March 26, 2019
By Debra Davis
Rachel Chastain, a special needs teacher at the Helen Keller Campus of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind in Talladega, was one of eight National Agriculture In The Classroom Award winners. Her students learn about agriculture and animal husbandry by raising chickens and other small farm animals on school grounds. Seated are Chastain and student Jazmine Chatman. Standing from left are students Jeffrey Oliver, Josh Burks, Ricky Pastrana, Ethan Jordan, Denzel Robinson, Dekendrick Graves and Jacob Seago.
An Alabama special needs teacher who established a small chicken farm on campus to teach students about agriculture is among eight teachers selected as 2019 National Excellence In Teaching About Agriculture Award winners.
Rachel Chastain teaches at the Helen Keller Campus of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) in Talladega. Her students learn about agriculture and animal husbandry by raising chickens and other small farm animals on school grounds.
Chastain and her school recently received a $500 mini-grant from Alabama Ag In The Classroom (AITC) to help buy supplies for the school’s Joe Tom Armbrester AgriScience Center.
“Alabama is so excited and fortunate to have a winner for this award,” said AITC Steering Committee Chairman Kim Earwood. “Rachel works so hard to share hands-on experiences her students will benefit from in school and the rest of their lives. She is truly an asset to AIDB and Alabama agriculture.”
Chastain will be recognized in Little Rock, Arkansas, during the AITC National Conference in June.
The National Agriculture In The Classroom Organization (NAITCO), U.S. Department of Agriculture and Farm Credit partner annually to honor teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade from around the country for the innovative ways they use agricultural concepts to teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, STEM, STEAM and more.
“The Alabama Farmers Federation and AITC have both been so supportive of my students and me through construction of the Joe Tom Armbrester AgriScience Center,” Chastain said. “I have been able to attend conferences and workshops, network with other teachers and get expert advice from farmers in our community and around the state. These experiences have been instrumental in the curriculum integration and farm work experiences I have planned for my students.”
Chastain said she attended the Alabama AITC Summer Institute in 2012 and was impressed with what she learned.
She attended the AITC National Conference in Kansas City in 2017 and was a presenter at the 2018 conference in Portland, Maine.
Chastain will present at this year’s AITC Summer Institute May 29-31 in Florence. Registration closes April 15. Visit alabamaaitc.org for details.