Califonia Bountiful

Tammy Burris

High School Agriculture Teacher
Grace Davis High School, Modesto
Stanislaus County

This interview was originally published in the May 2012 issue of CFAITC's e-newsletter, "Cream of the Crop."

How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
I learned about Ag in the Classroom by searching the Internet for lesson plans my first year as a teacher. I became more familiar with CFAITC at different conferences such as the California Agricultural Teachers Association conference.
How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator? This is my fifth year in the classroom. I started teaching because I wanted to make a difference.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
I loved San Francisco Farm Day! It is one of my goals to educate the young about where their food, clothes, shoes, toys, and candy (to name a few) come from. I love seeing their faces when they see something new or finally are able to see a real farm animal rather than a picture in a book or a stuffed animal someone gave them.

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
It is amazing to me how many students do not know where their food comes from. I will never forget the day I asked one of my classes where milk came from and I had a student raise their hand and say the store. This was a high school student that had made it to their sophomore year in high school, who had no idea that the milk they drank every day came from a cow.

Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
Very much so. I believe in the necessity of agriculture and I want to promote agriculture's future through tomorrow's leaders.

Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
There are many who influenced my decision to teach: my husband, children, parents, and grandparents. I think that the students most influenced my decision to teach and to continue my educational career. If it had not been for the young people I met, when I volunteered as a parent, I am not sure I would have ended up in the classroom. I love teaching and I teach because I love the students.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
It is hard for me to name just one, but I can tell you that I get as excited as my students when we hatch baby chicks, or when a project comes out the way we expected or when my students create beautiful floral arrangements. There is no better reward to a teacher than to have a past student come back and say they are where they are because of you. That is the best golden teaching moment a teacher can have.

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
We are hatching baby chicks, ducks and turkeys in our incubator at school. Students love holding the eggs up to the candler and seeing the chicks move inside of the shell. We have just bred four sows at the farm and have filled the farm with student project animals. We are getting prepared to do landscape plots and just finished mosaic stepping stones.

Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
Most lessons can be turned into an ag lesson. Take every opportunity you can to teach agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of our country and none of us would be where we are today without agriculture. It is as simple as doing a lesson on weights and measures. Weigh a potato, orange, banana and a tomato, and as you are weighing them ask students where they come from and how they are grown. Are they a vine crop? Is one a root? We can all implement agriculture with a little creativity.

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
We need to educate our students about agriculture, sustainability, global warming and other issues that will affect their future. Without agriculture we have global warming; without sustainability we have no agriculture. We need to make our students literate so they can lead in the future. We also need to educate them so they are able to make decisions regarding developing farmland. What every teacher needs to remember is that the students of today are the leaders of tomorrow.

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