In the News

Chase County Teacher Named Teacher of the Year for Bringing Agriculture into the Classroom

LINCOLN, NE – The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation has selected Arlys Cupp for the 2020 Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year honor. The Teacher of the Year is awarded to outstanding teachers that incorporate agriculture into their classroom through innovative ideas and lessons.

Arlys Cupp, a second-grade teacher at Chase County Schools in Imperial, was honored at a surprise ceremony at the school on Jan. 13.

“The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is pleased to honor Arlys Cupp, a teacher who demonstrates a strong connection between core classroom learning and agriculture all year in the classroom,” said Courtney Schaardt, director of outreach education. “She creatively incorporates lessons and activities that help students understand that agriculture is their source of food, fiber, and fuel.”

Cupp has been a teacher in Southwestern Nebraska for 35 years. Throughout those years, she has continuously incorporated agriculture into her curriculum. Cupp uses many ways to connect learning and agriculture into core subject areas like language arts, math, social studies, and science.

Cupp’s classroom uses Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom resources to help the students learn and understand that agriculture is part of their lives every day. From the food they eat to the clothes they wear, agriculture is all around them.

One of Cupp’s favorite programs is the Ag Pen Pal program. Her classroom partners with a rancher in the sandhills who has a cattle operation. The classroom and the pen pal write letters to each other throughout the school year. Their pen pal shows them the importance of cattle being produced to feed the population and how crops are produced and harvested in our state.

“Letter writing skills are taught and improved while the students learn about agriculture in Nebraska,” said Cupp. “The friendships and relationships developed are personal and create a real-life connection to agriculture for the students.”

Cupp uses many of the accurate agriculture books that the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation recommends in her language arts class. One of her favorites is First Peas to the Table by Susan Grigsby. The book is based on a contest that Thomas Jefferson held with his friends and neighbors every year. The book integrates school gardens, history, and seasonal weather themes into a fun-to read book. Cupp developed an hour-long lesson to go with the book where the students learn about Thomas Jefferson, farming throughout history, and modern-day agriculture.

“After we read the book, each student received a package of peas to plant at home,” said Cupp. “I received pictures all summer long of the pea plants and produce the students grew to eat with their families.”

Cupp is also involved with 4-H and FFA. Cupp has been a 4-H leader for 26 years and has lead projects in the areas of livestock, vet science, gardening, cooking, S.T.E.M, and communications. She enjoys watching the children explore and excel in agriculture related areas while challenging them to further their knowledge and expand their projects.

On her own farm, Cupp grows 2.5 acres of pumpkins and has a corn maze and pumpkin patch that is open to the public on the weekends. She enjoys being able to incorporate Farm Bureau’s companion resources as part of the unit she teaches on pumpkins. Each Christmas her classroom sends hand-painted, dried gourds to their Ag Pen Pal.

“I feel so privileged to be able to teach my students about the generations before us and their agriculture practices,” said Cupp. “Many of my students have grown into individuals with successful agriculture careers. I’m so lucky that I get to be a part of what interests them in agriculture at such an early age.”

Cupp will receive an expense-paid trip to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, an accurate agriculture book bundle featuring 12 books and corresponding literature guides, and a $250 cash prize. The conference, held June 23-26 in Salt Lake City, UT, brings educators together from all over the United States to learn how to use agricultural concepts to effectively teach core subjects such as reading, math, science, and social studies. The conference features recognition for Teacher of the Year honorees, educational workshops, traveling workshops to agribusinesses and research facilities, and farm tours.

(L-R) Mike Nelson, Chase County Farm Bureau President; Courtney Schaardt, director of outreach education at the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation; Arlys Cupp, teacher of the year, Chase County Schools; Rob Hartman, Chase County Farm Bureau board member; Heidi Pieper, Southwest regional manager at Nebraska Farm Bureau.

The mission of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is to engage youth, educators, and the general public to promote an understanding of the vital importance of agriculture in the lives of all Nebraskans. The Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. For more information about the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, visit

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