Califonia Bountiful

Sergio Z. de Alba

2010 Literacy for Life Teaching Award winner
R.M. Miano Elementary, Merced County

This interview was originally published in the February 2010 issue of CFAITC's
e-newsletter, "Cream of the Crop."

How long have you been working with students?
This will be my thirteenth year.

Why did you choose to become an educator?
As a high school student I taught catechism for my local church. I found great success teaching kids and had a wonderful time in the process. As an aide in college I had another successful teaching experience and decided that I could make a difference as a teacher.

How do you integrate agriculture into the curriculum or activities you teach?
If you really think about it, you can find a connection to almost any required state standard using agriculture. By using hands-on activities my students have been doing exceptionally well on state tests, but more importantly, I have taught kids how to think using agriculture and to become more familiar with everyday things that will always be a part of their lives.

Describe any innovative agriculture-based projects you have been involved in developing.
I have projects that I implement throughout the year, but one that kids really like is rose hybridization and propagation by cuttings. In early winter, 150 students get a rose cutting from our rose garden to grow and give to their mothers on Mother's Day.

Give an example of how you use agriculture to teach in your classroom or in your program.
My "Fruit of the Week" lesson is popular with my students. Each week I bring a fruit to taste, smell, experience, and to use as the focus to practice a variety of sentence writing, math, social studies, and science.

Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
My mother, Ana Celia de Alba, has been the most influential person in my educational career. The love I have for the natural world around me and my fascination for science comes from the many opportunities that she provided for me as a child. How many moms would catch a bat that flew into their house in order to give her son an opportunity for research and observation (under very close supervision to ensure safety, of course)? It took her years of night classes to learn English, and she was a farm worker until she was 44 when she was finally able to attend college and become a teacher. Her dedication to my future and her endless encouragement has allowed me to influence many more people.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
Let me tell you about a golden idea. It is incredible to see how much power we have as teachers. We sometimes forget that kids listen to what we say and observe our actions very carefully. I am amazed every time a former student comes by and can still remember the exact words that I said to motivate them. Teachers: Remember that you have enormous influence on your students (even when it feels like you don't) and that when you provide positive opportunities you make a difference.

Why is it important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
We are all affected by agriculture in one way or another. By providing opportunities to understand the importance of agriculture we allow for the continued success of this industry in America.

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