Nov. 24—JANESVILLE — Carmen DeKok, a fourth-grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary in Janesville, was surprised Tuesday morning by several colleagues and members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
There, it was announced that DeKok is this year's recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Agriculture in the Classroom Program.
Darlene Arneson, coordinator of the farm bureau's "Ag in the Classroom" program, presented DeKok with the award in front of her students and fellow teachers.
"You're very fortunate here to have a teacher with a wealth of experience and a passion for teaching with your hands and doing hands-on activities, whether it's with plants or animals," Arneson said to DeKok's students, "or bringing in guest presenters and doing field trips when that's available."
Arneson said DeKok has integrated agriculture into her core curriculum area.
And working with Sheila Everhart, the former Rock County Ag in the Classroom coordinator, DeKok organized field trips and invited local farmers to visit her classroom to share information about their farms and the technology they use.
By winning the award, DeKok will be the state's nominee for the National Excellence in Teaching Agriculture Award. In early March, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau will find out who the national finalists are and whether DeKok made the cut.
DeKok received $500 she can put toward educational resources or to attend the 2022 National Ag in the Classroom Conference in Saratoga Springs, New York.
"I'm very surprised. It's a huge honor," DeKoK said.
She said she grew up on a dairy farm and that her parents, brother and sister-in-law still work that farm.
DeKok received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Winona State University and a master's degree from UW-Whitewater. She taught fifth and sixth grade at Harrison Elementary School in Janesville for 21 years before moving to Roosevelt in 2008, where she has taught third and fourth grades.
"I'm always happy to share agriculture with my students. We love going on field trips. We love having people come in," she said.
Stacy Skemp, the agriculture teacher at Milton High School, also briefly spoke about agriculture classes she teaches in high school. Skemp used to teach agriculture at both Janesville Craig and Parker high schools.