By Lacey Dodson
A Lafayette Parish school teacher has won the 2019 Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the year for her inspiring program that helps students learn through gardening.
Michele Levis, a 1st grade teacher, at Green T. Lindon Elementary in Youngsville was recognized for this prestigious award aimed at developing agricultural-based curriculums that incorporate both ag lessons and core educational skills. She includes a garden in her lessons to help the students learn about the plants growing in the garden, along with how to take care of them.
“The process of it growing, the process of taking care of it, the process of eating good foods and trying things,” Levis said. “That’s been one of my favorite things about the garden.”
Although the Lafayette Parish school's current garden won Levis the title of AITC Teacher of the Year, it wasn’t her first garden at the school. She began with one called Dylan’s Garden and from here the impact Levis had has expanded far beyond just the students she is teaching.
“Dylan was a student of mine that I had for two years in both 1st and 2nd grade,” Levis said. “Unfortunately, he died, so we built this garden.”
With this seed being planted, it has sparked interest throughout other classes within the school to take care of their own plants.
“She’s touching all 902 students,” Lindon Elementary Principal Ginger Richard said. “We have expanded from Ms. Levis’ AITC to a school-wide initiative where every child is included in the garden with their buckets.”
Lynda Danos, the Louisiana Farm Bureau AITC Coordinator, was in attendance to help recognize Levis’ achievement and said she exemplified the goals of the AITC program.
“What a wonderful role model for these young children here,” Danos said. “Something’s working here to touch the lives of these students and bring a little bit of understanding of agriculture to those students. I think it’s very inspirational and I hope that other parishes will follow their lead.”
The AITC program is available to teachers across the state. More information on the program, including curricula, seminars and free classroom materials may be found at www.aitcla.com.