Meet LC Teacher of the Year - Erica Boomer

June 19, 2018

One of the common complaints I hear from my students about Lake County is that “there’s nothing to do here.” I always say that we live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and that there so many amazing outdoor adventures to explore!

They laugh when I tell them that I was voted Upper Lake High School’s “Most Likely Never to Leave Lake County” my senior year in 1999.  At the time, I was very involved in 4-H and spend most of my time on the family ranch where we raised cattle, sheep, hay and walnuts. I didn’t want to leave, but when I found out I was accepted into Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo as a Forestry and Natural Resource Major, I had to venture out. It was the best thing I ever did. I had the opportunity to see other places, work in a variety of jobs, and meet people who inspired me to find my true calling; which in fact led me back to the place I never wanted to leave.

Before and during college, I worked as a veterinarian assistant, park ranger and even a wildland firefighter. I loved each of these jobs for different reasons, yet somehow, I was unfulfilled. Something was missing. I came to realize that I loved working with children when I was leading a “Junior Ranger” program for the City of San Luis Obispo.

Teaching them to respect the land and appreciate the beauty around them was something that made me so excited. Seeing their wonder and curiosity about animals and plant life was so inspiring. I met a fellow Cal Poly student who was studying to be an Ag Teacher and FFA Advisor and I realized that was the job for me. I immediately switched majors to Agricultural Education and kept my minor as Forestry and Natural Resources.  

When the time came for me to choose a senior project at Cal Poly, I wanted to come up with a way for me to make a difference in my hometown.

I developed a needs-assessment survey for an Ag Education/FFA Program at Upper Lake High School and traveled home to speak in front of the School Board, high school assembly, and delivered surveys to the local Grange, middle and elementary schools in our District.

With overwhelming community and administrative support, I was hired to start the Ag program at Upper Lake in 2005. I had no idea what I was in for.  I had to apply for the Ag Incentive Grant, Perkins Grant, Federal FFA Charter and come up with curriculum, course outlines and revamp the Ag Mechanics shop all in a two-month period prior to the start of the 2005 school year!

The trials and tribulations have all been worth it. The Ag Program  has grown to the point of hiring a second Ag Teacher and our student numbers in Ag Education have doubled.   Our students have found great success in the Ag Program.

Through the CTE Agricultural Mechanics classes, students have had a part in building the school farm. They have learned construction principles while building the barn; they can build fence, trench water lines, lay concrete and more! It has been a long process of writing grants and fundraising over the years. This is how I was able to get the well drilled, pump installed and pay for all of the supplies for the farm and Metal/Wood Shop projects. Maintaining the machines and equipment for student use is a full time job by itself, but those classes only make up two periods of my day.

I also teach Agricultural Biology, Ag & Soil Chemistry and Ag Systems Management which complete the Agriscience Pathway at Upper Lake High School. These courses meet A-G requirements for the CSU/UC System and are a part of the UC Curriculum Integration initiative and Next Generation Science Standards.  

These courses are also a part of the CA Partnership Academy program called “AESA” (Alternative Energy & Sustainable Agriculture), which I am the coordinator of.  Planning field trips, arranging meetings with the other AESA teachers, Advisory Committees and developing cross-curricular projects are just some of my duties as AESA Coordinator.

The remaining component of my job as a professional educator is my involvement with the National FFA Program. I guide the FFA Officer Team in the planning and execution of monthly Chapter meetings, community service projects, and fundraisers in order to help develop their potential for “premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education” (FFA Mission).  I also oversee their “Supervised Agriculture Education” projects ranging from livestock and gardens to home and community development and mentor/internship opportunities. These projects are showcased at the Lake County Fair, Open House and other events throughout the county.

I have also coached students in speaking contests, career development events and State FFA Degree applications. I was selected as the North Coast Region “CATA Outstanding Young Teacher” in 2009 for progress our FFA Chapter has made and I am currently serving the CA Ag Teacher Association as our North Coast Region President.

Sometimes I wonder, “Why am I doing all of this?” Then, the bell rings and my students come in excited to see if the chicks have hatched yet, or they are begging to work in the shop, and I remember I am doing this because I love seeing the spark of interest in them.

Agricultural education is more than growing food and fiber; it’s developing and nurturing a love for country life and respect for those around you.

I love Lake County and I love my job.  

I feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to inspire others to find the joys that I have known my whole life. I hope that my students will continue to grow as individuals and carry the love of our land and respect for each other with them whatever path life leads them on.  

 


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