Southwestern teacher making statewide impact

Roxanna Bishop Photo

Rebecca Hawk, who teaches agriculture science at Southwestern High School, was one of four recipients of Pulaski County Schools' quarterly PRISM Awards. Pictured from left are Angela Murphy, District Secondary Instructional Supervisor; Rebecca Hawk and her husband Kevin Hawk; and Danita Ellis; Southwestern High School Principal.

A Southwestern High School teacher continues to rack up accolades for her work in her community and across the state.

Rebecca Hawk, who has taught agriculture for six years, was recently awarded the Pulaski County Schools' PRISM Award, a quarterly honor bestowed upon district employees who demonstrate innovative approaches to their duties.

"We are so excited to recognize staff members and great teachers in our district," Angela Murphy, District Secondary Instructional Supervisor, said, "and Rebecca is the epitome of a great teacher."

In 2014, Hawk was honored as the KACTE (Kentucky Association of Career and Technical Education) Outstanding New Teacher of the Year. Her agriculture students had earned a Food for All grant from National FFA (Future Farmers of America) and a Better Days Through Betters Ways grant from the Kentucky FFA Foundation to raise 30 laying hens.

Students worked with the hens on a daily basis, learning about proper care and management techniques. The 3,000 eggs collected were washed and packaged so they could be donated to a local food ministries program that distributed them to over 600 families in the Somerset area.

Through a scholarship from the National Association of Agriculture Educators, Hawk attended CASE (Curriculum for Agriculture Science Education) workshop about engaging students in inquiry-based learning.

Hawk began teaching AP Environmental Science at Southwestern during the 2016-17 school year and has since increased the enrollment from one class to two. She currently serves as the Kentucky Association of Agriculture Educators (KAAE) regional vice president and co-sponsors Southwestern's FFA.

In her role as FFA co-sponsor, Hawk puts in countless hours of time and travel taking students to a variety of events from the annual Kentucky Farm Machinery Show to regional and state competitions in categories such as livestock judging and public speaking.

"All of our CTE teachers put in a crazy number of hours working with students in those organizations, and they have a wonderful FFA program at Southwestern," Murphy noted.

This year marks the third that Hawk has worked with Murray State University to offer dual credit for students in Animal Science, Veterinary Science and Ag Math.

Hawk has also been instrumental in establishing a partnership with Elanco -- a global animal health company -- to offer industry certification for qualified students in Animal Science and Ag Power. She helped Southwestern earn the 2018 Top 20 Schools in the State with passing Industry Certifications.

One of the most rewarding aspects of her professional development has been Hawk's work with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to revise state standards in the Environmental and Natural Resource Pathway for agriculture. She has helped review KOSSA (Kentucky Occupational Skills Standards Assessment) standards and develop test questions for Animal Science and Environmental Science at KDE on four occasions.

"She does so much more at Southwestern High School," Murphy concluded.

Southwestern Principal Danita Ellis recalled interviewing the Warsaw, Ky., native when Hawk was hired. "She's just been wonderful for our students and our staff, very well respected by all her colleagues," Ellis added. "We're just proud that [she's here] bringing all these opportunities to the kids."

Hawk's passion for teaching is evident.

"I become a teacher because I had great teachers who inspired me to be a positive role model for others by making a difference in the lives of others," she said. "I wanted to pass the same characteristics on to my students so that they know they are valued and that they matter."

Hawk added that teaching agriculture is different from most subjects because of the positive impact that can be made on students both inside and outside of the classroom.

"I love working with students to develop skills that they will have for their life after high school such as essential career skills and communication skills," Hawk said. "I am able to have an impact on students through the various FFA contests and events where students get a hands on learning approach to the content we cover in class and apply it in real world situations."

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