JAMESTOWN, N.Y. (WIVB) — Ask any one of her colleagues or students and they’ll tell you — Annika Putney is a stand-out educator.

“Annika’s an amazing teacher,” Mindy Trapani says. “She’s the type of teacher that kids remember forever. She works hard to make learning fun and exciting for her students.”

More than just teaching her fifth grade students at Persell Middle School, Putney works to cultivate an atmosphere of healthy living. She’s even created a garden on the premises called the Persell Produce Patch — where students can learn about nutrition and take fresh produce home.

“She’s also the leader of the running club here at Persell, which gets kids excited about running and she runs in races with them,” Trapani says.

Tori Tehan, now a sixth grader, recalls being in Putney’s classroom.

“I like Ms. Putney as a teacher because if you had a question, she would help you go through it and understand it,” Tehan said, also noting Putney’s patience.

And, it’s clear that to Ms. Putney, building a rapport with her students is her number one priority.

“Tori’s going to go very far for sure,” Putney said, alongside Tehan. “She has one of the best personalities that any kid could have and she doesn’t give up, and that’s why we spent lots of time on math, didn’t we? Because you wouldn’t give up. You would always try and you always like to please people and that’s a great trait to have.”

Putney says Persell Middle School has a special place in her heart, having attended herself from Kindergarten to sixth grade. Teaching in the town where she grew up is what the seasoned vet with 22 years under her belt would call a dream come true.

“So, from when I was very little, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” Putney says. “My parents were teachers in this district, as well, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

But, of all the things she’s accomplished at the school, Putney says it’s her garden she remains most proud of.

“We have everything from kale to beets to green beans to lettuce, lots of tomatoes and probably our most unique thing is our fig tree that we have growing,” Putney says. “And we have fresh figs growing on it, which many students have never even seen a fig. So for them, this is like ‘oh so cool,’ and to try it is like an adventure.”

It’s been used as a space to teach everything from measurements and harvesting to providing therapy for troubled students.

“Sometimes when they were in detention after school for behavior or for whatever the case was, they would actually beg to come outside and work in the garden and do something with their hands and be outside,” Putney says. “And they loved it, and they were the hardest workers we had. So many students have benefitted from this.”

Putney says teaching is something she’s passionate about. And, she has no plans to retire anytime soon. Because when it comes to her kids, she’s not just teaching them, she’s learning from them.

“Kids today bring so many different aspects of life into our room,” she says. “And they share with us and we learn from them, and I think it’s made me a more compassionate person because I understand more what it’s like in their lives.”

Ready 4 School

Jhas Williams is a traffic/feature reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2020. See more of her work here.