MINERAL POINT — Livia Doyle has a passion for agriculture, and she takes that passion with her into the classroom every day as a fourth-grade teacher at Mineral Point Elementary School.
Doyle was recently recognized for her ability to deliver an agricultural message to her students by being named the 2017 recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom Program.
Each year the Farm Bureau recognizes a teacher for his or her efforts educating students on the importance of agriculture. Teachers of all grade levels and subject areas, with the exclusion of certified agriculture education instructors, are eligible to apply.
“Livia is everything you could ask for in a teacher and educator,” said Darlene Arneson, the WFB Ag in the Classroom coordinator. “She lives and breathes agriculture and incorporate it when she can in her classroom and in everyday life.”
Doyle, 30, began her teaching career eight years ago as a first-grade teacher but saw her true calling as a fourth-grade teacher. The opportunity came a year later when a fourth-grade position opened up.
“I enjoy fourth-graders, but also with the Wisconsin history piece that focuses around the fourth grade, I just knew I could easily tie in Wisconsin agriculture,” she said. “I knew it would be a good fit for me.”
Doyle said she tries to sprinkle agriculture into most areas of the curriculum throughout the school year. She shares her story about growing up on a dairy farm and the 50 cow-calf pairs of beef cattle she and her husband, Justin, raise on their farm just outside of Mineral Point.
“They hear about my story day in and day out because my agriculture story changes throughout the year, too,” she said.
Doyle serves as the Iowa County Ag in the Classroom coordinator and Justin is vice president of the Iowa County Farm Bureau.
Justin also passes on his passion for agriculture as an agriculture and technology education teacher in Darlington and co-adviser of the Darlington FFA. The Doyles were one of four finalists in the Farm Bureau’s “Excellence in Agriculture” award competition earlier this month at the organization’s state convention.
As Iowa County Ag in the Classroom coordinator, Livia works closely with teachers and community members to help them find ways to bring agriculture into the classroom. She is also involved in community events such as Iowa County Farmers Appreciation Day.
“I try to encourage teachers or anybody in Iowa County who wants to incorporate agriculture into whatever they do, to reach out to me,” she said. “I will try to help them.”
Doyle was one of three Mineral Point fourth-grade teachers who last year worked with students to advance a bill proclaiming Wisconsin cheese as the state dairy product. The students came up with the idea, testified at a hearing at the state Capitol, and later stood behind Gov. Scott Walker at their school when he signed the bill into law.
Doyle said she and the other fourth-grade teachers (Lynn Ross and Paige Grimm) were confident the idea was going to get the green light in the Legislature, but they had no idea it would happen that quickly. Their idea was turned into a bill within days and passed both the Assembly and Senate in short order.
“I can’t remember which vote it was, the Assembly or Senate, but we live-streamed both of them here in the classroom, and one of them passed about 30 seconds before the bell rang to end our school day,” she said. “It was amazing.”
Last spring, Doyle invited officials from the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association to bring the Wisconsin Spudmobile to the Mineral Point Elementary School, and every student at the school as well as staff members had an opportunity to tour the Spudmobile and learn more about Wisconsin’s potato and vegetable industry.
The Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s agriculture book of the year in 2016 was “Time for Cranberries,” and Doyle invited the book’s author, Lisl Detlefsen, to come to the school and talk about the book and her family’s central Wisconsin cranberry farm.
A couple weeks back, her students earned a class reward, so Doyle brought in “dirt dessert,” a multi-layered dessert that led to a discussion of the different layers of the earth, from the bedrock to the topsoil.
“We talked about if the earth was an apple, and three-fourths of that apple was water and one-fourth was land, but yet you can’t grow anything on the mountains, deserts and swamps, how important the land is where food can be grown,” she said. “Then we ate the dessert and it kind of made sense.
“I’m really passionate about agriculture and I know it affects these kids’ lives daily, so I try to make it fun and engaging. And I try to put a positive message on agriculture, so someday when these kids grow up, they can maybe think of me and my stories but they will also maybe feel comfortable reaching out to a farmer and if they have questions, just ask. I want them to be educated consumers. I think that’s important.”
Doyle earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UW-Platteville with a minor in early childhood, inclusion (special education) and Spanish. She also earned a master’s degree in elementary education from UW-Platteville.
As Wisconsin’s winner in the competition, she earned a spot in the National Excellence in Teaching Agriculture Award contest that will take place next summer in Portland, Maine.