Dec 20, 2011  |  Today's News

The Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom program is pleased to announce the 2012 Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year is Sarah Fine-Koukol of St. Vincent Ferrer School, River Forest, Cook County, Illinois.  Koukol will receive a plaque and a trip to the 2012 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Loveland, Colorado.  She will also be the Illinois nominee for the National Excellence in Teaching Agriculture Award.

Fine-Koukol teaches fourth graders from the near west suburbs of Chicago.  This provides an excellent opportunity to showcase agriculture in a truly unique setting.  Students, parents, faculty members and community members have been impacted by the agricultural activities that Fine-Koukol implements in her classroom.  She is able to incorporate agriculture lessons into her existing curriculum on a regular basis that are truly cross curricular, ranging from language arts to math, science and social studies. 

Fine-Koukol’s most creative lesson was through the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Adopt-A-Classroom Program.  This pen-pal program partners urban classrooms with a farm writer.  Fine-Koukol’s class was able to communicate with their adopted farmer through both written letters as well as video exchanges.  This unique experience was further enhanced when Fine-Koukol’s class was able to visit their farm writer’s farm two hours away.  Twenty-two students and 24 adults visited the farm and were able to see first-hand all of the sites and sounds they had learned about through their video exchanges.

Fine-Koukol strives to teach her students the importance of American agriculture on a daily basis.  Her commitment to her students and her dedication to Agriculture in the Classroom is to be commended, thereby making Sarah Fine-Koukol this year’s leader for Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom.

Congratulations may be addressed to:

Sarah Fine-Koukol

St. Vincent Ferrer School

1515 Lathrop Avenue

River Forest, IL  60305

Runner Up

Runner Up for the Teacher of the Year is Carl Erbsen, Eastland Elementary School, Lanark, Carroll County, Illinois.  Mr. Erbsen is a first grade teacher that uses his background in agriculture  to engage students through a yearly farm project where students create a paper model of a small family farm.  Each student is then able to use farm bucks to purchase buildings, animals, machinery and land to make their farm unique.  Throughout the school year, students learn about different animals and crops through books and activities introduced by Mr. Erbsen.  This project, along with other hands-on activities and lessons bring these students closer to the agriculture that surrounds them on a daily basis.

Finalists for the Teacher of the Year Award include:

Stacey Brown, Orangeville Elementary School, Orangeville, Stephenson County

Leanne Hinton, King Elementary School, Galesburg, Knox County

Bobbie Callmer, Lisbon Grade School, Newark, Kendall County

Vicki Litherland, Bureau Valley Unity #340 Bureau Valley South Grade School and Junior High, Wyanet and Buda, Bureau County

For more information about the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Program and the Teacher of the Year Award, contact Kevin Daugherty 309-557-3334 or