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Putnam Teacher of the Year shares agriculture, life-skills lessons with students


By Caitlin Coyne

Putnam Review

Agriculture education teacher Danielle Grant (center), is Putnam County Teacher of the Year. In this file photo she is joined by FFA chapter president Lainey Smith (right) and FFA member Megan Parsons.

Danielle Grant is a lot of things -- a mother, a cattle farmer and a wife, to name a few.

Her most recent title, though, is Putnam County Teacher of the Year.

For the last five years, Grant has worked as an agriculture teacher and adviser of the Future Farmers of America program at Buffalo High School, where, before her employment there in 2012, an FFA program hadn’t existed since the 1960s.

“The (Buffalo and Putnam County) community really pushed to start this program; I don’t want to take that away from them,” Grant said. “I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to come in and help grow and develop it.”

Grant has always been involved in farming and agriculture, growing up on “an ‘Old McDonald’ type of farm,” as she says, where her father had random sorts of animals always running around.

Today, she and her husband, Jeremy, run a cattle farm in Mason County, where they raise calves and goats, and grow their own hay and corn.

Grant, mother to a 3-year-old daughter, with another child on the way, loves agriculture. It’s easy to see her joy through the light in her eyes as she explains being able to share that love and passion with the dozens of students she instructs in her five classes at Buffalo High.

“I have a lot of kids I consider -- in a way -- my kids,” Grant said. “I’m incredibly blessed to have such talented kids.”

Grant was selected as Putnam County Teacher of the Year after a competitive application and committee-selection process. She was nominated through Buffalo High School, and from there her application was sent to the state competition. After that, a committee of selected individuals from Putnam County read through all the applicants from the county and chose Grant as the standout.

“I felt excited, and obviously surprised,” Grant said.

This isn’t the first time Grant has been recognized for her dedication to the agriculture business or the science behind it.

Last July, the West Virginia Farm Bureau honored Grant with a tractor after she came in fourth place at the American Farm Bureau’s national discussion meet competition.

After her win, Grant told The Charleston Gazette-Mail she hoped the competition could show her students that the skills she teaches then are applicable to real-world scenarios and could one day pay off.

In Grant’s classes -- which range from an introductory agriculture course to a senior leadership course -- she strives to offer her students “hands-on, activity-based” lessons. By breaking from the run-of-the-mill lecture/notes style, she believes her students are better engaged and enjoy the content more.

“The way she teaches gets kids more involved, and once they’re more involved they’re going to remember it more and respect it more,” said Tawny Stilianoudakis, principal of Buffalo High School. “And not just the academic parts -- the professional skills, the out-of-the-box thinking skills … [Grant’s classes] are all science-oriented, but, at the same time, they develop leadership skills, speaking skills. She instills in the students the want to educate others.”

Even if they don’t plan on pursuing a career in agriculture, Grant said the information provided through her lessons can help students in their day-to-day lives.

“Career tech is unique; it’s more life-based,” she said. “We’re actually teaching them life skills.”

While she’s proud every time she sees one of her students pursue agricultural goals after high school, she knows not everyone can, and hopes the other students take the lessons they’re taught and help educate those around them about the reality of farming and ag.

“There is so much misinformation out there today about farming and the industry,” Grant said. “At least maybe [these students] can answer some questions about it or inform the people in their lives about what really goes on.”

For Catlin Herdman, 17, an agriculture student at Buffalo High School, Grant’s classes have opened up new avenues for her as she looks toward her future.

“We get to do more and be more interactive...” Herdman, who plans to study veterinarian sciences after high school, said. “It’s better for everyone.”

Buffalo is home to many first-generation college students, Grant said, and, for them, programs like agriculture and FFA provide opportunities they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of in other studies or programs.

“In West Virginia, we’re living in a day and age where everything is ‘going green,’ and [Grant] has come in and helped us keep up with that by teaching these students skills like growing their own food and about the world around them,” Stilianoudakis said.

“We’re fortunate to have her here. This is something a lot of other schools, in my opinion, should have.”


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