Coburn Elementary School teacher honored
By Carley Dangonacarley@thereminder.com
WEST SPRINGFIELD On Sept. 24, Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Inc. (MAC) announced that Jessica Ouimet, a fifth grade teacher at Philip G. Coburn Elementary School, is the 2012 teacher of the year.
"It's [the award] is such an honor completely unexpected," Ouimet said.
In addition to teaching Ouimet, a resident of Westfield, owns and operates a farm in Russell with her husband. The 180-acre farm includes a 30-tree orchard and has more than 100 chickens.
They also have ducks, turkeys, pigs, guineafowl and bees. The couple raises their own meat and grows and cans their own vegetables and fruit.
"My day starts pretty early and ends pretty late," Ouimet said. "As a child, I daydreamed of an outdoorsy life that I was Laura Ingalls Wilder.
"We happened upon the property. My husband inherited eight landlocked acres from his grandfather and we purchased the other 172 acres in 2003," she continued.
Ouimet cited her classroom objective. "Truly, my ultimate goal is for the students to understand their impact to the environment, the world around it and to respect the environment," she said.
Debi Hogan, MAC executive director, expressed the organization's enthusiasm about this year's winner. "We were just blown away by her," she said. "She's working to teach the children [about agriculture] and is living it authentically she lives and breathes it [the lifestyle]. She's an incredible woman."
Coburn Principal Colleen Marcus shared the opinion. "Jessica is extremely passionate about everything that has to do with science," she stated. "She lives that [the agricultural] life and gets the kids excited about it in a number of ways."
One example is the school garden the fifth graders created where they prepare, plant and harvest many items including potatoes and onions. In addition, the children tend to flowers and practice the skill of composting.
"Her passion is the reason we started her enthusiasm, the fact that she's not just excited, but she's totally engrossed. The children can spout out all the facts and they understand the reasons [for the practices they are learning]," Marcus added.
"I enjoy bringing [in] the things I love and sharing them with the kids," Ouimet added. "They ask all the time [if they can come visit the farm]."
Ouimet's husband Alan is researching the possibility of creating such a fieldtrip in the future.
Ouimet will be presented with the award Nov. 10 at the annual fall conference for MAC, hosted at the Clay Science Center in Brookline. MAC has celebrated teachers with the award since 2005.
For more information about MAC, go to www.aginclassroom.org
. To read Ouimet's blog, log on to www.bestofcluck.blogspot.com