Gustavo Junco
Gustavo Junco

A South Florida high school chemistry teacher who shows students how to power a go-kart with biodiesel they make from corn and sunflower seed oil received the 2014 Excellence in Teaching about Agriculture Award.

Gustavo Junco, an advanced-placement chemistry teacher at West Broward High School in Pembroke Pines won for the high school as well as the overall level.

The award is sponsored by the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, a Gaineville-based non-profit group that promotes agricultural education to students ranging from kingergarten to high school.

Other winners were: Katrina Madok, an elementary gifted teacher at Gerald Adams Elementary in Key West; Katie Schlotterbeck, a middle-school science teacher at St. Michael Lutheran School in Fort Myers; and Erin Verplanck Smith, a middle school agri-science teacher at Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High School, Clay County.

“These teachers exemplify what Florida Agriculture in the Classroom is looking for in award winning teachers,” Ken Barton, chairman of Florida Ag in the Classroom and executive director of the Florida Peanut Producers, said in a news release. “They use agriculture-related themes to teach language arts, math, science and social studies, which helps make these subjects more relevant to students.”

Junco has been teaching agro-eco0logy and advanced-placement chemistry to 10th, 11th and 12th graders at West Broward High for 10 years.

His chemistry students grow sunflowers in the school garden, then extract oil from the seeds that is then converted to biodiesel.

His honors chemistry class takes it a step further and experiments with turning sugarcane juice into cellulosic ethanol.

The four winning teachers receive an expense-paid trip to the 2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom conference, June 23-27, in Hershey, Pa.