Since she was 7 years old, Beth Knapp has been involved in agriculture. This love of farming has led to a career milestone which will unfold in front of her in about three weeks.
Knapp, 28, an agriculture instructor and Future Farmers of America adviser at Atwater High School, is one of four finalists for the national FFA Agriscience Teacher award which will be announced Oct. 21 at the group's annual convention in Indianapolis.
Knapp teaches 226 students at Atwater High. She has four classes of agricultural biology for freshmen and sophomores, one class of ag economics for seniors and an ag leadership class involving all grades.
Growing up in Durham, south of Chico, Knapp started in 4-H about 21 years ago and "just stuck with it." She was named the state's top ag teacher this year by the FFA, leading to her eligibility for the national honor.
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Atwater High Principal Alan Peterson said Knapp is one of the most innovative teachers in the Merced Union High School District. "She is very deserving of an honor such as this," Peterson said. "She goes above and beyond everything she does."
Knapp earned her bachelor's degree in ag education in 2005 from California State University, Fresno where she was a member of the NCAA Equestrian Team. She received her master's degree in ag education last year from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
The best part about being an agriculture teacher, Knapp said, is watching students make the connection between science and how their food is grown. It is most rewarding, she added, to watch students achieve something they have worked so hard to accomplish.
Knapp, who has taught at Atwater for six years, said her state-winning agronomy team will compete in the national contest Oct. 19-20. She's due to give her finalist presentation Oct. 20, when she will talk about the classes she teaches and how to motivate students.
She said her biggest accomplishments as an ag teacher were winning state championships in both horse judging in 2010 and agronomy this year.
"She is extremely passionate about teaching," said Dave Gossman, ag department chairman. "She is constantly trying to find ways to be a more effective teacher and reach kids."
As a national teacher finalist, Knapp received a $500 cash award and a $1,500 grant to buy agriscience equipment for the school. The national winner will get an additional $1,500 cash award.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at
(209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.