The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, with support from Grow with Google, has selected four educators to be Foundation Fellows. Their goal is to make digital skills and agricultural literacy more accessible to students across the country, with a focus on rural classrooms, as they near completion of their first set of lesson plans.
The fellows are Melanie Berndtson (Pennsylvania), Linda Chase (Kansas), Keonte’ Edmonds (North Carolina) and Tanya Novakowski (North Carolina). Each educator is currently participating in an eight-month long program, working to develop place-based curriculum that incorporates agriculture, technology, and key digital skills into a Google Applied Digital Skills lesson.
The lessons developed by the fellows will be available, for free, to all educators interested in teaching students about food, fuel and fiber while giving students a strong foundation in digital skills.
“Our four educators chosen as Foundation Fellows are excellent examples of teachers dedicated to equipping rural students with career-focused digital skills while introducing students across the country to fundamental agricultural concepts,” said Daniel Meloy, executive director of the Foundation for Agriculture. “I can’t wait to see how the lessons our fellows develop are used in rural, urban and suburban classrooms.”
Each of the fellows has received a stipend, Chromebooks for their classroom and one-to-one instruction from experts at Google. The first two of four lessons will be available on National Ag Day, March 21.
About the Fellows
Melanie Berndtson, Pennsylvania
Melanie Berndtson is an agriscience teacher at Wellsboro Area High School in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. She teaches animal science, plant science, leadership and natural resources. She holds an associate’s degree in applied animal science, a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from the University of New Hampshire, and a master’s degree in agricultural and Extension education from Penn State.
Melanie is an advocate of experiential learning and inquiry-based instruction. She is passionate about sustainability in agriculture and works with her students to look for new ways to use technology and fresh thinking to solve some of today’s most pressing sustainability challenges. As a Farm Bureau Foundation Fellow, Melanie is excited to inspire the next generation of students and teachers in agriculture through her passion for hands-on learning and sustainable agriculture.
Learn more about Melanie here.
Linda Chase, Kansas
Linda Chase is an agriculture instructor and FFA advisor at Wellington High School in Wellington, Kansas. She has been teaching agriculture education for more than 25 years, with the last 13 of those at Wellington.
As a Farm Bureau Foundation Fellow, Linda wants to see more women involved in agriculture and agriculture education. She is focused on providing the public with a greater understanding of where food comes from, and on thinking more critically about how we can improve the global food supply in ways that are economically feasible for both farmers and consumers.
Learn more about Linda here.
Keonte’ Edmonds, North Carolina
Keonte’ Edmonds teaches agriculture at Apex Friendship High School and North Carolina Virtual Schools. He holds a master’s degree in agricultural education from North Carolina A&T State University and is a doctoral student in agricultural education at North Carolina State University.
As a Farm Bureau Foundation Fellow, Keonte’ is committed to using technology to ignite students’ passions and connect them with a world of career opportunities in agriculture that they’d never imagined. He hopes to serve as a role model for students who love agriculture, but don’t see many others like themselves in the industry.
Learn more about Keonte’ here.
Tanya Novakowski, North Carolina
Tanya Novakowski is a sixth grade math and science teacher at Rose Hill-Magnolia Elementary School in Rose Hill, North Carolina, where she’s worked for more than two decades. She wants to show students that rural communities offer them opportunities to make a good living and thrive, “from the fields to the board rooms.”
Tanya believes digital literacy is a great equalizer and essential for her students to compete. For her efforts and dedication, Tanya was named North Carolina Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year in 2022. As a Farm Bureau Foundation Fellow, she is working to develop a place-based curriculum that incorporates agriculture, technology and digital skills into an Applied Digital Skills lesson.
Learn more about Tanya here.
For more information on the Foundation Fellows program, visit the Foundation webpage.