When Mansfield Upper Elementary Physical Education teacher Rolando Roman walks into a room, it is hard not to catch some of the enthusiasm he has for his students and job, which is one of the reasons he was selected as the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation 2020 Teacher of the Year.

As a first year teacher, Roman has used his role to incorporate agricultural principles into his physical education classes by building a garden and raising chickens with his students.

“By incorporating agricultural principles, I’m teaching the students more than just how to grow something,” Roman says. “I tell them about farmers. For example, our greenhouse was destroyed in a storm. We had a conversation about how farmers deal with unpredicted things they cannot control every day, and yet, they are still resilient. They may not have control over Mother Nature, but they do have control over what they do and how they do it. So, you see, it’s more than just teaching them about agriculture, it’s teaching them about life.”

On average, 650 students come through Roman’s classroom each week. In addition to learning different physical activities, like archery, the students help care for their garden and animals. In November, the school hosted a farmer’s market where the students were able to sell what they had grown. Roman plans to continue hosting a farmer’s market each semester to allow students to see the fruits of their labor.

“By allowing the students to sell their products, they experiences true entrepreneurship,” Roman says. “They work from the ground up, caring and nurturing for their garden. Then, the experience what it is like to earn money for a product. This is an opportunity for us to teach the kids on how hard work truly pays off.”

Roman’s passion for agriculture began at a young age growing up on a farm in Puerto Rico. His grandfather grew coffee beans used for distribution, as well as many other vegetables used to feed his family.

“I try to make my agriculture lesson plans teachable for years to come,” Roman says. “I want my students to remember the lessons they learned in this classroom and garden later on in life.”

By being named the MFBF 2020 Teacher of the Year, Roman believes he is on the right track in fulfilling this goal. As the recipient of this award, he received a $500 grant to use in his classroom.