Congratulations - Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture Award
BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC) is pleased to announce Gary Funk of MEI Secondary in Abbotsford as the recipient of the 2020 BCAITC Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture Award.
The Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture Award was presented to Gary by BCAITC’s Executive Director, Pat Tonn, at the BC Agriculture Gala, a virtual event held on January 28, 2021. The award was generously sponsored by DairyCrop Solutions. Each year, BCAITC acknowledges a teacher that is an ambassador for agriculture education and makes it a priority for their students to learn about food and farming in our province.
The award was presented to Gary for demonstrating outstanding leadership and innovation in agriculture education. Throughout much of his career, Gary has been a social studies teacher for grade 9-12 students. This teaching position has included the teaching of social studies, history and physical geography, but what is unique about Gary is that he integrated agriculture and environmental education into his curriculum. In March 2018,
Gary revived his passion for agriculture that had he had cultivated in his own backyard and his work experience at Aldergrove Nursery. He applied for a grant to revitalize unused or underutilized farmland within the Abbotsford Agricultural Land Reserve. The land across the road from MEI had been MEI property for several decades and had had no agricultural production on it for the last many years.
Gary gathered a team of enthusiastic teachers to form a school steering committee. Gary also enlisted the assistance and expertise of a number of community partners, and together they developed curriculum for an agriculture program that now runs across the grades from pre-K to Grade 12 at MEI. The Ecological Stewardship Program now includes a 2,000 sq. ft. heated greenhouse, 1/3 acre raised bed vegetable garden, a pollinator garden, a field composting system, and the start of a small orchard of fruit trees.
Thanks to Gary’s efforts, MEI elementary students can grow plants from seed, middle school kids can devise botany experiments, and secondary students can take a Specialized Science 12 (Agriculture Stewardship) course. Future opportunities are endless. This past year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, products harvested from the program were donated to the Abbotsford Food Bank, Communitas, and Abbotsford Gleaners.
“Gary has inspired teachers and colleagues to support growing initiatives and put agricultural land near MEI to good use for education, the students, and the community,” said Pat Tonn. “For his dedication to agricultural education and infectious enthusiasm, BCAITC is delighted to present him with the award,” Tonn continued.
“The staff and students at MEI are very proud that Gary received this award,” said Mark Thiessen, MEI Principal. “Gary’s innovative and experiential teaching focus has helped to bring agriculture education to the forefront of MEI. The students are excited to learn about the environment, farming, and food - and help build food security in our surrounding community,” Thiessen continued.
Pictured below, left to right, Pat Tonn, BCAITC Executive Director, and Gary Funk, Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture Award Recipient