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MFB honors Berrien County educator as 2020 Educator of the Year


LANSING, MI – Steve Rigoni’s passion for education brought him to Countryside Academy in Benton Harbor. His leadership and experience growing up on a farm and working in agribusiness built his legacy. It also earned him top honors as Michigan Farm Bureau’s 2020 Educator of the Year, during its virtual recognition event on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020.

Nominated by the Berrien County Farm Bureau, Rigoni retired from Countryside Academy at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. His diverse line up of agricultural courses included Botany, Zoology, Fundamentals of Agriculture and incorporated food science, natural resources and wildlife management concepts. 

 Rigoni designed the school’s educational barn, structuring the pens, water systems, lighting, temperature controls and storage to handle many livestock species throughout the school year.  Here, students engaged in animal care and handling, from birth through exhibiting at the Berrien County Fair, as a portion of their agriculture courses. 

 For students interested in plant science, Rigoni led students through propagating flower and vegetable plants from seed. Eventually, students took these plants home to raise food for their families.  

 “Mr. Rigoni has been a teacher, mentor, adviser and role model for his students,” wrote his nominator, Ed Kretchman, Berrien County Farm Bureau President. “When his students began building animal pens, it was obvious most students had never used construction tools. With his patient instruction, they finished one shelter and started another. Mr. Rigoni’s kind, thoughtful mentoring style drew the best out of his students.”  

 MFB’s Educator of the Year award recognizes teachers who excel at integrating agricultural concepts into curricula and challenge students to develop critical-thinking skills through the analysis of agricultural issues and information. Rigoni received a $500 grant to further agricultural educational opportunities in his school and community. 

 Sponsorship for the Educator of the Year Award is provided by AgroLiquid through the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture. A $1,500 sponsorship, the recipient receives a $500 cash award and a $1,000 scholarship to the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference.

 The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, a 501(c)(3), is governed by Michigan Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors, and positively contributes to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.