Jennifer Hannah of Central Academy Middle School has been selected by Mountain Castles Soil and Water Conservation District as the 2017 Conservation Teacher of the Year.
As a teacher of agri-science, Hannah incorporates many different study areas into her conservation education program, including agriculture and crop production, native plants, pollinators, clean water, forestry, wildlife, and soil health.
She also emphasizes the need for conservation leaders by developing students to lead the middle school FFA program.
Hannah is quick to ask local conservation experts for advice, resources, and materials. She has participated in the “Trout in the Classroom” program with Trout Unlimited. She has coached multiple teams for Mountain Castles SWCD’s local “Envirothon” competition. Last summer she was trained by the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries in a fly fishing curriculum to use with students. She is also active in state FFA training.
Hannah continuously searches for ways for her students to become more involved in both the school community and the local community. Her students play an active role in Teacher Appreciation Week, helping to recognize teachers while at the same time educating them on natural resources and food issues. Her students are using a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund to create a schoolyard garden. Vegetables from this garden will be featured in the school cafeteria this spring and next fall. Students are also planning to grow several species of native plants for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. She hopes to use part of the student native plant garden as a demonstration garden for the community.
Hannah is quick to form partnerships within the school – including the art teacher, Courtney May. Student artwork reflecting natural resource conservation will be incorporated into the garden design.
“Teachers in other subjects are the ones charged with teaching the standards, but Jennifer is the one who helps students apply their content knowledge to ‘real’ conservation issues in meaningful and thought-provoking ways,” said Tim Miller, the education and outreach coordinator for Mountain Castles SWCD. “We are pleased to recognize her with this award.”