Casselton teacher wins prestigious national honor

BISMARCK – A Casselton elementary school teacher is one of five educators chosen for a prestigious, national honor for their work in teaching agricultural concepts in their curricula.

Mary Kensok, a fourth-grade teacher at Central Cass Elementary in Casselton, will receive the “Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture” award at the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, scheduled for June 25-28, in Minneapolis. The award is presented annually by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization.

“Mrs. Kensok exemplifies great teaching techniques,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. “By gathering and using additional resources from private and public sources, she has enabled her students to learn more about agriculture and nutrition, grow their own food and to understand the importance of agriculture both in their lives and in the world.”

Gail Bakko, director of special programs with North Dakota Farm Bureau, nominated Kensok for the award.

”Kensok's classroom is always bursting with activity” said Bakko. “Her hands-on teaching style creatively connects abstract concepts to concrete understanding.”

Activities in Kensok's classroom have included incubating eggs annually, a class pizza garden, studying soil horizons as a way of motivating students and incorporating agriculture literacy into their daily learning.

Additional resources used by Kensok include:

  • A Soil Conservation Service grant to purchase a butterfly/pollinator garden.
  • A Community Foundation award enabling students to build raised beds next to their classroom windows.
  • A NDSU Extension Service grant for a tomato container garden

Kensok has taught for more than 25 years, 20 of them at Central Cass. She has taught science, health, language arts, art, computer education, math and social studies. A graduate of Moorhead State University, she also earned a master's degree from University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. She and her husband Jack, who farms near Casselton, have three children.