Tonya Claybrook, a teacher at Highlandville Elementary (Spokane R-7 School District) was named one of eight recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award for the 2020-21 school year.

Claybrook, who teaches fourth and fifth grade in Highlandville, was recognized for her “Fabulous Fowl” unit and schoolyard chicken coop. Utilizing these classroom tools, students learn the parts of an egg, the life cycle of a chicken and responsibilities involved in caring for 12 hens throughout the school year.

The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization (NAITCO), USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) 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.

Other recipients of this year’s award include:

  • Patricia Eshelman; Bolivar, NY
  • Karen Garland; Canton, GA
  • Kelly Gates; Madisonville, KY
  • Mary Lynn Hess; Sanford, FL
  • Martha McLeod; Fulton, TX
  • Christine Torosian-Klistoff; Fresno, CA
  • Tammy Will; Morrison, OK

“Many people think that agriculture teaches hard work and perseverance, and it does. But, these outstanding teachers recognize that agriculture also is fertile ground for teaching botany, biology, chemistry, finance, climatology, and arts, in ways that any age or level of students can understand, appreciate and apply to their daily life,” said Dr. Carrie Castille, director of USDA-NIFA, which provides federal leadership and annual funding for NAITC. “When a student makes that real-life connection to the lessons their teachers share, students continue to learn and absorb the true meaning of those lessons when they leave the classroom. Innovative teachers like these are often responsible for awakening a student’s love of learning, nature and science.”

The National Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award began in 2000, with Claybrook becoming just the fourth Missouri educator to receive top accolades. She is also the first Missourian to receive national honors since 2013.

The eight award winners will be honored at the 2021 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, held from June 28 – July 1 in Des Moines, Iowa.