3rd Grade Teacher
Bimat Elementary School, Bakersfield
This interview was originally published in the April 2012 issue of CFAITC's e-newsletter, "Cream of the Crop."
How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
I first attended a California Ag in the Classroom meeting in 2001. In 2002, I began presenting at the state meetings on behalf of the Kern County CattleWomen. I have presented since then for at least eight years as a Make 'n' Take and workshop presenter, exhibitor, and "Taste of California" table host at CFAITC's annual conference. I have also served on committees for CFAITC for resource material development, What's Growin' On?, and as a Certified Presenter. At the local level, I also organized the Teachers' Ag Seminar for seven years and have served as a volunteer for an additional four years.
How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
I began my teaching career in 1998. I have taught kindergarten, first, and third grades. I have always wanted to be a teacher. I used to make my younger sister play "school," complete with recess and homework. There was never any question in my mind that I would teach children. I think the most appealing aspect of teaching is exposing students to the world beyond their front door.
What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
The most vital part of AITC is the actual connection of teachers and farmers. Each time a teacher visits a farm or ranch or spends time talking with an agriculturalist, a bridge is created between the classroom and agriculture. As our general population moves farther away from an agrarian lifestyle, it is imperative that teachers have a means of explaining and showing their students what food production is all about.
What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
I grew up in agriculture and am surrounded by it in my daily life. However, it wasn't until my various AITC tours that I realized how little I had actually experienced. Agriculture has an amazing amount of variety within one industry. As a teacher, agriculture provides countless learning opportunities for my students and countless career opportunities for them as they grow.
Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
Agriculture is a hands-on industry. In my opinion, this hands-on nature provides the best possible mode of teaching by letting the students see, do, and experiment. It leads to real learning that they will never forget.
Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
My students have been the greatest influence on my educational career. Each year, I am faced with 20 to 30 new smiles eager to learn. Each year, there are different personalities, home stories, learning difficulties, and interests to navigate. Each of these individuals has challenged me to find the best teaching methods to reach them. No two classes are the same and that keeps life interesting and creates a challenge that is fun to meet.
Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
Each year my family opens their cattle ranch to the families in my class. On a Saturday or Sunday, my students and their families travel an hour out of town to experience ranch life. Within this day, I always enjoy seeing my students bottle feeding the baby calves, feeling the lanolin in the sheep's wool, sitting on a horse (first time for many), hiking to the Native American "gossip rock," riding in the hay wagon, digging carrots with their bare hands, and much more! To be quite honest, though, my favorite part of the day is watching my neatest and tidiest students throw caution to the wind and get dirty! The stories and experiences of this day are talked about all year long.
Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
I am now teaching third grade and it is so easy to incorporate agriculture into our regional lessons in science and social studies. One of my favorite lessons this year was while we were learning about weather and environmental extremes. I created a slideshow of my family's ranch that walked the kids through pictures showing what a "good" year looked like and then followed up with the effects of flood, drought, and fire (all had occurred in a one-year period in 2011). We then went on to social studies and discussed how each of these would affect the local economy as well. The kids loved the pictures of their own local area, especially the ones of their teacher fighting fires!
I am also involved in our local, state, and national CattleWomen groups. I have developed a variety of lesson plans to assist our ranchers in reaching out to their local schools and provide teachers with lessons on ranching. I designed a booklet entitled "Cattle Country" that exposes students to an overview of the ranching industry. We have just hit more than 170,000 copies distributed throughout California and the United States. I am also currently serving as the American National CattleWomen education and curriculum co-chair and amworking on tool kits that will assist non-educators in completing successful classroom presentations.
Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
My advice to other teachers wanting to implement agriculture is to look for the natural fit. There are so many areas of science and social studies that already include components of agriculture, all you have to do is enrich. I also believe that it is critical to impress upon the students the immenseness of agriculture. It is a huge industry with a huge responsibility to provide for our growing population.
Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
Students and the general population today are lacking in the simple awareness of where their food comes from. As a teacher, I feel that it is essential for students to have a basic understanding of the industry that provides for their overall nutrition and the lifeblood of our economy. As a member of the agricultural community, I know that it is critical to the existence of our agriculture industry that students understand how food is produced and what is needed to produce food for the world. In a time when information and misinformation is available at every turn, the agriculture industry has to ensure that there is an educated public, so they can continue to provide "Grown in the U.S.A." food.
Editor's note: To request a copy of "Cattle Country," contact Kern County CattleWomen at (661) 867-2906 or firstname.lastname@example.org.