Monday, June 28, 2010

An Agent of Change

I am in Des Moines, Iowa for the National Agriscience Integration Institute through Thursday. That's a big fancy name that basically means I, along with two other individuals involved in Ag Ed from Arizona, are here to develop a plan to integrate more Agriscience in our state. You may ask, how did I stumble upon this involvement? I will tell you...even though you probably weren't really wondering that.

Three years ago I applied to be a part of the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy; it was a phenomenal experience that literally changed the face of my approach to teaching. The entire focus of the original conference was to learn how to integrate more Agriscience instruction into agriculture classrooms through the use of Inquiry Based Instruction (IBI). The "Ambassador" part of the title came along with the expectation that we would return to our home states as reformed teachers, prepared to persuade our colleagues about this new and much better philosophy as an additional tool for our toolbox. That's all well and good until the rubber met the road.

Though I thought I understood my role three years ago, actually rolling out the plan became a bit more tricky. How do I, as one teacher, start a cascade effect among my colleagues about the importance of incorporating this method of teaching (inquiry)? To make it an even more dynamic problem, how do I affect change on the university level so that new Ag teachers have also been instructed about how to use this method?

And Wa-La, we have the creation of the current conference that I am attending this week. Operationally defined, each team of three from 11 different states, including the Great State of Arizona, will work as a team to develop a plan to integrate Inquiry Based Instruction (IBI) in their respective home states. For those of you not involved in agricultural education or education at all, there's a lot of gobblety-gook vocabulary that I am throwing around. To boil it down though we are trying to provide teachers of all experience levels with a new method of teaching. We aren't asking them to throw out everything they have and start over; we are asking them to incorporate this method slowly. Methodically. Purposefully.

Inquiry based instruction can literally TRANSFORM the learning in a classroom. Students are forced to take ownership of their learning, and suddenly their learning becomes much more meaningful. In inquiry based instruction, there is a continuum of both student self-direction and direction from a teacher. The teacher simply must provide appropriate amounts of information and context to place students at an appropriate place on the continuum that allows them to inquire or investigate from there. Teachers change hats and become facilitators for awhile, then change hats again and provide additional context for what they students have discovered. It's a really interesting approach to learning that I hopefully will continue to utilize more in my own classroom.

With that said I want to elaborate a bit on the title of this post; I did not know exactly what to expect coming into "part two" of this conference series. I fully understood that inquiry based instruction was at the heart of both, but I did not know that we would be developing strategic action plans to incorporate this method into our home states. I was able to participate in and observe some brilliant conversations today that revolved around how individuals become agents of change and the difficulties they may encounter. As Arizona's only "official" (I use that term loosely) Agriscience Ambassador, I have been given a huge opportunity to influence the introduction of this methodology on a state-wide approach. I am really excited to see what unfolds through the work of our team over this next week.

I realize that pedagogy and teaching philosophy probably don't rock your world as much as they do mine. I am glad I can share my excitement through this blog though, and am even more excited to see my own passion for teaching grow. I entered this career three years ago with some huge strings attached about how long I would teach and why I was teaching. God has been so faithful though; in three years I have become increasingly thankful for this profession, my colleagues and especially my students. My interest in the science and art of teaching continually grows as well, and I aspire to better myself as a professional. And now, as I prepare to enter year four I am excited to see how God continues to use me as an Agent of Change in more ways than one.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Juxtaposition: Secure Border...Please do not visit!

My thanks to Senators McCain and Kyl for visiting Douglas, Arizona this past weekend to learn about the current status of our southern border. While the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security (Janet Napolitano from AZ) states that the border is as secure as it ever has been, I am confident we know otherwise. For example, in this video Senator McCain shows several signs posted by the federal government warning visitors to this region NOT TO VISIT. How can that be a sure sign of safety along the border? Based on that one example, simple logic tells us that the border is not secure.

I know statistics can be used wrongly when reported out of context, but consider this one statistic: Phoenix is only second to Mexico City globally for kidnappings (as reported by Senator Kyl). Second! Are you kidding? A city in the United States of America known as a capital for kidnappings. Our federal politicians should be ashamed of themselves for blindly ignoring this statistic among others that affect public safety and the use of public lands.

While walking past the Massachusetts State House yesterday, there was an 18 day protest being staged to prevent similar laws from SB 1070 passing in MA. Citizens like them should also be ashamed for abandoning their fellow countrymen; they do not live on the border. They have no clue the desperate situation that Arizona citizens in the lower quarter of our state live with on a day-to-day basis. They don't have to live with the buddy system, always having someone at their side. They don't have to leave their house with a weapon. Don't tell me that this whole "thing" is about stereotyping people based on the color of their skin. It's about the situation on Arizona's southern border where U.S. citizens are not safe and will not be safe until the border is secure. We can't address immigration reform until the border is secure.

If you have 20 minutes, watch the video. If you only have 5, it's still worth it. If you're still opposed to this whole bill/issue in Arizona, please consider what it would be like to spend a day, much less a week or month in the life of southern Arizona citizens. It is our duty to protect our citizens above non-citizens and at this point, that task has not been accomplished.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm gonna miss Maine!

Realizing that the title of today's post is going to be a bit misleading, I'm going to preface this post by saying that the majority of this post involves a synopsis of what went down in Beantown (Boston) today. Mom and I signed up for a trolley tour of the city - this was definitely one of the best decisions we made on this trip. If you've never taken one, basically you pay for the ticket and then you can get on/off any of the company's trolleys around the city. They stop at designated spots to explain points of interest and you can enter/exit the trolley if you want to explore more on your own. I thought we would skip through our tour with only 15 points of interest, however we started around 9:30 and returned to the hotel around 2:30.

One of our favorite spots is pictured below - The State House. The balcony, located on the eastern side, is where the Declaration of Independence was first read by Samuel Adams after being signed 18 days prior. The western side of the State House is the location of the Boston Massacre - did you know that this started out with Colonists taunting British soldiers by throwing snowballs at them? It eventually escalated into a "massacre" with five colonists being killed. One other interesting point: the Boston subway (4th oldest in the world) runs below this building and you can totally hear it as it runs below!

This picture was taken just outside of the State House as mom and I waited for the trolley to return.
We stopped at the original Cheers for lunch. You can't visit Boston and not go! The original name of the bar was the Bull and Finch Pub and I'm not exactly clear on when the name got changed. The producers of the television show visited this bar with the intention of finding a bar to create a sitcom about. After visiting a number of other bars around Beantown, the producers returned to the first bar and decided that it was the one. We shared the Burger Meister burger and it was great - it had a pile o' mushrooms and Muenster cheese. A combo that I never would have created, but fit really well together.

Before leaving Boston, we stopped at Emack and Bolio's ice cream parlor which if you look closely at the ice cream cup below says "ice cream for connoissuer's." It was really good, but not as good as the blueberry ice cream in Camden! And how about this? One scoop was $3.75 times two people, equals $7.50. We totally outsmarted the system and got three scoops (for "one" person) and only paid $4.75! Okay, so it's not the most exciting thing that happened to us on our trip, but we felt pretty smart! We shared Peppermint Patty (pretty good), Beantown Crunch (coffee ice cream with chocolate covered espresso beans....yummo!), and Vanilla Bean Speck (pretty good). You obviously know what my favorite was!

We drove to Ogunquit, Maine for the evening so that we have a shorter drive to the airport tomorrow. Yet another charming town in Maine that is right on the Coast and has an abundance of super cute shops and local eateries. Boston was fun, but I have so, so enjoyed Maine. The pace of life in the small towns. The number of ice cream eateries (can I get a hallelujah?). And the quietness that has accompanied us everywhere we've been. I hope you've enjoyed reading about some of the places that we have visited and eaten at, and if you ever get the chance to visit Maine, jump at the chance!
We fly back to Arizona tomorrow. I have loved every moment of my vacation with my mom, but am ready to return. I praise God for the rest and relaxation that I have been able to enjoy in abundance. I am especially thankful for the time I was given with my mom - I am so glad that we have grown to become friends and look forward to our next trip!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday in Boston

I know you were expecting a "Monday in Maine" post but I thought I'd switch it up so we drove to Boston. Haha, if only the writing for blog were that important! Actually, Mom and I kind of planned it so that we would have enough time to spend a day in Boston. The drive this morning was quiet - we took a pit stop in Freeport, a.k.a. Outlet City USA. That is not actually it's alias, but if I were the Freeport mayor, I would start a marketing campaign with that title. The outlet shops were great; they were housed in old Victorian style houses. Very New England. Very quaint.

We arrive in Boston around 4:30 and once we finally found a hotel, we changed and headed to Little Italy for dinner. The concierge at our hotel gave us several recommendations and we ended up dining at Ristorante Limoncello. It was very authentic and brought back memories from my two week trip to Italy in high school.

Mom had Tagliolini al Limoncello which consisted of homemade pasta with a limoncello creme sauce which was really good - it wasn't as heavy as an alfredo, it was more like a red sauce with some creme. She also had some shrimp with it. I had Salmone alla Maurizio (a.k.a. salmon all about Maurizio). It was salmon with a lemon caper creme sauce - very good! For dessert we shared a ricotta and pear pie which was also very good - I was a little nervous about ordering it but it was nice. (I apologize for the pictures being wrong side up.)

After dinner we walked through part of the north end of the Little Italy neighborhood and it was great! Great people watching - lots of tourists but also lots of small eateries with four or five tables in them, windows open to the streets and flower boxes on every window. We didn't plan this, but we walked past Paul Revere's home and then sat on the waterfront for a little bit before retiring. This statue of Christopher Columbus overlooks Long Wharf, where our hotel was built.

Other Miscellany
-We're watching Cake Boss on TLC right now.
-Ships occassionally honk (do ships honk?) as they anchor/leave the harbor next to our hotel.
-I bought three pairs of shoes at the Rockport Outlet today, for a total savings of $200!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday in Maine

After attending church at First Congregational Church in Camden, Mom and I headed to the Down East/Acadia region of Maine. Heading along Route 1, we stopped through several small towns, all situated along various bays and inlets. You can see from the picture below that Belfast is home to the "Oldest Shoe Store in America." An attribute that I love about Maine thus far is the number of flags hanging in every town we encounter. From telephone poles to store fronts, Old Glory is hung liberally in small towns across Maine.

Somewhere between Bucksport and Acadia National Park, we stopped at a small road side stand and purchased a quart of strawberries. The air smelled of strawberries as soon as we got out of the car. No joke. This little old man was placing strawberries into cardboard quarts; his fingers were stained red and he had a typical Mainer accent. Combine the smell with the precious 80-something salesman and I could not resist. The strawberries were perfectly ripe - imagine biting into a strawberry and having juice explode from it. That was my experience today!

One of the main attractions I wanted to visit in Maine was the Acadia National Park. At the time of its creation, it was the first national park on the East coast. It is a beautiful park that takes you from the shoreline to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Mom and I drove the 30-mile loop through the park taking time to stop at various attractions including the one pictured below. Sand Beach is one of the few sandy beaches along Maine's coastline, however it is only for those not faint at heart. In the summertime, the water only reaches high's of 50 degrees! Even the breeze is cold; I almost needed a jacket to enjoy my climb down to the beach. Mom stayed on top of the cliffside while I climbed down and she took the picture for me:)

This next picture cracks. me. up. The next attraction we stopped at in the park was Thunder Hole (I think that's what it is called). Basically it's a rocky inlet that sounds like thunder when the tide is coming in. Unfortunately we viewed it during low tide so we did not experience any "thunder." There were some cool views though. I asked this guy to take my mom and I's picture and this is what we got. Haha.

We pulled into Bar Harbor to check out the famous Maine town. We both decided it was a little too touristy for both of us though. The view of the harbor was beautiful and the town homes were gorgeous but we both preferred the quaintness of small towns we had previously visited. While returning to Belfast for dinner and to stay the night, Mom drove through the first rain of our trip. We cruised down to the waterfront (what else would you do in Maine?) for dinner and ended up eating at the Lookout Pub. This place was totally a hole in the wall, and I'm pretty sure it was mainely (pun intended) locals plus us. Mom and I were both in the mood for a good burger and that's exactly what we got.

Other Miscellany:
-I have slowly been finishing the last unit of my Hebrews study. I wanted to share a verse from 1 Timothy 6:6 that I love. "Yet true godliness with contentments is itself great wealth."
-My dad is at home (Happy Father's Day!) and while visiting this morning he mentioned that Johnnie Reb chased the heifer next to the house twice during the middle of last night. She is officially sleeping in her kennel tonight.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday in Maine

This morning started with a visit to Len Libby's in Scarborough, Maine to visit Lenny. Lenny is a life size moose made out of chocolate. I couldn't think of a more delightful way to start my Saturday!

Mom and I then headed northeast to the Rockland - Camden area which is considered mid-coast Maine. It was nice to get off of the interstate and cruise on some county roads. Before arriving at our destination for the evening we stopped in Augusta to check out the state's capital city. Sadly, nothing much was happening. August is situated on the banks of the Kennebec river which is beautiful, and the capital building itself is gorgeous. However, the downtown area could use some revitalizing. After visiting the Maine State Museum we stopped in the next town over to have lunch at Hattie's Chowder House.

After another short 45 minute drive we found ourselves in some of the quaintest towns we have found so far. We are staying in the Samoset Resort which is located just south of Camden on Penobscot Bay. The resort has amazing views and is located near a beautiful lighthouse. While my mom rested I walked out on a granite walkway and climbed the lighthouse. It was amazing. The view below is walking back toward the resort from the lighthouse. I didn't realize how much I would enjoy seeing lighthouses but I am totally digging them.

We drove north to Camden for dinner and ate at the Bayview Lobster restaurant. Our service was sub-par but the food was great. I had fried Haddock and sweet potato fries and my mom had pan-seared scallops. My Haddock was done really well, the breading was really light, but my mom's scallops were great. Kind of sweet, and perfectly done. Obviously the picture below is not of our food:) We ate on the dock and the view was spectacular - Camden is super quaint and the people watching on the dock can't be beat. We watched the crew from this ship the entire time we ate. I loved the American flag they had attached to their sails and couldn't resist snapping a photo.

Other Miscellany -
-I found my phone charger! Yay, thanks God! It was hiding in my carry-on bag and got buried beneath the plethora of magazines I brought to read.
-Blueberry ice cream is delightful. Mom and I both had a scoop following dinner.
-People who sail love dogs. I'm not sure this is a fact, but there was an obscene number of dogs on the deck tonight.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mom and Me in Maine

Mom and I headed to Maine for a week-long vacation. It nigh took us awhile to locate our hotel last night, but after multiple u-turns and requests for directions we were successful. Day 1 (today) was great! Mom had her first (and maybe her last) Maine lobster as pictured below. We asked for the best place in Portland to get Maine and multiple people recommended the Portland Lobster Company. We enjoyed eating on the dock, resting in the shade and feeding french fries to the little Shitzu at the table next to us. (Side note: Petie, the Shitzu, wasn't actually seated at the table, but she belonged to the owner's at the table next to us.)

After lunch, mom and I took a tour of the harbor. I was a little nervous about getting sea sick but it was actually very relaxing. I have been wanting to see Maine's Oldest Headlight and finally I did! In addition to being the oldest in Maine, it is the second oldest in America. We also managed to see a couple of sea lions and our own version of Deadliest Catch - a couple of lobster boats bringing in the day's catch.

I am hoping for more free internet tomorrow, and if there is you can rest assured more pictures will follow. On a couple of other notes - I did forget my phone charger so please don't call. :) Haha. That sounds mean, but I'm just trying to save you the effort because my phone is off.
Also, please pray for the family of Gary Ledger, the advisor of Las Vegas (NM) FFA. He passed away on Wednesday night in a car accident. I don't know the details but I counted him a friend even though I knew him only as an acquaintance. There is something about the bond we share as Ag teachers that makes him feel even closer than he was. Please keep his family, friends and students in your prayers.

Monday, June 7, 2010


That's exactly what the past two weeks have been - a whirlwind. From Texas to California and with three weddings in between, the past two weeks have flown by in a flurry of activity. I have treasured the craziness of it all because I have been encouraged by the fellowship I have shared and the great memories made. I have tried to share enough pictures to briefly share where we have been and all we have done. I will post more in the coming weeks (I hope) about each of the weddings because they were unique and beautiful...and I love weddings!

Anna and I stayed with our great Uncle Frank and Aunt Flora in western New Mexico on the first night of our trip to Texas. It was wonderful seeing them and they both looked great.

Anna and I left Grants and headed further east to the small town of Clarendon for Alix and Ben's wedding. The ceremony was held outside overlooking a canyon on the ranch that Ben manages. The immediate picture below is of Anna and I in the aisle after the wedding and the second picture is of Alix, the bride, and myself. If I were you looking at the picture of Anna and I, my response would be "Bless her heart, her hair is super windblown." Alix was a stunning bride!

The day after Alix's wedding, Anna and I traveled south to Lubbock to meet Ty and Whitney for lunch; they took us to Cafe J which was delightful. I've been dreaming of their burger since. (Check out my sister's review of the Cafe here.) Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of Ty and Whitney:( We left Lubbock after lunch and headed to Artesia, New Mexico to meet our friend Jennifer whom I met through blogging. Jennifer and her husband welcomed us into their home and I just loved meeting her in person. Pictured with us below is Jennifer and her son. Check out her blog here for more pictures.

After two days back at work last week, I started the craziness of a two day wedding extravaganza. I was a bridesmaids in two weddings, two days in a row in two different states. How's that for crazy? Wedding numero uno was in Goodyear on Friday - my good friend Holly Schindler (now Clements) married Michael. Holly and I met through FFA when we were in high school and then became better friends as we went to UA together. The wedding was held in St. Thomas Aquinas and the reception was held down the road at Tuscany Falls. Both the ceremony and the reception were absolutely beautiful, and Holly made a lovely bride. The dress she is wearing in the picture is not her wedding dress, this was taken just prior to our professional photos.

Wedding numero dos was held in Parkfield, California which is about an hour and a half north east of San Luis Obispo. I caught a flight on Saturday morning, the bride's father picked me up and about four hours after landing in Cali I was ready to go for pictures. I met Kirsten through FFA in high school (all roads lead to FFA!) and then we became really good friends in college. She married Scottie the Hottie whom I love. Their wedding was held outdoors and was a rockin' good time!

I caught a ride back to San Luis Obispo yesterday and had lunch with a great friend I met in grad school who is now teaching at Cal Poly. I am so thankful we had time to catch up over lunch and I finally got to meet their beautiful baby, Reagan.

I had a migraine starting going into lunch and it was killing me afterwards. My friend Kodi, who was also at Kirsten's wedding, had run inside to use the restroom and came out to find head was killing me and the sun was so bright so I thought I would lay down while still guarding our luggage. This picture pretty much sums up how I was feeling yesterday though - worn out! I am back at school this morning making final preparations for our State FFA Conference in Tucson later this week. I have some deadlines I need to meet this week, so too-do-loo for now. I will hopefully post pictures from each wedding later this week.