Beth Knapp is the best in the nation, but she thinks the honor belongs to her students.
Knapp, 28, co-chairman of the Atwater High School agriculture department, was named Agriscience Teacher for 2011 at the national Future Farmers of America convention in Indianapolis. With the award goes $3,500 which she is plowing back into the ag program to buy computers.
"I'm amazed and humbled by the recognition," Knapp said. "The competition was very stiff and I was honored to be a finalist. This (award) showcases what the students in Atwater do."
Knapp's selection also means she gets an all-expenses-paid trip Nov. 15 to the National Association of Ag Educators convention in St. Louis, Mo. The educators' group was a co-sponsor of the top teacher award.
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Alan Peterson, Atwater High School principal, said he is proud of Knapp's accomplishments.
"Beth and co-chairman Dave Gossman have built up our FFA and ag department over the past seven or eight years," Peterson said, "into something special. No one is more deserving of the honor."
Knapp is able to reach out to all students and help them prepare for the future, Peterson said, and the ag department serves more than 800 students, most of whom live in the city limits.
"She loves what she does and has a passion towards making a positive difference in the lives of young people," Gossman said.
Knapp had to conduct a 15-minute presentation and give a 10-minute interview at the FFA convention before being chosen the national ag teacher. She said she has done many presentations before and enjoyed the process, particularly the chance to share her students' accomplishments.
Knapp received her bachelor's degree in ag education from California State University, Fresno, and a master's degree in ag education from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
At Fresno State she was a member of the NCAA Equestrian Team. She said the biggest accomplishments as an ag teacher were winning state championships in horse judging in 2010 and agronomy this year. She also was named the state's top ag teacher in May by the FFA, setting the stage for competition at the national level.
Now in her sixth year of teaching at Atwater High, Knapp said the best thing about her job is watching students make the connection between science and how their food is grown. It is most rewarding to see her students achieve success after their hard work, she said.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.