OLNEY, Ill. (WTHI) - For our first Golden Apple Award of 2018, we traveled to the rural community of Olney, Illinois.
At Richland County High School, agriculture classes are tops...teaching students about an ever-changing industry.
You'll find Mark Steber teaching one of the most popular classes at the school.
Agriculture and Age Business teach area teenagers every aspect of farming, technology, production, and marketing.
It's a popular course in Richland County because it's a rural farming community...teaching kids a life-long skill.
"He (Steber) builds very positive relations with students, which is a cornerstone of being an effective teacher," Principal Chad Lecrone told us.
"Some base subjects of math, science, and English are super import. But this one...you use math, science, English, history, and Spanish," Steber said.
The program is ultra hands on.
A greenhouse on school grounds allows the students to learn about the nursery business, landscaping, and floral design.
The day we visited, students took cuttings from a potted plant and learned how to transplant them properly.
Steber is a homegrown talent.
He graduated from Olney and has been teaching in his native community for the last 24-years.
He said the ag curriculum in Illinois is more science and business based.
Citing 95 percent of the jobs in the ag industry are not farming jobs.
It involves processing, packaging, and chemistry...multiple sectors where students can find something of interest.
"We know we're not going to teach these kids to become farmers because we don't really have the means to do that...but we do know we can teach them some science that's related and also the business side...and the animals and plants that can help the students gain the technical skills to use after school," Steber told us.
He is also an advisor to Olney's FFA program...a program that's known nationally.
"We've had the number one program in the State of Illinois before...over 30 station championships and counting," Stebber told us.
Students told us it is his tough work ethic that makes him a great leader and a 2018 Golden Apple teacher.