The Curriculum for Agricultural Science and Education (CASE) has announced that Keely DiTizio, a Teacher of Agriculture at Salem County Career and Technical School in Mannington Township, is the 2020 CASE National Innovation Award winner.
The award highlights a creative classroom and teaching approach as CASE certified teachers implement and promote the curriculum.
DiTizio was honored at the National Association of Agricultural Educators Convention between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4. The convention was held virtually this year.
“As a life-long learner, I love thinking of new ways to teach, inspire, or impact my students,” DiTizio said. “It really enriches my life, and I get very excited about implementing new ideas or programs into my school’s Academy of Agricultural Sciences.”
DiTizio founded Salem Tech’s Academy of Agricultural Sciences and revamped the program by implementing one of the first full CASE pathways in the country, which prepares students for the science, business, and technology of agriculture.
DiTizio’s innovative courses for agriscience quadrupled the average number of freshmen recruited to the program within the first five years and continues to be a popular choice for Salem Tech students.
The FFA Chapter she advises has been named New Jersey FFA’s Most Improved Chapter twice in her tenure. Her husband, Matt DiTizio is also an agriculture instructor at the school, and she finds they complement one another as educators. “Every evening after work, we go for a ‘post-game’ walk, which we coined because we discuss the highlights, the triumphs and tribulations, of our work day in the classroom,” Keely DiTizio said.
“Through our informal discussions, we identify areas of need, and we brainstorm, and problem solve together.”
In addition to her certifications to teach six different CASE courses, DiTizio participated in the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy (NATAA) and was selected as the 2015 New Jersey Advisor of the Year.
A former high school agriscience student and FFA chapter president, she also was the Association for Career and Technical Education Region 1 New Teacher of the Year in 2017.
Currently, she serves on the New Jersey Association of Agricultural Educators (NJAAE) Member Services Committee and on the state STAR
(State Teach Ag Results) Team, where she helps plan and promote activities that inspire students to become agricultural educators.
“Mrs. DiTizio takes a creative approach when designing lessons that allow students to take ownership of their progress, while ensuring they meet the learning objectives of agriculture education,” Salem Tech Principal Jason Helder said. “Every time I visit her classroom, I see students engaged and enjoying learning. I believe that to be the mark of excellent teaching.”
Along with developing the CASE program at Salem Tech, DiTizio had a mobile chicken coop built by agriculture students on school grounds.
“Keely’s ability to integrate the CASE program at Salem Tech has given her students a great opportunity to explore various subjects included in the agriscience program at the school,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher said. “This type of the educational innovation is part of the foundation that will advance agriculture to higher levels throughout the 21st century.”
DiTizio has earned a reputation for her dynamic, student-directed lessons designed to lead students to draw their own conclusions. She ingrains project-based learning into her courses and through cross-curricular activities.
Following FFA’s model of connecting students with Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE), DiTizio has placed her students in work opportunities at farms, animal shelters, Rutgers University, and various facilities for the state’s Land Grant Institution.
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