A New Mexico State University graduate, and agricultural and science educator at Centennial High School, Rachel Knight is one of six individuals across the nation to be awarded with the Agriscience Teacher of the Year Awards.
The award was presented at the 2015 National Association of Agricultural Educators annual convention in New Orleans in November. The National Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award recognizes teachers who inspire and enlighten their students through lessons in the science of agriculture that are interactive and engaging.
Knight received her Bachelor of Science in animal science from NMSU in 2003. She then went on to receive her master’s in animal science with an emphasis in reproductive physiology with Regents Professor Dennis Hallford at NMSU. While she was attending school at NMSU, Knight worked at the animal science endocrinology lab for seven years. Knight also won two national championships for NMSU on the equestrian team.
Knight originally hoped to become a veterinarian but after graduation she took a job as a teacher at Picacho Middle School teaching science and agriculture. Because she loved both of these areas, she decided to stick with teaching.
“Both of my parents are teachers so I think it is kind of in my blood,” Knight said. “My parents have been my biggest inspiration to become a good teacher and to have an impact on my students.”
Knight has now been teaching agriculture for nine years and has been teaching at Centennial High School since 2012.
“At Centennial, I try to make sure that all of the classes that I teach are engaging to my students,” Knight said. “Most of the time, learning in my room revolves around cooperative learning and inquiry-based learning. I want the students to look forward to coming to class and I try to offer as many opportunities for students to get involved in FFA as I can.”
In order to do this, Knight has developed Supervised Agriculture Experiences for her students. Students have the opportunity to raise and train a puppy for the Guide Dogs for the Blind program through one of those SAE.
Centennial High students can also grow vegetables in the school’s aeroponic Tower Gardens. They then sell these items to teachers and staff at the school. This is a way for students to collect data on production yields for crops that use less water and land than traditional farming.
With her background in animal science, Knight also teaches several classes about both large and small animal science and hands-on labs with the animals. She provides opportunities for her students in veterinary science with internships at local clinics and work opportunities at the animal science farm at NMSU.
Knight works with the Agricultural and Extension Education and Animal Science departments at NMSU to help her program and students.
“Every year I take students to NMSU to tour these departments and the students love getting to see all of the animals and go rumen diving,” Knight said about her program’s connections to NMSU.
To expose her students to more career possibilities in science fields, Knight has created partnerships with NMSU’s Scientifically Connected Communities and Howard Hughes Medical Institute programs.
“The faculty enjoys visiting with my high school students and they make connections with them that leave my students wanting to become Aggies!” Knight said.
Author: Shelby N. Herrera – NMSU