Califonia Bountiful

Bev McAmis

Teacher (retired), Grades 3 and 4
Robla Elementary School, Sacramento
Sacramento County

This interview was originally published in the September 2011 issue of CFAITC's e-newsletter, "Cream of the Crop."

Why did you choose to become an educator?
 I always wanted to be a scientist but along the way I accepted an opportunity to teach at a local school. There I found that I truly enjoyed working with students and watching them learn, and I stayed in the education profession for 39 years. I have continued to enjoy working with students in my retirement by volunteering at a variety of outdoor education programs for "Discover the Flyway" (a Yolo Bypass Wildlife Program) and by serving as a facilitator for students in grades 3-6 for the "Talk About Trees" program. Additionally I serve as one of the docents at the Cal Expo Forest Center during the spring and the fall when the center is open for student tours and I am a volunteer at the Forest Center during the State Fair.

Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
A teaching principal, whom I encountered in my early education, was a strong proponent of education and lifelong learning and was very instrumental in encouraging me to go into education, even though I resisted for many years. Of course, my parents were always a major influence.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
As someone who grew up in an agricultural community in the Midwest, I assumed others shared my knowledge and understanding of agriculture and the role it plays in our lives. As a beginning elementary teacher in Sacramento in the 1970s, I was surprised to find out how limited the knowledge of my students was as to the source of our foods. Even today I notice how isolated many urban students are from agriculture.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
CFAITC offers so many valuable programs that it is hard to choose a favorite. The annual state conference sponsored by CFAITC is absolutely phenomenal as a learning experience for teachers. Of the many times I've attended, I have always been awed by the diversity and extensiveness of California agriculture—which Ag in the Classroom does a great job of highlighting. Conference keynote speakers are very inspiring and leave participants highly motivated. The Teacher Resource Guide book or CD was a valuable resource I used frequently as a classroom teacher while looking for contacts, materials, and programs.

How do you integrate agriculture into the curriculum or activities you teach? Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
While working as a facilitator for "Talk About Trees," a program sponsored by The Forest Foundation, I travel to many elementary classrooms in Sacramento County and parts of Yolo County talking with third through sixth grade students about California's private forestlands, tree growth, and how those forests are an important, renewable, natural resource for us. For many students and teachers, understanding how forestry fits into agriculture is a new concept as is learning that our private forestlands have a replanting practice that keeps our forest healthy and expanding. Many of these concepts are also reinforced at the Cal Expo Forest Center, where I assist with the tours conducted for K-5 students in the spring and in the fall.

Why is it important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
Our agricultural community needs the support of an agriculturally literate public to continue to thrive and to survive in the future. The decisions made by the citizens of our state will determine the future of agriculture in California. A literate consumer needs to know where our food and fiber comes from, what might affect its safety, and what policies or practices might affect availability.

It is our job as educators to help our students gain that knowledge and awareness. Students who are agriculturally literate will be better able to make decisions as voters and/or as community leaders that will support agriculture in California.

In the future, will we be able to depend upon the safe products we get that are now produced in our state or will we have to depend upon products grown elsewhere with no way to guarantee healthy, safe products or even the availability of those products? That is one of the questions today's students will help answer. It is to our benefit to help our students become knowledgeable, literate citizens so that they can make informed decisions.

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