Fort Davis teacher wins Soil and Water Conservation teacher award

FORT DAVIS – Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB) and the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts (ATSWCD) has awarded Felicia Locke, a teacher at Dirks-Anderson Elementary School in Fort Davis, as this year’s Conservation Teacher.

Every year, TSSWCB and ATSWCD recognize and honor individuals who dedicate themselves to the conservation and management of renewable natural resources. The Texas Conservation Awards Program began in the late 1970’s and provides an opportunity for competition and incentives to expand and improve conservation efforts as well as the wise utilization of renewable natural resources. Categories recognized through the Texas Conservation Awards Program are: Poster Contest and Junior and Senior Essay Contests, Conservation Farmer, Outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District, Conservation Rancher, Friend of Conservation, Conservation Teacher and Wildlife Conservationist.

The Conservation Teacher award is available to teachers from all grade levels in private or public schools, junior colleges, technical schools and universities in Texas. The winning teacher is chosen based on his or her activities and lessons that promote agriculture, soil and water conservation in and out of the classroom.

Locke was nominated by Toyah-Limpia Soil & Water Conservation District #209, that is based in Balmorhea and represents Culberson, Jeff Davis, Reeves and Pecos Counties.

The regional conservation district said in its award submission that the district is proud to recognize Locke for the award. Growing up in a ranching family in West Texas, she raised steer for Future Farmers of America (FFA) and gained a respect for conservation through hunting trips with her grandfather. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Range Animal Science, specializing in Range Management and later earned her teaching degree. She’s taught at Dirks-Anderson Elementary School for 12 years. In addition to teaching fifth grade science and social studies, Locke also runs the Gifted and Talented program, is a member of the Region 18 Gifted and Talented Advisory Board and helps train other educators in Texas.

Her fifth grade science and social studies class has participated in the annual Texas Conservation Awards poster contest for the past 10 years, and Locke ties the poster contest themes with the topics that she teaches.

Last year, her class installed a class garden with herbs, vegetables and plants for pollinators. The students used the onions, zucchini, beets, rosemary and parsley they harvested this fall for a vegetable stir fry and collected mint to make tea for the teachers. Through this activity, the students learned the importance of soil health and conservation to grow food to eat.

Locke has worked three years as a seasonal park ranger for the Fort Davis National Historical Site. She invites local resource specialists from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Davis Mountains State Park, The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens and the historic site to speak to her students about local conservation issues as well as arrange field trips for hands-on experiences. Her students make regular visits to the historical site to identify and take photographs of native vegetation which are then used to make informational posters and identification sheets for each plant. These posters are kept in the park’s visitor center for public use.

When Locke taught at Marfa ISD, her eighth grade science class developed and presented a proposal to the Texas Senate for the Marfa Lights Viewing Center. After the legislature appropriated funds for the project, Locke’s dad was the architect and worked with the students on the design. The restrooms were designed to use a composting system to save water and created a valuable fertilizer.

Because of Locke’s enthusiastic promotion and support for soil and water conservation, the Toyah-Limpia SWCD chose her as their 2019 Conservation Teacher.

Locke is honored to receive this award. Her first passion is agriculture and it’s been wonderful for her to incorporate her knowledge of native plants, soil and water into her science lessons. She was notified about the award through a phone call, an email and a letter in the mail and plans to attend the awards luncheon on Tuesday, October 29, at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.

“I’m just so honored,” said Locke. “My first passion was in agriculture and to get this with teaching, it was just surreal. It was so neat.”