Ashley VandenBush takes pride in sharing her passion for agriculture with the students she teaches.
“It is important to teach kids about agriculture because ag unites us all,” she said. “We are all connected in some way to agriculture — whether it’s the clothes we wear or the food we eat or the people we know. Agriculture is something we all share in common.”
VandenBush, a third-grade teacher at St. John Bosco Catholic School in Sturgeon Bay, recently received the 2018 Outstanding Teacher Award for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Ag in the Classroom program.
Each year the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation recognizes a teacher’s efforts in educating students on the importance of agriculture. Teachers of all grade levels and subject areas are eligible to be considered, with the exception of certified agriculture education instructors.
“Ashley has done a fantastic job of seeking out agriculture resources to use in her teaching,” said Darlene Arneson, coordinator for the WFBF’s Ag in the Classroom program. “She has attended numerous volunteer and teacher trainings, has presented a workshop at our national conference and has used Ag in the Classroom resources in a variety of settings.”
VandenBush earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Carroll University in 2012. She served as a substitute teacher in Brown and Manitowoc counties before joining the staff at St. John Bosco Catholic School in 2015.
VandenBush wasn’t raised on a farm; she grew up in the city of Green Bay. But she had plenty of support over the years and grew to love agriculture.
After graduating from college in 2012, she attended an Ag in the Classroom soybean science training event, which is where she first met Arneson.
“That experience really opened up my eyes and got me interested,” said VandenBush, who began helping with the Brown County Dairy Promotions Ambassador program that year.
VandenBush said a pair of teachers were instrumental in encouraging her to explore her interest in agriculture. Mark Strohschein, a now-retired agriscience teacher at Green Bay East High School, and Betty Krcma, an agriscience teacher at Green Bay Preble High School, taught her leadership class at East High School. They re-connected later in life and supported VandenBush’s passion for agriculture.
VandenBush also credited her mother, Tina Prue, and sister, Ann Marie Prue, as being positive influences in her life.
“Ashley has been active in Farm Bureau, Green Bay FFA Alumni, Young Farmers Association and has been a strong advocate for agriculture,” Arneson said. “Because of her high-level of dedication of including agriculture in her curriculum, she earned a White-Reinhardt Educator Scholarship (in 2014) from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture to attend the National Ag in the Classroom Conference.”
Added VandenBush: “From there, it was a springboard. I fell in love with all the opportunities.”
VandenBush teaches 12 students at St. John Bosco Catholic School. At least once per week she incorporates fun, agriculture-related activities into her lessons as part of Ag in the Classroom
“It’s so important to expose kids to these activities … so they could possibly pursue a career that’s ag-related some day if that interests them,” she said. “I just have fun doing what I’m doing, and I think that passion is transferred to my students. They enjoy the activities too. Some can be wild and crazy and messy, but they’re fun and kids learn.”
VandenBush, Wisconsin’s nominee for the National Excellence in Teaching Agriculture Award, will receive $500 to attend the 2019 National Ag in the Classroom Conference in Little Rock, Ark.
Cindy Barber, a fifth-grade teacher at Random Lake Middle School, and Lori Bongert, a fourth-grade teacher at Rio Elementary School, were named runners-up for their efforts in sharing agricultural literacy with their students.
For more information about the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Ag in the Classroom program, visit www.wfbf.com.