When she went to work this morning, Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy science teacher Karen Garland had no idea what news would come to her.

In a surprise presentation, Garland was honored with the National Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year Award on Wednesday, acknowledging her work with her students in the field of agriculture.

Garland was honored by the Farm Bureau for her approach to teaching grades kindergarten to fifth about various aspects of both science and agriculture.

“I’m wearing a mask right now so you can’t see how big my smile is,” Garland said. “I am so lucky to receive this award and to work with so many amazing administrators that give me free reign to do what I am so passionate about. They always support me and my vision. I am also thankful to Shirley Pahl with the Georgia Farm Bureau and the support that the school gets from the Bureau. I have a great support team and overall and an overall good group of students who are just as passionate about science and agriculture.”

Garland uses 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, officials said.

Superintendent Brian Hightower expressed his gratitude toward Garland and congratulated her on receiving the honor.

“We are so proud of you, and this honor goes back to your love and passion for the kids and the lessons and subjects,” Hightower said. “It’s great to see when amazing teachers are validated in ways like this.”

Garland was also named the Georgia 2020 Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year by Georgia Farm Bureau last fall. She was also honored as the Georgia Science Teachers Association 2020 Teacher of the Year for Elementary Schools in January 2020, and was her school’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. Garland began her classroom teaching career at Clark Creek in 2012 after 17 years as an environmental educator with a nature center and statewide nonprofit organization.

Garland and the other seven winners of this award will be honored at the 2021 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference “Fields of Dreams” taking place from June 28 to July 1 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

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Ethan is a reporter covering the cities of Holly Springs & Canton. He also covers city governments and lifestyle. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.

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