FRANKLIN, Va. (WFXR) — March 21st marks the beginning of ‘National Agriculture Week,’ and we’re growing a story close to home. Jennifer Hatch is one of only nine teachers in the country to receive the 2023 National Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award.

Hatch teaches math to seventh graders at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Rocky Mount. Her passion for teaching students about agriculture was previously recognized when she was named the Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) 2023 Teacher of the Year.

Hatch’s class established a hydroponics garden at school, where they grew lettuce, basil, and cilantro throughout the year. Hatch taught students how to budget for additional ingredients and calculated recipe proportions for the number of servings needed. This real-life implication of turning classroom-grown produce into meals showed her students how math and agriculture intertwine.

“Her students are experiencing the application of math concepts while truly becoming budding agriculture engineers and horticulturalists, which will spur career interest and help these secondary students begin to set their sights on future careers,” said Tammy Maxey, Virginia AITC executive director. 

The national title was given to her by the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), and Farm Credit.

“When a student makes that real-life connection to the lessons and activities their teachers share, students continue to learn and value the true meaning of those lessons when they leave the classroom. Innovative teachers like these are often responsible for awakening a student’s love of learning, nature, and science,” said Dr. Dionne Toombs, acting director of USDA-NIFA.