BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program has named Amanda Stanko, a STEM and preschool teacher with Corpus Christi Catholic School in Bloomington, as the 2024 IAITC Teacher of the Year.
Codie Koester, a family and consumer science teacher at Warren High School, Jo Daviess County, was named runner-up.
Stanko will be recognized at the 2023 Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Chicago and will receive a trip to the 2024 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Salt Lake City.
She also will be the Illinois nominee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Excellence in Teaching Agriculture Award.
As a STEM teacher, Stanko works with more than 275 kindergarten through sixth-grade students, challenging them to think outside the box using real-world problems and solutions.
Her lessons include everything from plant life cycles and utilizing farm products daily to growing a “giving garden” to support the school cafeteria and local food bank.
Students learn at an appropriate level. For example, kindergartners learn how to make butter with their adopted cow while sixth-grade students test and amend soil after each growing season.
Stanko’s passion for integrating agriculture has led her to enroll in a master’s program in ag education with the hope of providing an FFA chapter at her school in the future.
As the family and consumer sciences teacher at Warren High School, Koester has a way of teaching her students about food and how to prepare it, but also how all agriculture, specifically local agriculture, plays a role in that food.
When taking students to a local hog farm and locker plant during a lesson on pork, Koester emphasized food safety and agriculture careers.
Koester also partners with her school’s ag teacher for many activities and is also involved in local agriculture issues.
As the runner-up, she will be nominated for the 2024 American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture White-Reinhardt Scholarship.