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Jett named Teacher of Year by state conservation group

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By Kristin Beck

The Kentucky Association of Conservation Districts recently recognized a Cartmell Elementary teacher for her work educating students on the environment, energy and environmental careers.

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Fourth-grade science teacher Kim Jett was one of two teachers statewide to win the Teacher of the Year award. She was recognized July 31 at the KACD award ceremony held at the Marriott in downtown Louisville. She received a plaque and $100 from Farm Credit Services.

“I am super happy,” Jett said of winning the award. “I’m very proud and, from what I’ve seen, I think the people that are proud of me are just as proud (of) the county and that makes me happy. Carroll County has come a long way … just in the five years since I’ve been here. You can tell the difference.”

A Carroll County High School graduate, Jett has been teaching for the past five years, all at Cartmell. She has taught science the past four years. “I taught math my first year, and I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t in love with it; I didn’t have a passion for it,” she said. “After my first year in science, I realized I have a passion for science.”

Jett said she likes science because it is very interactive and allows her students to get their hands dirty and experiment. “They learn on their own a lot,” she said. “I’ve tried to keep my lessons down to 10 or 15 minutes and the rest of the time, they’re doing the work, they’re learning, and then we come back for 10 or 15 minutes and reflect, and they’re getting a lot out of that. It’s a different way of teaching, but it’s a better way of teaching.”

The Carroll County Soil Conservation Office nominated Jett for the award. Jett said Tracey Yocum and Theoda Franklin filled out the application, and they all found out Jett had one about a week before the banquet. 

In applying for the award, Jett listed all of the ways she educated her students about the environment throughout the year. The largest chunk of her application pertained to the Environmental Career Day she planned on May 15. Every fourth-grader at Cartmell attended the event, held at the Outdoor Classroom on Four Mile Road in Carrollton.

“We go to the Outdoor Classroom every year, and we pretty much just do a life science day,” Jett said. “We had never really talked about energy, so this was our first time going and actually devoting a day to energy and devoting a day to careers, because Carroll County is striving for ‘College and Career Ready.’ With science, the big push is environmental careers, so that was the big difference in our trip.”

In preparation, Jett applied for an Energy and Environment grant from the Division of  Conservation in March 2011. When she found out she had received the $428 grant, it was not during good tree-planting season, so the project was delayed. The grant paid for 200 two-year-old seedlings – half Northern Red Oak and half Kentucky Coffee trees – food and lots of water for the hot day, she said.

Jett was in contact with Scott’s for about a year beforehand and asked them for help with the soil. The company also helped unload it at the Outdoor Classroom. She said Carroll County High School teacher Joe Vessels also helped by housing some of the trees until the planting.

When the day finally arrived, students were able to rotate through seven different stations, each of which had a volunteer guest speaker and a hands-on-activity: tree-planting; wind and solar power with Carolyn Bergs from the National Energy Education Development project and Jon Nipple, the Carroll County School District energy manager; soil sampling with Franklin; archeology, where students sifted through rocks and sediments in the creek to find fossils; and environmental careers with Carroll County Extension agent Christin Herbst at one station and Sharon Spears of Dow Corning at another.

The goal of the event was to show students that there are many different career options, many of which they may never have thought of. “A lot of these kids around here, when they think of engineers, they think of years and years and years of schooling, and they think of math; a lot of them don’t put the math and science together,” Jett said. “A lot of them don’t think, ‘Hey, that’s something I could do,’ until they see it.”

Jett said her favorite part about the day is that it was all hands on. “Every station they went to, they got to put their hands on something, they got to get dirty.” She said they plotted where each student’s tree was planted, so if they wanted to go back next year or even 20 years from now, they would be able to find it.

In addition to Outdoor Classroom, Jett last year also taught the students a lot about energy and how to conserve it.

“In the future, they’re not going to have the same resources they have now, so we did a lot with thinking about what we’re going to do in the future because they are the future,” she said. “We also talk a lot about plants and animals, and we’ve done a lot of experiments and that kind of stuff and a lot of it has to do with the environment.”

She also attended a NEED project convention in Denver with fellow teacher Jessica Breeden, and brought back kits with different items in them that she can use for class, such as solar cells and solar ovens.

“I think it’s important for (students) to know about the environment because, basically, the state of the environment depends on them,” she said. “They’re going to be the ones that are left with our mistakes, and they’re going to be the ones responsible for fixing it.”

Jett said what she loves most about being a teacher is when her students have “their ‘ah ha’ moments, when they get it,” she said. “If they’ve struggled for a while and you can just see the light bulb go off, whether it was a partner who explained it to them, whether they figured it out on their own, I just love those ‘ah ha’ moments.”

 

SIDE BAR:

Kim Jett will be teaching a station on the fourth-graders’ experience at Outdoor Classroom at the Carroll County Conservation District field day at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20. Jett is a non-voting member of the soil conservation committee and serves as a liaison between the district and the schools. The event is open to the public.