Dane White, JessaLee Goehring, Matt Patton

January 26, 2015

Every month in our UCCI newsletter, we feature one of the extraordinary educators we have worked with at the UCCI Institutes and in the UCCI Teacher Exchange. We started this feature so that we could have a way of publicly showcasing how creative, innovative, and smart California teachers are. We archive every issue of the Teacher Spotlight here, on the UCCI website, at our Teacher Spotlight page.

This month the spotlight is on Dane White, who is in his 8th year teaching agriculture, JessaLee Goehring , who is in her 12th year of teaching agriculture, and Matt Patton, who has been teaching agriculture for 14 years.

Agriculture teachers Dane White of Galt High School, JessaLee Goehring of Lodi High, and Matt Patton of Elk Grove talk about designing integrated agriculture courses to serve students better. 

UCCI recently partnered with the California Agricultural Teachers Association (CATA) to conduct a UCCI Institute focused on developing three Agriscience courses that would meet the lab science (“d”) subject requirement for UC/CSU freshman admission (and yes, those are the agriculture courses mentioned above). We were thrilled to work with Dane, Matt and JessaLee in the planning and execution of this Institute, all of  whom are phenomenal teachers and expert leaders.  

We recently chatted with Dane, JessaLee and Matt to hear more from them about how and why they wanted this UCCI Institute, and what they felt the new courses would mean for secondary agriculture curriculum throughout the state.

In your estimation, what have been the gaps in ag science curriculum?

Dane: When I was a high school student in the 1990’s agriculture courses were primarily that--focused on the ins and outs of industry practices and the science inherent in those practices. As our educational community became more focused on specific standards and measurable tests, the curriculum had adapted to the point where there was much internal consternation about having lost some of the actual agriculture in agriculture science. This UCCI effort was a big push forward to reposition agriculture education for success in the NGSS era and to ensure fealty to our industry standards and to the beauty of what makes our educational model so successful in engaging 80,000 California students each year.

Matt: This was an opportunity for the Agriculture teachers of California to join together and design the scientific curriculum that would serve our students the best. The curriculum was designed to incorporate the three ring model of Agriculture education bringing the classroom, supervised agricultural experiences and student leadership development together in one sequence. Integrated curriculum is a natural fit for Agriculture. For centuries the Agriculture industry has driven scientific discovery in all disciplines, striving to produce more food and fiber using less resources and land to meet the ever increasing demand by a growing population. Agriculturalists have to be experts in the biological sciences, chemistry and physics in order to design and operate the systems needed to deliver food from the farm to the consumer’s fork.


JessaLee: This new curriculum [created at the Institute] truly integrates all sciences together, with agriculture as the main focus. This is exactly what we as agriculture teachers have been yearning for. It was exciting to see the courses being put together and to see what we have envisioned for so long, and getting back to our roots.

Why did you want to build this new curriculum at a UCCI Institute?
Dane: There’s a kind of genius when innovative minds gather and build something greater than anything we could have done on our own. In March I attended the Educating for Careers Conference in Sacramento and was fortunate to attend a workshop put on by Sarah Fidelibus and Katie Leslie from UCCI. I left with my brain spinning! It was the perfect convergence of a task we had been trying to get done [building integrated agriculture courses] and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to soar in that task's execution. I am excited to see these courses get adopted throughout California and to transform student opportunities in classrooms. The courses will likely need some shaping depending on the needs of individual districts, but I firmly believe they are ready to be implemented across the state.
JessaLee: I have always loved writing curriculum and teaching agriscience, and I knew when Dane approached me about the agriculture science curriculum that I wanted to be a part of this. To be able to help write curriculum that can be used in all agriculture programs is exciting and I wanted to help make this happen. I would like to see these courses adopted and implemented throughout our state.

How did you go about building a coalition to participate in this work? 

Dane: Agriculture teachers are passionate about our profession; building a coalition was a cakewalk because we had already determined this work needed to happen. We had far more people apply to participate in the UCCI institute than we had space for--a sign that California’s agricultural teachers were excited about the direction we were taking. Through our CATA communication channels we were able to survey our members about their desires regarding the new courses and the topics, standards and products created through each. This pre-planning made our mission much easier to accomplish and enabled the Institute’s participants to be much more focused in the development of our courses. 

How do you feel about the courses that came out of the Institute?

Dane: When you bring together brilliant minds, you will likely get brilliant results. I am confident we brought together some of the best agricultural educators in California, and through collaboration with extraordinary science teachers, we created the kind of courses that will set the bar for CTE programs in the NGSS era. These courses ask students to think, to problem solve, to create and to evaluate all in the context of authentically integrated coursework. Students will learn at the nexus of science and agriculture with increased expectations for rigor and also with enhanced application to careers in our nation’s number one industry.

JessaLee: When I read them I was beyond excited and cannot wait to teach them in our program. I knew going into this that our agriculture teachers are talented, intelligent and would take this institute and go beyond expectations. Our “learn by doing” model is evident in every aspect of every course. Its great material that came out of the two day Institute and I am proud to have been a part of this.
Matt: These classes are amazing because the input of the entire profession was used to shape the direction and structure of the curriculum. All three classes are project based and rooted in Agriculture. Teaching these classes will be both challenging and exciting because of their complexity and true Ag content.

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“I've gained more from this institute in regards to curriculum development than any other program I've been associated with in my 12 years of teaching.” 

- Aaron Lemos, Spring 2013 UCCI Institutes