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Black River Falls Ag Educator Named School Teacher of Year
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 09/06/2011

An agriculture education instructor at Black River Falls High School was named Wisconsin's High School Teacher of the Year for the 2011-12 school year. In a surprise ceremony at his school last week, State School Superintendent Tony Evers announced Bradley Markhardt's name during an all-school assembly. As part of the honor, Markhardt will receive $3,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation.

"Teachers who receive this award are recognized by their peers, students, and parents as caring, committed educators," Evers said. "They are representative of the quality educators who make a difference every school day for our students."

Markhardt says he views his role in education as a facilitator, saying he wants to help each student grow in academic achievement and to empower students to think critically, solve problems, make quality decisions, and cooperate with others.

Brad, who is also the school's FFA advisor, uses agriculture education's three circle model of classroom instruction: rigor, relevance, and relationships. He establishes rigor in the classroom by creating lessons for a diversity of learners, provides relevance through Supervised Agriculture Experiences, and creates relationships through the FFA organization. He says that the work experience and participation in FFA provide his students with motivational opportunities to expand classroom learning into relationships and connections to life.

Markhardt has developed many community partners to provide opportunities for his students. One partnership is a Land Lab, in which a three-acre plot includes student garden and research plots as well as community gardens. With the help of local professionals, Markhardt's students learned to lay survey lines for plots, construct a deer fence and amend the soil. They also constructed a system to catch rain water to assist with irrigation. His future goals include composting for the Land Lab. He also wants to expand the hydroponics system in the school greenhouse and forge more partnerships to bring more locally grown and fresh produce to the cafeteria.

"While there are definitely challenges, I do see many positive things happening in education today," Markhardt said. "I see students getting involved, motivated to excel, excited by the opportunities we present to them."

In his nomination of Markhardt, fellow teacher Paul Rykken called him a humble, yet positive leader.

Markhardt is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned his master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Evers will recognize Markhardt as the Wisconsin High School Teacher of the Year during his State of Education address next week in Madison.

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