Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy teacher Karen Garland has been named the Georgia 2020 Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year by the Georgia Farm Bureau.

Garland, who teaches science lab classes to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, earned the statewide honor for her successful efforts in teaching her students how agriculture impacts their daily lives. She earned a $500 cash prize and an expense-paid trip to the 2021 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference to be held next summer in Des Moines, Iowa. She also is invited to present a workshop on her best practices at the Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) Educational Leadership Conference.

“I have witnessed firsthand that learning happens when children are excited, motivated and interested in the materials being presented,” said Garland, who is in her eighth year as a classroom teacher. “As an educator, my main role should be to offer meaning beyond the State standards being taught in a way that nourishes curiosity, creativity, compassion and other virtues. I accomplish this with hands-on, inquiry-based learning and real-world experiences that build problem-solving and critical thinking skills.”

Her students learn about agriculture through such projects as planting vegetables in the school garden, monitoring their growth and keeping journals of their observations. Following the harvest, students learn to cook simple recipes with their crops. They also learn to incubate chicken eggs.

“I use our school garden as a hands-on tool for food and nutrition education to teach children the importance of healthy eating while providing them important opportunities to get outdoors, since many of our students have shared that they have never put their hands in the dirt,” Garland said.

Cherokee Farm Bureau President William Grizzle nominated Garland for the award.

“Karen strives to instill in each student a curiosity and love for learning,” Grizzle said. “She does a great job of incorporating agriculture in her curriculum.”

Garland, who was named the Georgia Science Teachers Association 2020 Teacher of the Year for Elementary Schools, and was Clark Creek’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower and the Cherokee County School Board will recognize Garland as the State’s top agriculture education teacher at their November meeting.

“Ms. Garland is growing young minds to better understand and appreciate agriculture through her science classes,” Dr. Hightower said. “It’s important for children to learn the role agriculture plays in our daily lives and our world … and she digs into these lessons to find the fun that will engage her students and spark their curiosity.”

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