. Image credit: Michigan Farm Bureau
Date Posted: March 29, 2022

Lake City first grade teacher Jen Nichols has been selected to receive the 2022 National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award.

The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Farm Credit partner each year to honor teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade from around the country for the innovative ways they use agricultural concepts to teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, STEM, STEAM and more.

Among many other agriculture-based lessons, Nichols has her students study life cycles while hatching chicks in an incubator, learn about agriculture and the environment through field trips to maple sugar and Christmas tree farms, and use virtual learning to adopt a calf from a neighboring farm.

"I try to find hands-on things because I feel like the kids really latch on to something that they're invested in a lot more than just sitting and reading a textbook," Nichols said.

“I look for ways to take the kids places or bring things into the classroom that would be really memorable for them. It gives them another outlet to learn and shows them that the area that we live in is full of all of these opportunities.”

Nichols is one of seven teachers chosen to receive this year’s award. The honor adds to Nichols’ list of accolades, with Michigan Farm Bureau recognizing her last year as the organization’s 2021 Educator of the Year.

Parents often express their gratitude to Nichols for her innovative approach beyond the classroom.

“Not every kid is going to be that student that can sit in a chair and just do reading and math all day,” Nichols added.

“Maybe they're not a kid that will end up in college one day, but I really try to showcase all the aspects of things that they could do in Missaukee County, or around the area when they get older, so they don't feel like they have to be locked into one path.”

Nichols will receive her award at the 2022 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in June.