Rocky Mount educator modifications lives with math and agriculture


ROCKEY MOUNT, Va, (WFXR) — Jennifer Hatch’s math classes at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Rocky Mount are not typical, but then, Hatch is not your typical teacher. In fact, she has been named the Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year.


For one thing, she and her students grow actual crops in her classroom.

“The whole time the kids didn’t know they were actually learning math,” said Hatch as she smiled as several students surrounded her.

Hatch realized that focusing her lessons on hands-on, hydroponic growing would be a unique way of teaching math concepts, while at the same time educating her students on agriculture, biology, engineering, nutrition, conservation, and the culinary arts.

“I think it’s a better way to understand math,” said seventh grader Sam Moeller. “You have real examples right there in front of you, like real examples you can use. I feel like it’s a lot easier to learn.”

That was the idea. Hatch wanted to give her students a project that focus on that incorporated a variety of math concepts. What she did not expect was the response.

“I have students who aren’t even in my classes taking part,” said Hatch. “As a teacher I can’t think of anything I want more for my students than to want to come and learn, because they are our future.”

Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year Jennifer hatch works with students at a hydroponics growing state she has in her classroom (Photo: George Noleff)

There has been something else unexpected, behavior changes. A number of Hatch’s students had prior disciplinary issues. Since joining her program, referrals for student behavior infractions have dropped to almost zero while grades have improved.

One student in her class said the agriculture and math program makes him want to come to school.

Students harvest lettuce from a hydroponics growing station in a classroom at Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Rocky Mount (Photo: George Noleff)

While math is her subject, Hatch says teaching students about agriculture is vital.

“We need to support agriculture for the future,” Hatch said. “It is important to our county and to our town, and it’s something I take great pride in.”

Funding for the hydroponics program came from a grant from the Franklin County Women’s Farm Bureau.


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