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Judee Sani

6th, 7th, and 8th Grade English Teacher
St. Stanislaus Catholic School



This interview was originally published on CFAITC's blog, "The Fencepost."

How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
Our school really celebrates all aspects of the strong local agricultural community. Throughout the year, students have an opportunity to experience petting zoos, explore a variety of farming equipment, and listen to presentations about commercial, organic, and "personal" farming practices. We have experienced poultry exhibits, forestry presentations, and 4-H demonstrations, just to name a few. During my first year teaching, a parent approached me about the Imagine this… Story Writing Contest. When I saw how excited my students were to learn and experience agriculture inside of the classroom, I decided it was a natural fit to have one of my classes enter the contest. At the time it was my sixth grade class.

How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
I began teaching more than 25 years ago, but I left education to raise my children. As two of my children are now in college, I had an opportunity to return to the classroom and have been back for three years. I love learning and the process of acquiring knowledge. I have always felt fortunate to have been given an education and felt it to be a worthy and noble endeavor to help give that experience to others.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
Without a doubt I have found a tremendous amount of enjoyment in the Imagine this… Story Writing Contest. The first year I only had one class participate in the contest and to our surprise, we had a state winner. Last year, I exposed all three of my classes, 80 students participated in the contest. The students created fabulous stories and, again, were rewarded with great success. Any time you can give children an opportunity to shine and expose their talent is awesome. CFAITC provides that opportunity for students and every student that participates develops a true sense of pride in their community and the wonderful agriculture community of California.

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
Agriculture depends on everyone, and everyone can be influenced. Whether that be supporting your local farmers market, eating seasonal fresh foods, encouraging young people to make healthy food choices, or helping a neighborhood put in a community garden, your action matters and has an effect on your life now, and in the future. My association with agricultural education has shown that there are countless avenues where you can find opportunity to have health in your life—professionally and personally. Agricultural education is a great stimulant for growth.

Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
Most definitely, I believe that the agriculture industry is so virtuous. I am the daughter of California dairy and almond farmers. I saw first-hand the amount of dedication, honesty, perseverance, and intelligence necessary to operate a successful business. I rely on that training to help me guide my students to be honest, intelligent, dedicated, and tenacious in their quest to be responsible, capable citizens of this great state. Our school is located in Modesto, California where small family farms coexist with internationally renowned agricultural companies. I encourage my students to know about their community and the wealth of opportunity and resources generated by agriculture.

Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
My parents are a tremendous blessing and a huge influence on who I am professionally and personally. It was not an option as to whether I would attend college; it was a gift to me that I knew came from hours of hard work on their behalf. From their hardworking and dedication came my education opportunity. They both were very intelligent and shared with me their love of stories and the acquisition of knowledge.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
I have two favorites:

  1. Twenty five years ago I brought a Daisy butter churn into my third grade classroom. The students were amazed when cream became butter (after quite a bit of cranking) and suddenly, there were stories of tomatoes becoming salsa.
  2. I also was very proud when I saw one of my students sign his name to a published story. Truly it was his genius, to have captured the best story in the state, but to have helped give a young person that opportunity to shine was very gratifying.

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
Currently, I am helping another teacher coordinate student presentations for our school's agriculture day, and then of course, all three of my classes this year will participate in the Imagine this… Story Writing Contest.

Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
Jump in and begin today. Your students will love the curriculum and it can be incorporated into all subject areas. Agriculture can be associated with virtually every industry in California, it will empower your students to adapt a healthy lifestyle, and is so easy to implement, especially with all of the literature and resources provided by CFAITC, much of which is free.

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today's society?
It is all about creating healthy, capable, responsible people. Creating a curriculum that celebrates and encourages an awareness and intelligence about California agriculture helps to develop young people that will encourage economic growth, support agriculture policies, and have a desire to stay in California and work toward the maintenance of a thriving agriculture economy. It creates a sense of identity for the student that they are truly a part of a unique and valuable landscape. They are Californians and this fertile land feeds the world.

For more information about the Imagine this… Story Writing Contest, visit www.LearnAboutAg.org/imaginethis.


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