Every year teachers across the state apply for the Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom Janet Sims Teacher of the Year and Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Excellence in Teaching awards. 

Up to five deserving teachers are selected as regional winners of the KFB Foundation for Agriculture Excellence in Teaching Award. These individuals will be awarded $600 to apply toward attending the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, or a $200 cash prize to purchase agriculture education supplies for his/her classroom.

In addition, the Janet Sims Memorial Teacher of the year will be selected. The teacher of the year will choose between an all-expense paid trip to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, or a $250 gift certificate to purchase agriculture education supplies for the classroom, courtesy of High Plains Journal and AG AM in Kansas.

All selected teachers will be recognized during Ag Day festivities, location and date to be determined.

2020 results are as follows:

Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year

Patricia Wolfe, 1st – 12th grade teacher

Wolfe teaches at a psychiatric residential treatment facility for students with a wide range of mental, behavioral and intellectual disabilities. The fully accredited school recently added a large barn to their animal and garden therapy center. This area, affectionately referred to as “the Ranch”, is where Mrs. Wolfe teaches each class twice a week, using live animals and garden areas to teach students about the world outside. Along with learning to just enjoy being outside, which some students haven’t been able to do much, they are learning about agriculture, wildlife, care for living things other than themselves, where food comes from, how to grow their own food and much more.

Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture - Excellence in Teaching Award Regional Winners

Christina McCleary, 4th grade teacher

McCleary is a member of the STEAM committee in their district. As part of this committee she has helped plan agriculture/STEAM activities such as monthly STEAM challenges, science fairs, Science Olympiads and is a sponsor of the school’s WILD club. McCleary partners with outside agencies including: the Kansas Corn Seed to STEM program, her local County Farm Bureau Association, Native American expert and Greenbush Science Center.

Shelley Phelps, 3rd, 5th & 6th grade teacher

According to Phelps, “I teach in a rural community of about 6,000 people. However, many of the students have not been exposed to agriculture. I feel that me teaching about agriculture through math and science has helped my students be more knowledgeable of their community. It has also helped me become a better teacher. I have found that students are more engaged with hands-on activities. They remember how plants are pollinated when they construct models. They are more curious and learn from carrying out investigations. I saw kids become aware of their own nutrition and how to create a better plate. I saw many funny faces as they tried new foods and the job of picking something from the garden. I hope these experiences will stick with them for a lifetime.”

Brian Nelson, 7th grade science teacher

Nelson so strongly believes in agriculture in the classroom that he sought out a partnership with the Kansas Corn Commission in order to write curriculum for middle school classrooms across the state. So far he’s written and taught lessons on ethanol production, corn plastics, comparing fossil fuels and biodiesel, water conservation and soil labs that evaluate the health of the soil. Nelson is currently pursuing a relationship with his local school in an effort to expand their ag-based middle and high school curriculum.