Story and Photos by Monica Velasquez
Courtesy of TWILA and Farm Bureau of Louisiana
NATCHITOCHES – Lisa Wiggins, teacher and librarian at Northwestern State University Elementary Lab School, was named this year’s Louisiana Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year, her second time to win the award.
The award recognizes a Louisiana teacher for achievements and efforts in teaching students the importance of agriculture. Wiggins teaches English language arts, science and reading to her K-5th grade students using literacy gardens she built more than a decade ago. She is also the 4-H Club sponsor.
Wiggins said she is inspired by the Roman philosopher Cicero who said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Although she claims she’s not an expert gardener, Wiggins enjoys growing her gardening skills with her students.
“I’m learning just along with the kids,” Wiggins said. “A lot of the stuff they’re learning, I didn’t know before either. So, we’re applying a lot of our research into discovering new things, so I feel like a student along with them. We’re all growing together.”
As Wiggins expands her literacy garden roots, she’s run into a few snags. She introduced an aquaponics garden to the library but didn’t have any books associated with the topic in her library. Instead, she and her students wrote a book of their own – “Plant Wars,” inspired by Star Wars and set in a galaxy far, far away.
“She’s bringing the library to life with these literacy beds in her garden, so they are living the stories that they read,” said Lynda Danos, Louisiana Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom State Coordinator.
Danos presented Wiggins her award package and a plaque naming her the 2021 Louisiana Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year. Wiggins also received the award in 2011 and since then, she expanded her garden by adding an outdoor classroom, a greenhouse for aquaponics and a garden for each grade at the school.
Winning the award a second time means more to Wiggins than it did a decade ago, she said.
“I’ve grown to appreciate and respect this organization and all that they do for everyone, and the generosity and the wealth of resources and how they really are trying to promote and support teachers,” Wiggins said. “Just to be associated with Ag in the Classroom and to be recognized as one of their outstanding teachers is quite an honor.”
Her prize package includes a trip to the National Ag in the Classroom Conference, a $500 cash prize and an iPad. Teachers can now apply for the 2022 Louisiana Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year award until January 1, 2022. The criteria, application and prize list are available at https://aitcla.org/teacher-of-the-year.
Louisiana Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year is presented by TWILA (“This Week in Agriculture’”) the long-running TV agriculture program that is produced by Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. TWILA can be viewed on 18 broadcast and cable stations across Louisiana and nationally on RFD-TV. It is Louisiana’s first and only farm news program.