New York Agriculture in the Classroom is excited to announce a new member to our team as of July 1, 2020! Jeremiah Best is taking on the role of Educator for New York Agriculture in the Classroom. Learn more about Jeremiah below.
I grew up in Memphis, TN and moved to New York after deciding to make a career change from the business sector to pursue a career in the education field. I received my undergraduate degree in elementary education and a graduate degree in literacy education both from SUNY Cortland. From the time I left my first career until now, I have worked in the formal education system for over a decade, with experiences in almost every K-12 position; from substitute positions to a 5 year appointment as a fifth grade elementary teacher working with students from urban, suburban, and extremely rural communities.
From my own personal educational experiences and my experiences as a teacher, I have taken away a list of "musts" that I follow as an educator. First, great teaching "must" be flexible and the educational process "must" be developed around the individual students or around a group of students' learning needs. The bar "must" be set high for all students. Classrooms "must" be laboratories of learning. Students "must" be able to participate with instruction that involves "real world" engagement; not static. Students "must" be allowed to be supported in their development of their critical thinking skills. The physical space used in the educational process "must" be conducive to student learning and be it defined as exploratory, project based, hands-on, or authentic learning. The area in which I have found the greatest success in including so many "musts" has been in developing the agricultural discourse of students.
Be it maple, trout, gardens, pollinators, organic fertilizer, forest management, 3d printing, or composting, by allowing standard based classroom instruction to revolve around agricultural literacy, students of all levels and from all backgrounds are able to become highly successful citizens. Not only do they become highly successful, students become engaged. I have found that students who participate in an agriculturally focused educational settings develop a greater understanding and appreciation of how the educational process applies to them now as well as how it will affect them in the future. No longer does one hear, "Why do I need to learn this?" but instead hear, "What are we going to learn next!"
Such pedagogy also allows for more than just cognitive growth, students also develop intrapersonally and gain skills such as grit, responsibility, promptness, confidence, value, working well with others, etc... Needless to say, I have yet to meet a student who has "checked-out" of the educational process who has had to write an essay or learn about fractions when those experiences involved agriculturally focused instruction such as tapping trees and making maple syrup, yet I have experienced many who have "checked out" when not participating in such experiences.
As I transition from the classroom and into my position with New York Agriculture in the Classroom, I look forward to being able to continue to further develop the network tying together all the great classrooms, programs, and districts that are already fulfilling the "musts". Furthermore, I look forward to being able to share their successes and bringing more classrooms, programs, and districts onboard. As we fulfill our organizational mission, I will also be an advocate and a proponent of such learning at the local, state, and national level allowing us to provide more support and resources to our students, schools, and communities and allowing for more fully prepared and informed 21st century citizens.