Log in

Commentary: Mini-grants and gratitude, thank you teachers


May is an exciting time of year. Students and teachers are wrapping up the school year, and summer vacation is approaching.

Before the month ends, I encourage educators across the state to apply for a Missouri Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture mini-grant. These competitive grants, worth up to $500, will be awarded for use in Missouri classroom programs K-12 to promote agricultural literacy. Past examples of projects include teaching students about the lifecycle and hatching eggs in the classroom incubator, encouraging kids to get their hands dirty planting a school garden, or digging in to the various pork, beef and poultry cuts that consumers shop for at the store. The deadline to submit applications is May 31, and more information is available at MOFB.org.  

The timing for the grant program is on point because this is Teacher Appreciation Week. This week is a reminder to reflect on educators' profound impact on our lives. They are the unsung heroes who wear multiple hats — serving as counselors in times of need, referees on the playground, class sponsors organizing fundraisers and, most importantly, leaders who ignite the spark of curiosity and passion within their students. 

Growing up on a farm instills resilience, but in school, our teachers reinforce this trait time and time again. Whether we face defeat in an extracurricular event or navigate challenges in life, educators are on the front lines of these experiences. They provide not only instruction but invaluable life lessons that shape character and mold future leaders.

I remember a simple interaction in high school when my track coach unexpectedly signed me up for the 4x800-meter relay race. I was so frustrated to be in an event that I had not spent any time training for. Ultimately, he simply explained, "I'm pushing you." Years later, I reflect on that experience and know that subtle push into the unexpected was a larger-than-expected life lesson. There are things in life where you can prepare, but you should be ready to learn to adjust.  

From the push to embrace new experiences and the care they provide through the classroom or life lessons, these seemingly small gestures often have far-reaching implications. Small moments teach resilience, adaptability and the importance of embracing the unexpected twists and turns of life's journey.

Indeed, teachers do far more than impart knowledge; they motivate, challenge, comfort, share and guide. But above all, they care deeply about the well-being and success of their students. Every student connects with different teachers in unique ways. For some, it's the agriculture advisor; for others, it might be an art, English or chemistry teacher. Each one leaves an indelible mark on the lives they touch.

During Teacher Appreciation Week, schools nationwide express gratitude through gestures like potluck lunches, gifts and heartfelt notes. Yet, no amount of cheese dip or brownies can encapsulate the depth of gratitude felt for these educators. Their impact extends beyond the classroom, shaping the trajectory of countless lives and leaving an enduring legacy.

As we reflect on Teacher Appreciation Week, let us remember to express our gratitude not just with tokens of appreciation but with heartfelt thanks for the countless lessons learned, the lives touched, and the futures transformed by these dedicated professionals. We appreciate the difference you make every single day.

Hawkins is a farmer from Appleton City.