MEI teacher Gary Funk has been named the Classroom Foundation Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture for 2020. (Submitted)

MEI teacher Gary Funk has been named the Classroom Foundation Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture for 2020. (Submitted)

MEI teacher wins Classroom Foundation Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture Award

Abbotsford secondary teacher Gary Funk named 2020 recipient of award presented by BCAITC

MEI Secondary teacher Gary Funk has been named the recipient of the 2020 BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture Award.

The award was presented to Funk at the virtual BC Agriculture Gala on Thursday (Jan. 28).

In March 2018, Funk revived his passion for agriculture that he had cultivated in his own backyard and his work experience at Aldergrove Nursery. He applied for a grant to revitalize unused or underutilized farmland within the Abbotsford Agricultural Land Reserve. The land across the road from MEI had been MEI property for several decades and had no agricultural production on it for the last many years.

He gathered a team of teachers to form a school steering committee and also enlisted the assistance and expertise of a number of community partners, and together they developed curriculum for an agriculture program that now runs across the grades from pre-K to Grade 12 at MEI.

The Ecological Stewardship Program now includes a 2,000 sq. ft. heated greenhouse, 1/3 acre raised bed vegetable garden, a pollinator garden, a field composting system, and the start of a small orchard of fruit trees.

Thanks to Gary’s efforts, MEI elementary students can grow plants from seed, middle school kids can devise botany experiments, and secondary students can take a Specialized Science 12 (Agriculture Stewardship) course. This past year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, products harvested from the program were donated to the Abbotsford Food Bank, Communitas, and Abbotsford Gleaners.

“The staff and students at MEI are very proud that Gary received this award,” stated Mark Thiessen, MEI principal. “Gary’s innovative and experiential teaching focus has helped to bring agriculture education to the forefront of MEI. The students are excited to learn about the environment, farming, and food – and help build food security in our surrounding community.”

To learn more about the Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture Award, visit bcaitc.ca.

RELATED: Abbotsford’s MEI moving forward with ‘virtual classroom’

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