Western Illinois University Agriculture Alumnus Named National Teach Ag Champion
Western Illinois University School of Agriculture Alumnus Riley Hintzsche has been named a National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) Teach Ag Champion.
Hintzsche, a Streator Township High School agriculture teacher, and FFA chapter advisor, graduated from WIU in 2014, with a degree in agriculture education. He is one of three agriculture teachers nationwide to win the honor this year. Teachers were selected based on their passion and dedication to transforming agricultural education into a more inclusive and diverse profession, while cultivating the next generation of leaders, problem solvers, entrepreneurs and agriculturalists.
“It’s truly outstanding to being named a National Teach Ag Champion by the National Association of Agricultural Educators,” said Hintzsche. “I started my career at Streator Township High School, fresh out of WIU. When I started, there was a lot I didn’t know about myself and a lot I was struggling to find. Streator embraced that struggle, and allowed me to do what I could to find myself.”
Hintzsche said as part of the 2021 awards, the NAAE focused on teachers who are inclusive and diverse in the classroom and the organization.
“It’s important for all teachers to understand where they are in the steps of inclusion and diversity, and then incorporate the appropriate steps to own that classroom that allows students to feel included,” he said. “There is no handbook, there is no step-by-step procedure for everyone. It simply comes down to being a good human and understanding that every student has a struggle that we have to embrace, just like I was embraced when I came to Streator.”
Hintzsche said as a member of the LGBTQ community, and teaching agriculture, he was told many times that he it would limit him in reaching his teaching goals.
“The sad thing is, I believed so many people,” he said. “Today, my goal is to provide that inclusive space for my students so they don’t live through the same struggles I did. You can do anything, anything at all, even if you struggle to get there. I often tell my students, ‘Be you, because that is powerful.'”
Hintzsche said he is grateful for Streator Township High School, which he said he now calls his home.
“They taught me to unapologetic for being me and that is what has taught me how to have the best teaching space,” he said. “Without the people and students that I have been able to work with, I wouldn’t be me and I never would have learned how to be more inclusive.”
In addition to this national award, Hintzsche and the Streator Township High School FFA chapter have received other state and national honors. The chapter’s Food Science Team represented the state at the 2019 National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, IN.
The Streator FFA chapter was also named a three-star program, the highest ranking an FFA chapter can receive from the National FFA Organization.
In August, Hintzsche was named a finalist for the Outstanding Early Career Teacher Award by the NAAE.
For more information about the WIU School of Agriculture, visit wiu.edu/ag.