Curriculum Coordinator, California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
This interview was originally published in the November 2010 issue of CFAITC's e-newsletter, "Cream of the Crop."
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching high school for approximately two years: one and a half years as an agriculture teacher, and then half a year as a science teacher.
How are you involved with Agriculture in the Classroom?
Actually, I just recently started working for Ag in the Classroom as Curriculum Coordinator. Prior to working here, I would use the Teacher Resource Guide to help with ideas or sources to prepare for lessons. I also loved to use the website to find lesson plans or activities that I could use for my classes.
Do you have any exciting new plans for 2011?
Two of my most exciting projects for 2011 will be developing and updating two "Chemistry and Fertilizers" units for high school and elementary students and a "STEM in Agriculture" unit for elementary students.I am very excited to be here at Ag in the Classroom to help teachers and others teach our youth about where their food comes from and how important agriculture is.
What is the most surprising/challenging question a student has ever asked you?
From a freshman in high school, "Miss Swenson, Angus burger comes from the butt right?"
I replied, "No, Angus just means a breed of cattle. Where did you get that question?"
Freshman answers, "A fast food commercial. It does come from there, right?"
I answered, "It is a type of beef cattle. Angus is a breed. For example, you have a German Shepherd dog and I have a Jack Russell Terrier. Those are two types of dog breeds, just like these are breeds of cattle--Hereford and Black or Red Angus."
How connected are your students to agriculture in general?
During my student teaching, I was in a suburban town and agriculture was very important and many students were involved or linked to agriculture in some way. My first full year teaching was a different story; I had mostly urban kids and a handful of students with ties to agriculture. In order to bring them into the world of agriculture, we hatched chicks in our classroom, learned about different types of soil, discussed water issues, etc. Even when I was teaching science, I would bring in references about agriculture because they see it in everyday life and should be aware of the benefits.
What three words would you use to describe your teaching philosophy?
I am a Cal Poly alumni and I believe in their philosophy of "Learn by Doing;" I applied it in my class every day.
What is the most important advice you could give to a new/aspiring educator?
Three pieces of advice for a new/aspiring educator: One, be consistent in your classroom management and stay strong because classroom management is key to a successful learning environment. Two, your first year is tough, but I promise it gets better, so don’t quit after teaching only one year. And three, remember to ask for help from professors, colleagues, veteran teachers and administrators. They are willing to help because they want you to succeed.