Two teachers, one in Omaha and one in Gretna, were named Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom 2017 Teachers of the Year were honored on Jan. 23 by the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.
The awards were given to Jane Gundvaldson, a fourth-grade teacher at Thomas Elementary School in Gretna, and Matthew Koth, a third-grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Omaha. The Teacher of the Year is presented to two teachers who incorporate agriculture into their classroom through “innovative” ideas.
Gundvaldson connects the foods her students eat on a regular basis to the farms where the food is grown or raised.
In addition, her fourth-grade students participate in the foundation’s Ag Pen Pal Program, where their classroom is matched with a farmer in Nebraska. Chuck Homolka, a Merrick County Farm Bureau member, sends videos and pictures of planting and harvesting so the students can understand what it takes to grow their food. For the past two years, the students have visited Homolka’s farm in Central City, for an up-close look at the equipment necessary to grow popcorn, corn for ethanol production and raise cattle.
Koth’s classroom also is involved in the Ag Pen Pal Program and is matched with Arlan and Sarah Paxton in Stapleton.
He incorporates agriculture into the classroom by reading the story “Stone Soup” by Jon Muth to his third graders. The students discuss and write the ingredients on the board, then are tasked with finding where each ingredient in the soup is produced. From there, they talk about how the food gets from the farm to the grocery store and if those foods can be grown in Nebraska.
Both Gundvaldson and Koth will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 20-23. The conference brings educators together from all over the country to collaborate on how to incorporate agriculture into their curriculum and engage students. Teachers also will have the opportunity to tour local ag businesses and farms in the area.