Energy and enthusiasm are two descriptors for Elaine Owen that are immediately apparent when meeting her. A champion of the life lessons and values that can germinate by growing food and learning about agriculture, Elaine Owen grows connections within her school, her community, and leaves a legacy of agriculture learning and inspiration in her students once they leave her classroom.

The recipient of the 2023 AITC-M Teacher Driver Award, Elaine teaches Grade 6 and Grade 2 Social Studies at Miami School — a K-12 school located 100 miles southwest of Winnipeg.

Elaine is the latest recipient of our annual Teacher Driver Award, which is given to a Manitoba teacher who demonstrates exceptional leadership in fostering agriculture literacy in their students. A small committee reviews several nominations, where it’s never an easy task of choosing between so many inspiring educators who lead agriculture education into their classrooms and the minds of their students. The Teacher Driver Award recipient is given a trophy, a certificate, and a $500 cheque to use toward furthering agriculture literacy in their teaching life.

Elaine is widely known in Miami for her passion for agriculture and makes growing food a part of everyday life in her classroom. Even before she joined the Little Green Thumbs program in 2015, Elaine had mini greenhouses all over her classroom. Though she jokes that weeds “find her”, she also ably takes care of an outdoor garden in the spring and summer months that her students enjoy.

Elaine brings other teachers in her school into her gardening passion too, and together with her Miami colleague Craig Blagden, the Little Green Thumbs program took root at the school. Over the years, their classrooms have grown and enjoyed beets, carrots and many other vegetables year-round.

Elaine loves seeing the joy on her student’s faces in the morning when they notice something new in the garden. This year, the class pulled off a bumper crop of lettuce in their indoor garden — eating it for “weeks on end” and sharing extra with other grades.

Elaine has been a devoted attendee of AITC-M teacher workshops every fall and uses other programs and resources, including Eat Well: Exploring Canada’s Food Guide and attending Follow the Farmers virtual tours. She loves being introduced to new books every year at AITC-M workshops and says she’s “energized and joyful” when returning to the classroom.

“Elaine has used creative ways to help her students understand how critical farming is to our lifestyle and world,” says Elaine’s colleague and nominator Bev Swain.

Elaine has been an incredible teacher champion for AITC-M, and we are humbled to see how she has modeled agriculture education in Miami School showing her students where their food comes from and the impact it has on their community!