Mackay High School career technical education instructor Trent Van Leuven was named Idaho’s 2024 CapEd Credit Union Teacher of the Year.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield presented Van Leuven with a commemorative plaque and $10,000 in a surprise assembly on Wednesday.
Van Leuven was selected from 69 nominees. He will serve as spokesperson and representative for Idaho educators at a variety of local and national events throughout 2024.
“I’m thrilled we have someone so dedicated to his students and community to serve as our state’s Teacher of the Year in 2024,” said Critchfield. “Idaho is full of tremendous teaching talent and this year’s group of nominees was exceptional. That said, as the selection panel progressed through the evaluation process, it became apparent early on that they had a standout in Trent.”
Van Leuven started his teaching career as an agriscience instructor in the West Ada School District in 2009 before moving to Mackay Junior/Senior High School in 2014. He is the president of the Mackay Education Association, chairman of the State and Federal Lands Committee of the Idaho Farm Bureau as well as secretary for the Idaho Agriculture Teachers Association. He was the 2014 recipient of the National NAAE Ideas Unlimited Winner award. He was also named National Agriscience Teacher of the Year from Region 1 in 2017.
Van Leuven is a graduate of the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s of science in agricultural education.
In his time at Mackay Junior/Senior High School, Van Leuven changed the landscape of career technical education, expanding opportunities for students to encounter real-world applications for their everyday learning both in the classroom and in the field.
U.S. Forest Service fish biologist Bart Gamett spoke of Van Leuven’s abilities to bring learning to life in his recommendation letter:
“Trent demonstrates leadership and innovation inside and outside of the classroom that helps students develop a pattern of lifelong learning,” Gamett said. “One of Trent’s most significant accomplishments is the construction of a new state-of-the-art aquaculture facility at Mackay High School. Prior to 2022, the aquaculture facility was housed in a small, retrofitted greenhouse.”
In an effort to open the new facility, Van Leuven approached donors for funding and recruited students, professionals and community members to provide volunteer labor.
“In November 2022, an open house was held and the new 1,400 square foot aquaculture facility began operating,” said Gamett. “This facility will give students the opportunity to work with fish long after Trent has retired.”
The aquaculture facility raises rainbow trout, sturgeon, tilapia and catfish, and provides fish for some of Idaho’s local waterways. When Van Lueven was approached by a student looking to raise golden trout, he was able to assist her in obtaining surplus trout fry from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Mackay Fish Hatchery. The adult fish were then introduced to the Lower Cedar Creek near Mackay, where they now make up the first golden trout stream fishery in the state of Idaho.
Van Leuven also oversees the Mackay High School greenhouse program, including two large greenhouses that grow local produce alongside tropical fruits like bananas, papaya, passion fruit and pineapple. Students have the opportunity to sell the plants at local grocery stores or through a school store housed in one of the campus greenhouses.
“Trent’s students are getting the chance to not only get hands-on with growing and producing, they get to see the literal ‘fruits’ of their labor,” Critchfield says. “Whether they’re stocking streams or stocking produce shelves, they are getting a complete view of what their learning means to them and their communities.”
“I was so impressed with Trent when I met him earlier this year. He embodies all the qualities that make an outstanding teacher and mentor,” said Gov. Brad Little.