Califonia Bountiful

Martha Deichler

Principal, Borrego Springs Elementary School
San Diego County
CFAITC board member

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

How long have you been teaching or working with students?
I have been in education (K-6) for 36 years: 25 as a teacher and 11 as a principal.

Why did you choose to become an educator?
While obtaining my degree in anthropology at San Diego State University, I took a part-time job as a teacher's assistant in an elementary school. My master teacher convinced me that I had the talent and the courage to be an excellent teacher. Glad I listened to her!

How do you integrate agriculture into the curriculum or activities you teach?
Both while a teacher and now an elementary school principal, I use our school garden as an outdoor classroom to make our lessons come alive—lessons of agriculture, science, nutrition, social studies, music, art and even creative writing. There's a school in every garden!

Describe any innovative agriculture-based projects you have been involved in developing.
I work with the San Diego Agriculture in the Classroom group to put together a yearly Teacher Fair where we invite teachers and farmers to come together to share resources and lesson plans. Many wonderful partnerships are built here that help both the farmer and the teacher grow together and our students benefit.

Give an example of how you use agriculture to teach in your classroom or in your program.
With our After School Garden Club, we grow, cook and serve fresh produce from the garden to our students during lunch. Recently, we all enjoyed a salad made from four different types of lettuces grown in California.

Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
For many years I attend 6th Grade Outdoor School with my class. I learned so much from observing one of the counselors, Big Ernie, on hikes with the students. He had incredible control without ever raising his voice or being punitive. He did this with humor, inquiry and patience and, in turn, he taught them to respect each other, the Earth, the animals and the plants in our world. I use these same techniques while gardening with students.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
We are so excited about an upcoming project for our after-school 4-H club. They will be working with high school partners to install garden boxes in many of our rural and isolated trailer park homes. These families live far from a grocery store and now they will have access to fresh food. Our students will serve as "garden ambassadors" and will provide materials and training for the residents.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
I love the California AITC Conference each year! What a dynamic event for reconnecting, gathering new resources, making friends, sharing ideas and learning.

Why is it important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
I just returned from a trip to a developing country in Eastern Europe. The scenery was gorgeous, but I was shocked by the lack of variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. When I returned and visited a grocery store here in the U.S., it made me realize how much we all take our abundant food supply for granted. Our students must be taught this same appreciation for the work of the farmer or our situation might be drastically different.

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