As a young adult, I am constantly learning how to be a good teacher and role model to my students. I have to practice my patience, empathize with their little minds, and redirect their eagerness to play to learn. I learn something new about being an adult every day that I work with these kids – and for that I am very grateful.
Everything that I have been doing these past few months as a FoodCorps service member has been wonderful and challenging. In a short amount of time, our Farm to School community has been able to accomplish a lot: constructing 2 school gardens, facilitating 7 school-wide taste tests of local produce, teaching 3 after-school garden programs and 1 cooking club, applying to present at the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, promoting local food education at the farmers market and hands-on education to traditionally underserved populations of kids. I am excited to continue working with these projects and develop stronger programs within each school.
So far the most rewarding part of my service is working with the BEST class at Mile High Middle School. The nine students in the BEST class are all special needs in one way or another – most are on the autism spectrum. Katie McDaniel, a health educator with Yavapai County Community Health Services, co-teaches this class with me and shares in the joy of watching these kids try new things. Because of these kids’ challenges, we learn to teach with more patience and flexibility than other classes, often having to pause and wait for a student to calm down from an emotional high. However challenging it may be, this class understands and appreciates our lessons on a different level. They can be silly and spontaneous in ways that make me laugh out loud and smile brightly. For example, we just did a nutrition lesson about eating the rainbow and handed each student a bowl with fruits and vegetables of different colors to try. One student tried a bite of every single item in her bowl and declared that she didn’t like any of them except the banana. Even though she didn’t like most of what we gave her, I was so proud because she wasn’t afraid to try new things! Another student refused try most of what was in his bowl, but when I handed him a blueberry, he struck a superman pose and caused the girl next to him to start dancing. These kids are so unique and wonderful, and so far have been the highlight of my service.