Meet A Wisconsin Teacher Of The Year

Pictured: Rachel Sauvola shovels corn from a gravity box as she instructs students, from left, Michael Mast, Jazzmira Traynor and Melany Rodriquez how to remove corn to be fed to animals at the school-operated farm that Sauvola began and oversees. Photo courtesy of UWRF.

Whether developing a new program to produce beef for school lunch or training agriculture teachers across the nation to better instruct their students, Rachel Sauvola comes up with innovative ways to convey knowledge.

Sauvola is an agriscience teacher and FFA adviser at New Richmond High School. She is one of five educators statewide named a 2025 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year. She graduated from UW-River Falls in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education.

The state Department of Public Instruction chose these educators for their dedication to education and positive impact on students.

Sauvola also serves as a mentor facilitator for the National Association of Agricultural Educators. In that position, she trains agriculture teachers across the U.S. to develop inquiry-based instruction models for their students. She teaches a wide range of courses from greenhouse management and veterinary science to a course titled “plants, animals, pizza and more.” This class explores the whole agricultural supply chain.

Community Engagement

Sauvola’s recognition is in part for her developing the Students Opportunities with Agriculture Resources (SOAR) Educational Center at her school. This is a school farm through which students provide beef for the school lunch program and learn hands-on farming skills. The farm is home to chickens, ducks, goats, and beef cattle. It is the only school farm in Wisconsin that is a fully functioning, seven-day-a-week operation.

“This is really about providing our students with hands-on opportunities they need to learn most effectively,” Sauvola said. “With the work they do here, they can build a really strong resume and be the ones who are offered the jobs and educational opportunities they are looking for. That is what I want to do for them.”

Many local residents volunteer at the farm, Sauvola said. She partners with community businesses and farmers who donate their time and talents to SOAR.

“I can’t run this farm by myself,” Sauvola said. “It only works if I have community members and students who are willing to be a part of it. And luckily for me, that is the case.”

Among volunteers who help at the farm are Eli Bell and his family. A 16-year-old sophomore at NRHS, Bell is involved in the school’s FFA program and worked this school year with Sauvola in an effort to grow goldfish. He researched how to best care for the fish but encountered multiple challenges that included obtaining a new pump to properly oxygenate and filter water.

Throughout the learning process, Bell said, Sauvola pushed him to think creatively to find solutions.

“She is really good at connecting with students,” Bell said, “and then she pushes us to get uncomfortable. She is good at helping us think through issues to come up with solutions. And she convinces us to do things that we didn’t know we could do. She believes in us.”

Student Perspective

Later that day Sauvola worked with students at the SOAR farm. She showed one group of students how to empty corn from a gravity box into buckets before it was fed to animals. Moments later she conferred with a volunteer farm worker about how to more efficiently water animals. Next, she gave directions to volunteers about specific animal feedings.

A short time later, Sauvola helped NRHS students Jaxon Becklin and Kyle Alexander haul boards that had been used for an animal pen from one site to another. The students praised Sauvola’s organizational ability and her high-energy approach.

“She is a really good motivator,” Becklin said. “She is really good at inspiring others to want to do this work. Part of her instruction is through hands-on learning and that is how I learn best.”

Given that “there are so many teachers across Wisconsin doing amazing things with their students,” Sauvola said she is humbled to receive the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year honor. She is grateful for the many opportunities she has been provided during her teaching career. But she remains focused on the future, how she can continue to connect her students to learning in meaningful ways.

“If I can create opportunities for my students, opportunities that help them not only learn but get them to where they want to go in life, that is what I really want to do,” she said.