Agriculture and Christian education don’t always go together. But they should.
Just ask Brooke Stewart, who teaches agriculture science at Victory Christian Academy in Decatur, Texas.
“It’s more than cows, plows and sows,” she says, of possible stereotypes about what she teaches.
“Everything we do is based on careers, leadership, personal development – those kinds of things,” she tells The Lion. “I feel very strongly that these career and technical programs, like agriculture, are integral to the longevity of our nation.”
Agriculture touches virtually every part of life. And if you doubt it, Stewart has an invitation.
“Try me,” she says, of any student who may think they don’t like ag. “You tell me what you do like, and I’ll tell you how that’s agriculture.
“We all eat, you know. This life has to run. Somehow somebody has to do it. And that’s what I think my biggest goal is, to combine hardworking kids with these awesome skills that are kind of a lost art because people are too busy.
“You’ve got these hardworking kids with these awesome skills. And then you teach them how to be disciples, and you teach them to love Jesus. I mean, what could that do? It gives me goosebumps. What could that do for our country? You know, combining the two, like, we’re going to have hardworking, God-fearing leaders.”
That vision really does give Stewart goosebumps, and anyone who listens to her passionately explain it is likely to experience the same.
Stewart is in fact a hardworking, God-fearing leader of the kind she endeavors to produce. It’s why she is one of 12 educators around the country to be named 2023 Christian Teachers of the Year by the Herzog Foundation, which publishes The Lion.
“Kids are scared of hard work,” she says. “They’re scared to be blue collar, because it is looked down upon. But when you think about it, that’s the only way we’re gonna survive, you know, so we’re making that cool again.”
Before working at Victory Christian, Stewart worked in public education. But it didn’t take long for her to realize she couldn’t make the kind of impact as a Christian that she wanted to.
“I started in public school. And just after being there as a teacher, it was like, my spirit was kind of crushed,” she says. “I felt like I was secretly praying for my kiddos. I had posters on the wall, and they had no clue that on the back of them were Bible verses, and everything I prayed over them, and just kind of like quietly planting those little seeds for them.
“But I just felt so led to be in a spot where I could teach my kids to take those really awesome skills that were going to take them so far in life, but use them to be disciples, to take that a step further.”
Then, having children of her own only strengthened Stewart’s desire to offer her students a truly Christian foundation in the classroom.
“I started my own family when I was teaching in public school,” she says. “And then that made it even scarier. I wanted so much more for my babies. So, getting that parental perspective made it that much more important for me to be able to give that same foundation I wanted for my kids, to my students.”
Stewart was also drawn to Christian education to help fill the need for more agriculture, career and technical instruction.
“How do you go about starting that? Why should you do that?” Christian schools might ask, she says. “I’ve kind of made it my mission to do that. I want to show the importance of [ag instruction]. And I want to show them how to do it.”
In fact, Stewart plans to produce a Christian agriculture curriculum that other schools can use to produce hardworking, God-fearing leaders of their own.
The Christian Teachers of the Year honor is part of the Herzog Foundation’s Excellence in Christian Education award series. Each of the 12 winners will attend a special awards event in Washington, D.C., where they will also receive a monetary gift.