Monmouth County agricultural educator honored for winning Region I award

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The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) has announced that Kristina Guttadora of Allentown, a horticulture teacher at the Monmouth County Career Center in Freehold Township, is the 2020 ACTE Region I Teacher of the Year and was one of five finalists for the 2020 national honor.

The award recognizes CTE teachers who have made significant contributions toward innovative and unique career and technical education programs and shown a professional commitment early in their careers, according to a press release from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

“I love being in the classroom and playing a part in supporting students and assisting them in reaching their academic goals,” said Guttadora, who is the FFA adviser at the Monmouth County Vocational School.

“To be the Region I Teacher of the Year is a great honor and to be considered for the national award is very exciting. The support of the administration and staff have provided me with the necessary tools for success,” she said.

Guttadora received her bachelor of science degree in plant science at Rutgers University and her master’s degree in agricultural education from North Carolina State University, according to the press release.

She worked as a high school agricultural educator and FFA adviser in Freehold Township High School for 10 years, while staying actively engaged in the National Association for Agricultural Educators. She attended regional conferences and was selected for the Teacher Turn the Key and Outstanding Young Teacher award.

From 2007-09, Guttadora served as the New Jersey Agricultural Association of Educators president, according to the press release.

“Ms. Guttadora is a tremendous asset to our teaching staff here at the Monmouth County Career Center,” Principal Nathan Kraemer said. “She provides a wealth of experience and knowledge and those qualities, along with her enthusiasm, have created an inspirational learning atmosphere that puts our students in an excellent position to succeed and realize their potential.”

In 2011, Guttadora shifted her career direction to serve as the executive director of the New Jersey Agricultural Society, where she supervised the Farmers Against Hunger, Agricultural Leadership and Learning through Gardening programs.

During her time in that position, Guttadora connected FFA chapters to volunteer opportunities with the organization. This career change enabled Guttadora to broaden her understanding of the industry and make professional connections throughout the state, according to the press release.

She returned to teaching horticulture in 2017 at the Monmouth County Career Center, where she networks to strengthen career and technical education and provide greater employment to her students.

“Kristina is well known and respected in the agricultural community in New Jersey,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher said. “She is very deserving to have her efforts recognized on the regional and national levels.”

The Monmouth County Career Center’s horticultural program allows students to receive hands-on experience pertaining to floriculture, landscaping and turf management, according to the press release.

The school operates a working floral and garden shop that is open to the public where students sell crops and products that are grown in the greenhouse and created in class.

Customer orders are filled for special events and holidays and provide the students with the opportunity to gain retail and agricultural business skills, according to the press release.

Students are taught golf course and landscape management techniques and receive live work experience on the school’s par three golf hole and the 12 acres of property on site.

In both programs, the students learn plant and cut-flower identification, pest management, fertilizer applications and cultural techniques. The co-curricular organization FFA plays a major part of teaching students the skills they need to be successful in agriculture and other related careers, according to the press release.