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Jana Everett, Mississippi Farm Bureau 2022 Teacher of the Year
Teaching Life Skills Through Ag Instruction
2022 Mississippi Farm Bureau Teacher of the Year advocates for 4-H
Story by Leah Barbour • Photo by Kevin Hudson
Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important, and so is knowing where your food comes from, how to grow it yourself, and how to harvest and prepare it. Veteran educator Jana Everett believes children need to learn all these lessons.
A teacher for gifted students at Henderson-Ward-Stewart Elementary School in Oktibbeha County, Everett takes her charge to teach young children seriously.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher; there was never any other option,” she says. “I like to connect with the kids, and I get to build relationships watching them bloom and grow. We’ve got to teach kids life skills and help them enjoy learning.”
A former Prentiss County 4-H’er, Everett has always seen hands-on learning experiences as key to teaching children, and she finds herself incorporating agriculture into lessons very naturally.
“From the very beginning, agriculture was influencing my teaching. I didn’t notice how much at first,” she laughs. “Every single year, I seem to be doing some type of ag-based lesson every time I turn around. I did farm-to-table lessons when I had a kindergarten classroom, and I’m always trying to keep something ag-related going on in the classroom, from classroom pets to an outdoor garden.”
In fact, Everett’s efforts to bring ag into her classrooms were recognized by Mississippi Farm Bureau—she was named the 2022 Teacher of the Year for her outstanding accomplishments in teaching agriculture. Everett’s longtime friend and colleague, Extension agricultural literacy specialist Dr. Julie White, encouraged Everett to apply for the award.
“It was an honor to nominate Ms. Everett for the Teacher of the Year award,” White says. “She has always involved agriculture in her classroom activities and was always looking for new ways to enhance her classroom experience for her students.
“Today, most elementary students have little understanding of the role agriculture plays in their daily lives. It is important for teachers like Ms. Everett to include agriculture in their curricula, providing opportunities for their students to understand how their food, fiber, and fuel are grown and produced. This knowledge will help students make more educated choices as consumers, policymakers, and citizens in the future.”
Along with statewide recognition from Farm Bureau, one of the foremost agricultural supporters and partners in the state, the Teacher of the Year award supported Everett’s classroom efforts with a $500 scholarship. Farm Bureau also sent Everett to the national Ag in the Classroom Conference held in Saratoga Springs, New York, in June 2022.
The agricultural education that Everett oversees continues not only at her school, but also in her home.
Everett’s daughter, Jaden Claire, is continuing the family tradition. She’s shown sheep, pigs, chickens, and cows, and she’s especially fond of 4-H’s new rabbit showing program. Jaden Claire has been participating in 4-H activities, including showing livestock and entering county competitions, since she was 5 years old.
“Elementary kids just don’t get enough ag influence, and it’s hard for them to understand that chocolate milk doesn’t come from a chocolate cow. Only white milk comes from a cow, any cow,” Everett explains. “4-H was always such a big part of my life—I grew up knowing so much of this stuff.
“Looking back, seeing and evaluating what I’ve done, what my kids have done and learned, I realize what an impact 4-H has had. I want to get more opportunities to bring more agricultural education in the classroom. It’s fun to see the kids find an interest for ag that they didn’t even know they had.”
Click here to read Mississippi Farm Bureau’s 2022 announcement about Everett.