2013: Karen Davenport

Karen Davenport knew she wanted to be a teacher at the age of 18. She fell in love with agricultural studies as a ninth grader, inspired by the work of her teachers. Now in her 17th year at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, she teaches agricultural science and technology, advises the National Honor Society, Agricultural Council and Student Assistance Team and co-chairs Relay for Life. Somehow, Karen has successfully devoted her life to teaching while also co-owning and operating Tollgate Farm in Ancramdale, NY. She was awarded the Kapteyn Prize in 2013.

 “This year’s applicants were as extraordinary as they are every year, and yet, Karen was ranked number one by consensus in the very first round,” reported Kirsten Kapteyn, widow of James Kapteyn and chair of the committee, about the 2013 nominations. “She perfectly embodies the qualities we seek in our winners; she prioritizes the education and well-being of her students. In her application essay, Karen wrote, ‘I feel blessed to be able to jump out of bed every day excited to start a new day at school…I am humbled and awed by the precious and influential privilege of teaching I have made my life.’ This unwavering joy  and devotion to her  students  distinguishes all of our Kapteyn Prize winners and is felt deeply by their students and colleagues day in and day out. We are elated and honored to award Karen this prize.”

Karen’s devotion is a major contributor to the success of HVRHS’s agricultural education program. Her students develop leadership skills and ambition to pursue scientific careers. Her program combines the best of the classroom with after-school activities, home visits and state and national events. She has helped many students follow their dreams: for instance, one shy ninth grader who entered Karen’s program with an interest in dairy cows now owns a successful dairy farm. Karen has taught a variety of subjects over the years, including biotechnology, aquaculture, food and fiber, small gas engine maintenance and veterinary science. In her time as an FFA Advisor, she supervised over 1,000 students, and in her free time she has mentored them in 4-H, Sunday school and the dairy princess program in New York. Karen also coaches the Eastern New York Holstein Club Dairy Quiz Bowl teams.

“When people ask me about my kids, I often have to ask them, ‘Which ones? My birth children or my school ones?” says Karen. “I have endeavored to mentor students in formal and informal settings, to build trusting, time-tested bonds and to encourage career, personal and family success.”