2023-24 Fellow: Joanna Balla-Elliott

5th and 6th Grade Language Arts & Reading Teacher in Chicago, IL – Chicago Jesuit Academy

2023-24 Fellow: Joanna Balla-Elliott teaches 5th and 6th grade boys at Chicago Jesuit Academy on the West Side of the city. She holds a degree in Literary Studies from Middlebury College. Furthermore, she holds an MEd in Curriculum and Teaching from Boston University.

Joanna is a culinary arts and agriculture coach at her school. In these roles, she works with students across the grade levels to cook fresh food and grow plants. She finds joy in leading shared inquiry discussions, helping students make bouquets from flowers grown in the school garden, and finding readers a “just-right” book in the library. Moving ahead, Joanna is looking forward to crafting food-based lesson plans during the Pilot Light Food Education Fellowship.

Favorite Food Education Standard: FES #3: Food and the environment are interconnected.

I led students through the process of growing cucumbers and sweet-peas from seed last year and it was so rewarding! In our atomized world, students learn patience, self-reliance, and the cyclical quality of nature by growing food and flowers. Taking students to harvest fresh food from our school garden is such an exciting moment. They are particularly amazed that a tomato starts out green. That a mint leaf actually tastes like gum. That bees are there, hovering in the flower beds. That one dried marigold can contain dozens of seeds to be saved for next year.  There is nothing more satisfying than watching students learn these lessons! 

A Favorite Food Memory or Recipe: 

I love to make the Balla-Elliott Chicken Curry Recipe!

Why I Became a Fellow: 

I am excited to have a chance to practice and hone my skills of writing food-based lesson plans. The chance to get sustained professional development and feedback over the course of the year is rare, and I am thrilled to receive that through the Food Education Fellowship. Additionally, I am curious to see what community partnerships we’ll be able to foster this year in the food justice/urban farming sphere.

23-24 Fellow Joanna Balla-Elliott
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