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Utah Agriculture in the Classroom Has New Director

Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013

Denise Stewardson
Denise Stewardson is the new director for the Utah Agriculture in the Classroom program.

Denise Stewardson did not take the most traditional path to the field of agriculture, but said her diverse background has prepared her well for her new position with Utah Agriculture in the Classroom. Starting in August, Stewardson, who hails from the Midwest and has a background in teaching, will assume the role as director of Utah AITC.


Utah AITC, founded in 1994, is part of a national program managed by the United States Department of Agriculture. Utah’s program operates through Utah State University Extension and aims to educate K-12 students about agriculture.


“Our mission is to teach people about where their food, clothing and shelter come from,” Stewardson said. “We use agriculture as a vehicle to teach science, technology, engineering, math, nutrition and social studies.”


Stewardson has held several titles at USU. She began her work on campus in the Conference Services division and, after taking time off to raise her two children, returned as an outreach coordinator for Utah AITC in 2005. Though she never worked in the field of agriculture before, Stewardson said her background in teaching and the confidence that former director Debra Spielmaker, now the national director of AITC, had in her helped make the transition into Utah AITC a smooth one.


“I got to know the Utah AITC program quite well and was able to get acquainted with the whole system [Spielmaker] had put together,” Stewardson said.


In 2009 Stewardson was given an opportunity to teach full time for the Agriculture Systems Technology and Education Department in the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences.


“I jumped on that opportunity because I love to teach,” Stewardson said.


Stewardson feels that the agricultural background Utah AITC gave her was a real asset in teaching courses, including “the science of food preparation” and “science, technology, and modern society.”


Though her teaching career has been very fulfilling, Stewardson said she is excited to return to Utah AITC and begin her role as director.


“[Teaching is] a really difficult part of my career to give up,” Stewardson said. “I’ve really enjoyed teaching at the university level, but I’m ready to take on the challenge of the new role.”


As director, Stewardson will continue the organization’s mission to reach out to school-aged students about the role of agriculture in their lives.


“All of the resources that Utah AITC puts together are based on Utah Core Standards, so teachers can use those resources in the classroom,” Stewardson said.


Outside the classroom, Utah AITC reaches out to children through 4H, Future Farmers of America and farm field days.


Stewardson, who describes her return to Utah AITC as an exciting, big challenge, hopes to continue the program’s past success.


“My role will be to maintain the program that has been put together for the last 18 years,” she said. “I really strive to maintain that level of professionalism and access to useful resources for teachers.”


Stewardson officially begins her duties as director of Utah AITC Aug. 1 and hopes to continue teaching a course for CAAS.


Related links:

Utah Agriculture in the Classroom

Utah State University Cooperative Extension


Contact: Denise Stewardson, 435-797-1592, denise.stewardson@usu.edu

Writer: Tiffany Adams, 435-797-7406, tiffany.adams@usu.edu

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