FLORENCESC — Theodore Lester Elementary School teacher Jessica Crowson is the recipient of the 2022 Betty J. DeWitt Outstanding Educator Award, the South Carolina Farm Bureau recently announced.
Crowson is the second Florence 1 educator to win this award.
“I am grateful that Ms. Crowson is being recognized for her hard work,” Florence 1 Superintendent Richard O’Malley said. “Our school garden programs are growing and thriving across the district and it is because of people like her investing their time and talents.”
Crowson, who teaches in the STEM Lab at Lester, has been at the school since 2002.
“I am extremely excited to win the Betty J. Dewitt award,” Crowson said. “It is a huge honor. Teaching is my passion and I have had the privilege of teaching at Lester Elementary for 21 years. Since I have stepped into the role of STEM teacher I have also become passionate about agriculture and teaching students about agriculture. A lot of hard work goes into bringing agriculture concepts alive for our students. Receiving this award helps me realize the importance of my efforts and the impact that they make on the students at my school.”
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This award is presented annually to recognize a K-12 teacher who engages in integrating agricultural concepts into non-vocational agriculture classroom settings, according to SC Farm Bureau.
The Betty J. DeWitt Outstanding Educator Award, sponsored by the South Carolina Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee, was implemented to honor Betty J. DeWitt, a South Carolina Farm Bureau Women’s Committee member since 1975. With a background in teaching and youth work, her accomplishments represent a life dedicated to agriculture and education.
Lester Principal Janette Williams said Crowson is deserving of this award.
“Jessica Crowson exemplifies the essence of a teacher,” Williams said. “Her selfless, supportive nature, coupled with her knowledge of STEM content and expertise in providing student-centered, research-based instruction is evident in every facet of her instructional day. Jessica Crowson is one of the key people that make Theodore Lester Elementary an extra special place to learn.”
Crowson said her love for gardening and agricultural learning grew from time at home with her son.
“During COVID my son and I spent a lot of time gardening at home,” Crowson said. “My son (who was 3 at the time) was always my handy assistant. The learning that occurred for him during our time in the garden was huge. The garden stimulated all of his senses. He was able to observe textures, smells, tastes, sounds and so many colors. He was able to start learning how to problem solve and deeper develop his beginning math and science skills. His prereading skills also strengthened with the new vocabulary he was learning. Giving him the physical activity of composting, digging, raking, also helped give him an outlet for his wiggles. Watching the learning that occurred during his time in the garden helped me see the need for a garden at my school.”
In 2021, Crowson helped start the Susie Bennett Garden program at Lester.
“The benefits of academic skills, as well as real-life skills will increase across grade levels,” Crowson said. “When pulling together help and resources for our garden I decided to honor one of our former employees who had a huge love for gardening and also the students of Lester Elementary. During the past year and a half, my students have been immersed in many agricultural concepts through time spent in our school garden. Students across grade levels have had a helping hand in planting, harvesting, and maintaining the school garden. I have also immersed my students in agriculture in many other ways including hydroponics and embryology. Our garden has had a lot of success. It has been fun to grow fruit, vegetables, herbs, and even little learners who love agriculture!”
Florence 1’s Farm to School Coordinator Jeff Murrier said Crowson has done exceptional work at Lester.
“We are so proud of Mrs. Crowson’s accomplishments at Lester,” Murrie said. “Her work in the field of Farm to School validates the importance of teaching agriculture and sustainability from an early age.