High School Agriculture Teacher
Ponderosa High School, Shingle Springs
El Dorado County
This interview was originally published in the March 2011 issue of CFAITC's e-newsletter, "Cream of the Crop."
Why did you choose to become an educator?
My mom has been a special education teacher for more than 35 years and I have always admired the way she has been able to positively affect the lives of her students. Coupled with that, I have had many outstanding teachers through the course of my education who have been excellent role models.
How long have you been teaching or working with students?
This is my sixth year teaching. I've spent the last four years at Ponderosa High School, where I teach Ag Science, Ag Biology, Ag Business and Ag Leadership. I also serve as the FFA advisor and department chair. Our agriculture department consists of 225 students, the highest enrollment in 10 years.
Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
My hometown agriculture instructor Britta Fletcher was the first individual to make me consider becoming an agriculture teacher. While participating in a 4-H camp workshop lead by Britta, I was inspired by her professionalism, poise, and passion for agriculture.
Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
I am lucky to have a reoccurring teaching moment every year when I find that some of my students have made the choice to pursue a career in agriculture education. Of last year's graduating agriculture students, every student entering a four-year college was entering into an agriculture major, and 70 percent of the graduates were planning for a career in agriculture. Four years ago, I had a student who came to us from the Bay Area. She signed up for agriculture classes because at her eighth-grade recruitment, it sounded fun. Her freshman year was a struggle academically and socially, but the day her market gilt arrived on campus, she became a new person. Not knowing anything about raising animals, she signed up to raise a pig for fair. Today that struggling freshman is a regional FFA officer about to deliver her second litter of piglets any day. She is an amazing leader and a student that others look up to.
What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
My students and I love the El Dorado County AITC farm day event held annually. At Farm Day, my students teach more than 800 third-graders about agriculture topics to help them have a better understanding of food, fiber, and forestry. It is heartwarming for me to see my students serve as the authority on these topics and to see what excellent leaders they have become.
How do you integrate agriculture into the curriculum or activities you teach?
On campus our three-acre farm laboratory is run by my students and parent/business volunteers. We share the farm by lending its ability to teach agriculture concepts with the community throughout the year. The entire faculty is invited to our farm each year for an FFA-hosted lunch and a tour of the growing grounds and animal facilities. We also host a holiday event for the community where Christmas trees are sold and educational tours are given to community members.
Describe any innovative agriculture-based projects you have been involved in developing.
To help my students bridge the gap between high school classes and agriculture careers, I recently developed a viticulture and agriculture business articulation and pathway program for students moving on to community college. Also, over the past few years, my students and I have worked to create a strong tie with our county 4-H program. We present at the annual county 4-H Round-Up event, teaching livestock judging. We are currently in the process of developing a 4-H, FFA and Grange Kids exposition to expose youth and teens in El Dorado County to their options for being involved in agriculture.
Why is it important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
My students love the phrase: "Where would you be without agriculture? Naked, hungry and homeless." This reminder sticks with them, and the value behind the words is so important. Teaching agriculture ensures there are young citizens in our world to make educated voting decisions. Educating California's youth is particularly unique, as it is a state with a vastly diverse population that includes people who believe all meat comes from the grocery store, to individuals who walk the fields each day raising cattle.