Cindy Snell, a Waukee APEX Ag and Bio Science teacher, is the recipient of the Iowa Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award presented by the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF). 

Snell is in her 25th year of teaching, having taught in Des Moines Public Schools; Kofu, Japan; and Waukee Public Schools. She joined Waukee Public Schools in 2015 to start the district’s agriculture education program. Snell also serves as the Farm to School lead teacher and the Waukee FFA advisor. 

Snell, who grew up on a farm in Floyd County, expressed the importance of fostering community partnerships to further student education beyond the classroom. 

“We wanted to start an agriculture program in an urban school setting, teaching all students the importance of agriculture and knowing where their food comes from,” said Snell. “With Waukee Community Schools having more than 13,000 students and me as the only agricultural teacher in the district, I have learned the importance of (how) partnering with everyone will help in this effort.” 

Kelly Foss, IALF executive director, said Snell uses real-world challenges to help students understand issues impacting the world around them and help them to see how small solutions can help.

For example, Snell has high school students research water issues, soil conservation, pollinator habitat, invasive species, use of pesticides/herbicides, no-till farming and more. At the end of the process, student groups develop ideas to improve the situations they researched. Some of those student-developed solutions have included planting pollinator gardens, identifying no-spray areas, establishing teaching gardens and collecting food waste at schools for composting. 

Students in all levels of Waukee classes have participated in agriculture learning through hands-on experiences such as plant walls, egg hatching programs, hydroponics and dissections, vermicomposting, life gardens, ioponics, aquaponics, workshops, field trips, community service and school gardens. 

Snell will receive a $500 stipend to support continued efforts integrating agriculture into her classroom curriculum. She will also attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference to be held in Orlando in June 2023.