ICEC and the Iowa Soil Conservation Awards Program (co-sponsored by the Iowa State Soil Conservation Committee and the Conservation Districts of Iowa), annually presents two awards to outstanding teachers who are creating awareness of soil conservation and water quality in their classrooms. Award nomination time can vary, usually early summer. Award application here. The Conservation Teacher of the Year award is presented during the Annual Conference for Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners.
Division I. Teachers of K-8 grades
Division II Teachers of 9- 12 grades
2022 Conservation Teachers of the Year
Division I (K-8) Recipient: Kelsey Wigans, Gilmore City-Bradgate Elementary, Gilmore City, Iowa
Kelsey uses informed knowledge on soil and water to conservatively plant spaces in our school’s garden and greenhouse. She rotates and rest the soil to rest year to year, keeping record of the prior years for future health. Our green spaces around the property are thoughtfully designed. When we introduced bees to our orchard, Kelsey informed to the local neighborhood on how this will positively affect their flowers and gardens. She works with local farmers to utilize spaces on their fields as well. Several farmers have the students plant vining plants like pumpkins and larger melons.
As Kelsey is planning our gardening plots, she teaches students the importance of soil nutrition. They work alongside her as she models ethical treatment of the land and answers their questions on soil and water conservation. Students now transplant seedlings with little support, understanding that roots need space to grow and will show them what they need whether it be more sun, water, or just to be left alone. Our students at GC-B model their learning with Kelsey as they give back to the land. Our school hosts a farmer’s market, selling locally grown produce to customers.
Division II (9-12 teacher) Recipient: Margaret Hogan, Beckman Catholic School, Dyersville, Iowa
Margaret and her husband John operate a crop and livestock farm in Delaware County. Together they have implemented many best management practices on their farm including no-till, cover crops, prairie and pollinator habitat plantings, managing a native prairie, contour farming, and contour strip cropping. Margaret uses her own farming and conservation experience while teaching at school. Margaret attends conservation field days and trainings to further her own knowledge and skills in the classroom. During her summer breaks for the last several years, Margaret has worked with many county conservation boards to organize and host conservation education summer day camps for children.
Margaret has involved her students in many conservation projects at school and at her farm. Some of the past projects Margaret’s students have helped with include planting pollinator habitat areas, tree plantings, and water quality monitoring. Margaret has also organized a field day at her farm to teach students about various soil and water conservation subjects. Margaret often hosts the Water Rocks program at school. Margaret incorporates activities in her classes such as monarch butterfly tagging, water quality monitoring, plant ID, bird watching, and soil conservation. In 2021, Margaret organized and taught a class to fellow teachers to pass along her conservation ethic and knowledge.
2021 Conservation Teachers of the Year
Division I (K-8 teacher) Recipient: Amy Hoover, Guthrie Center Elementary School, Guthrie Center, Iowa
Amy incorporates STEM activities with her 3rd grade students that focuses on conservation issues that can be seen locally and globally, like soil erosion, natural disaster devastation, hail damage to crops. water pollution, and more! As part of her social students and science lessons, she advocates and incorporates the local Soil and Water Conservation District poster contests each year.
Division II (9-12 teacher) Recipient: Doug Gaul, Manson Northwest Webster High School, Manson, Iowa
Doug’s dad is a farmer and his mother was a teacher, so being an Ag teacher came naturally! Doug teaches Crop Science and Environmental Science. Doug grew on on a rowcrop / livestock farm and still helps his dad and brother with their farming operations. Utilizing conservation practices like terraces, waterways, and no-till, Doug focuses his teaching on sustainability, erosion control, and being good stewards. Doug assists in the soils judging contest at the sub-district and district level, plus is on the state committee. He is the reason the SAC SWCD holds a yearly sub-district soils judging contest. At the sub-district contest, Doug takes the lead and prepares all the schools for the day’s events, even during COVID with a virtual sub-district contest. As an FFA instructor, Doug encourages his students to participate in a community service project which provides healthy meals to those in need. He encourages students to take on projects that teach them to live off the land – trapping, farming / gardening, and animal husbandry. Within the classroom his students learn how to raise fish and chickens, run a greenhouse where they grow vegetables and flowers, plant and manage corn and soybean test plots, plus maintain an arboretum on the edge of town. Doug’s students have advanced to the National Land Judging competition four times and he has had students go on to be soil scientists, agronomists, and farmets. All a testament to his teachings!
2019 Conservation Teachers of the Year
Division I (K-8 teacher) Recipient: Brent Koller, Central Lee Community Schools
Brent gathered the knowledge and passion for conservation from the people he grew up around. He has seen firsthand how important and impactful practices such as no-till and cover crops have been on his own farm. To him, there is no better way to teach than by example. Brent currently teaches 7th and 8th grade agriculture classes at Central Lee Community Schools, and is also active with the high school’s FFA chapter. Brent is not only teaching his students the many aspects of agriculture, he is also reaching out and creating opportunities for his FFA chapter. By reaching out to the local John Deere dealership about donating the use of equipment, Brent has helped make it possible for Central Lee to host the Ag Leadership Program. Through this program, students gain exposure to new technologies in agriculture. Brent is passionate about the next generation of farmers and through his ideas, concepts, and passion he is helping mold the future of farming.
Division II (9-12 teacher) Recipient: Kevin Cooper, Nevada High School
Kevin is not only a teacher and Nevada’s FFA Advisor, but also a landowner and farmer. Because he is so immersed in the world of agriculture, he is able to provide his students with opportunities to take field trips and see conservation practices such as interseeding of oats into soybeans to provide a cover crop, riparian buffer strips, waterways, and terraces. He provides his students the chance to see just how important soil conservation and water quality is by sharing yield data from his 12 years of no-till farming, his experience with the CSP program, and even water samples taken from his farm for analysis. Because soil is one of our world’s most important resources, his students also learn how to use the word ‘soil’ and not dirt. Kevin proudly shows his hard work and conservation practices to not only his students but to thousands of people by boasting his “No Till Soybean” sign right off of a busy highway, letting people see conservation at work.
2018 Conservation Teachers of the Year
Division I (K-8 teacher) Recipient: Blake Anderson, Nodaway Valley Community Schools
Blake began his life learning the importance of soil and water conservation ethics from his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. These life lessons have been instrumental in shaping him into the teacher he is today. Blake began his teaching career in 2013 and hit the ground running, teaching classes at both the high school and middle school levels. Under his leadership, participation in high school agriculture classes has increased from approximately 80 students in 2013 to 130 students today! His students study ecosystems throughout the world in the areas of soil, water, air, flora, fauna, and agricultural stewardship. Soil and water conservation is a topic of discussion in each of his classes. Mr. Anderson attends training and conferences on soil and water quality to stay currently on methods and activities within the industry. In addition to his role as a teacher, he also serves on the Adair and Adams County Farm Bureau Boards, is involved with the 4-H Youth Action Committee, FFA Chair for Creed Speaking annual contest, and is the FFA Grandstand Usher Supervisor for the Iowa State Fair. Blake’s goal for his students is to not only educate them, but enable them to serve the community in the future. He is a role model for young people and is an invaluable educator.
Division II (9-12 teacher) Recipient: Tom Boeck, Central Lee Community Schools
Tom Boeck has used his 32 years of teaching experience to show his students all aspects of agriculture. He believes that conservation is a key ingredient to farming today and for the future. Tom uses many resources including the local NRCS and SWCD office, as well as local farmers, to help students see the real world benefits of agricultural conservation practices. Mr. Boeck utilizes the Central Lee FFA’s 48-acre hands-on educational lab to incorporate conservation practices into his curriculum. These practices include the construction of terraces and placing 12.5 acres into CRP. He and the chapter have incorporated the use of cover crops utilizing various methods of application. Oats and radishes were applied with a hi-boy applicator into standing corn. Students were allowed to speak with the applicator and examine his machine. The other half of the field was drilled with rye following harvest. The students had use of a local farmer’s drill and were able to get hands-on experience using the drill. Mr. Boeck strives to connect his students with the many areas of agriculture – not just farming.
2017 Conservation Teachers of the Year
Division I (K-8 teacher) Recipient: Sue Sparrow Meggers, Interstate 35 Community Schools
Sue believes that soil is the foundation of society, and its conservation is the cure to our lands’ ailments. As a teacher, she believes that hands-on engagement with real world tools is the key to understanding our natural resources. She inspires reverence of the soil and tells her students that “soil is the mother of all living things.” In 2010, Sue inspired and helped lead her students as they raised funds for a 3-acre prairie at their school, which the students continue to maintain and monitor. She led them in installing and maintaining a school garden and helped the students develop a vermicomposting program which was recognized by eCybermission, a national science competition. Sue is an inspiration to her students, and teaches them to appreciate soil as a unique and precious resource for both nature and people.
Division II (9-12 teacher) Recipient: Louis Beck, Union Community School District
As a middle and high school agriculture instructor, FFA chapter adviser, and a 3rd generation farmer, Louis exemplifies a strong soil and water conservation ethic. Louis and his wife, Pat, transitioned their 400-acre corn and soybean farm to no till in 2007 and have many conservation practices on their land including cover crops, grassed waterways, contouring, and terraces. Louis offers his extensive knowledge and passion for agriculture and conservation to his students at Union Community School and his members of the La Porte-Dysart FFA. Louis is always requesting information on current conservation research and innovative practice designs from the Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District to use in his teaching. Black Hawk and Tama Counties are lucky to have such a great educator like Louis to help inspire students to become stewards of Iowa’s soil and water.
2016 Conservation Teachers of the Year
Division I (K-8 teacher) Recipient: Julie Schnedler, Mediapolis Community School District
Julie has been teaching for eleven years. Her participation in FFA and 4-H activities inspired her to seek training and opportunities for her own students to engage in conservation. Julie trained in water monitoring through the IOWATER Program and created a new camp for the Des Moines County Conservation Department to teach kids about our water bodies and water quality. She received the National Conservation Educator of the Year Award in 2016 and was the winner of the Disney Planet Challenge in 2010. Julie does not let an opportunity to be trained in conservation programs she can take back to her students go by.
Division II (9-12 teacher) Recipient: Elizebeth Logsdon, Centerville Community School District
Elizebeth has been teaching for seven years. Elizabeth provides her students with interactive ways to engage in conservation. Her students have taken field trips to meet with NRCS Staff to learn about judging soil and attended the Mississippi River Student Environmental Conference and National FFA Conventions. She continues to build and promote agriculture programs and provide her students with leadership opportunities. Many of Elizebeth’s students have gone on to college or careers related to agriculture. Her teaching is truly inspiring her students to be good stewards of our land.
2015 Conservation Teachers of the Year
Division I (K-8 teacher) Recipient: Andy Bean from Albert City – Truesdale School
Andy Bean is a teacher of young people, with a personal conviction and an ethic that involves every aspect of rural conservation, especially treating the soil with respect and being responsible citizens. In Andy’s view, the soil is for growing food and feeding the world, but is also held in reserve for her children, grandchildren, and literally forever because there is no practical way to replace the soil. Andy involves her students in the rural community where she resides, and they are made aware of the farming industry. She takes the students on field trips to study terraces, waterways, filter-strips, and no-till farming. Andy is an outstanding teacher (Andy teaches art) and ICEC is very pleased to recognize her with this award!
Division II (9-12 teacher) Recipient: Susan Fritzell from Marshalltown High School
In the hi-tech world we all live in, Susan believes that it’s not possible to teach students about the natural world unless you are out in it and exposed to it. So, she frequently takes students on field trips. Students sample water, measure trees, and study soil types. Susan does everything she can to make teaching and learning fun at the same time. Each year her students enter in the State Envirothon competition. From all these varied experiences, students begin to appreciate good land-use decision, grow to value the environment, and their individual actions impact their surroundings. Susan is a gifted teacher and worthy of this award!