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Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom


KFAC Announces 2022 Teacher of the Year Winners

December 9, 2021

Manhattan, Kansas, December 9, 2021 – Nicole Ioerger, a 9-12 grade science teacher at Olathe North High School, was recently named the 2021 Janet Sims Memorial Teacher of the Year by Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (KFAC).

KFAC's Janet Sims Memorial Teacher of the Year award recognizes teachers who instill a passion for learning about agriculture within their students. KFAC honors one teacher annually who has successfully integrated agricultural education into their pre-existing curriculum.

Ioerger is in her 10th year of teaching, where she devotes classroom time to learning through lab activities and case studies. Over the years, Ioerger has found that students respond best to agricultural concepts through hands-on activities and project-based learning. Making cheese during the animal products unit in animal science and setting up sustainable terrariums in the honors biology class are some of the class favorites.

Today's students have very little understanding of how their food is grown. Ioerger incorporates a lesson where students must create a cartoon strip that illustrates every step of how an animal product got from the farm to their plate.

"It has been extremely rewarding to watch students gain an understanding and appreciation for agriculture through the classes," Ioerger said. "We have even had a few graduates decide to pursue careers in agriculture after taking the class."

Ioerger's lessons incorporate agricultural concepts that address multiple Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Students can gain life skills working with animals within the selective Animal Health Academy at Olathe North High School. The students' families and the community are very involved in the program and help coordinate student volunteer opportunities and field trips to gain hands-on experience with animals.

Ioerger will be recognized during the 2022 KFAC Annual Meeting in Manhattan in January and will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the 2022 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York. Ioerger will also represent Kansas as the entry for the 2022 National Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award, presented by National Agriculture in the Classroom.

Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Excellence in Teaching Awards

This year we will also recognize a Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Excellence in Teaching Award Winner. This award goes to an outstanding teacher who uniquely integrates agriculture into their classroom lessons. This winner will receive a $1,500 scholarship to attend the 2022 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference.

The recipient of this award is Tasha Taliaferro, a 2nd-grade teacher at Heller Elementary in Independence, Kansas. Taliaferro is in her second year of teaching and incorporates agriculture in almost every aspect of her classroom. When students walk into her classroom, they experience a Kansas theme, including decorations such as hay bales, sunflowers, and wildlife. Taliaferro then incorporates real-life connections into every lesson she teaches.

"The engagement in my classroom is next level because most of my lessons are created by the real-life connections and natural interest from my students at this age," said Taliaferro.

Taliaferro's classes found that connecting lessons to agriculture creates an environment where students can understand how everything is connected. Taliaferro also incorporates individual connections by having hands-on activities that allow her students to do purposeful things and create meaningful learning opportunities.

Taliaferro takes her commitment to the next level by connecting students to the local farmers and others within the community. Some activities include having a zoom call with a local farmer in the combine during harvest, connecting with a local hog farm, involvement at the county fair.

"They are more aware of the world around them," Taliaferro said. "My students are excited to learn because they love the projects, connections, and they thrive on doing something purposeful." The winner will receive their choice of a $600 scholarship to attend the 2022 NAITC conference or a $200 gift certificate to purchase classroom supplies.

Honorable Mentions

In addition to the above awards, two teachers will be awarded the Excellence in Teaching Honorable Mention award sponsored by the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. Two exemplary teachers who integrate agriculture into their classroom lessons and curriculum will receive this award.

Rochelle Butler is a 3rd-grade teacher at Madison Elementary in Madison, Kansas. Butler works to help her students understand where their food comes from and how it is grown. She strives for students to have a lifelong desire to learn more about agriculture through her lessons. Butler coordinates their elementary Outdoor Learning Center, which consists of chickens, raised garden beds, and a greenhouse. Math standards are one of the many ways she integrates the greenhouse into everyday teaching. Butler's class also works with the local high school business teacher to provide spring, fall, and winter plant sales for the community.

John Wolters is a 6th-grade math teacher at Susan B. Anthony Middle School in Manhattan, Kansas. Wolters believes that students love to understand their world and knowing how their food gets to them is intrinsically motivating. He builds his teaching around demonstration, affirmation, and conversation and desires to give his students knowledge on the origins of their food. Wolters utilizes a greenhouse to grow wheat, teams up with several Kansas State University departments and colleges, and coordinates visits with local agricultural companies for students to have a more comprehensive look at careers in agriculture.

The honorable mention winners will receive their choice of a $600 scholarship to attend the 2022 NAITC conference or a $200 gift certificate to purchase classroom supplies.

More information about these awards, including past winners, can be found on the KFAC website at