Tree Foundation of Kern

High School Teacher

To teach high school students and educate them about the importance of trees

High school teachers are the guardians of the future, encouraging young people to strive and reach their fullest potential. Often, high school teachers can make the critical difference in the lives of students who may be ready to give up before they have even begun.

"I think being a teacher is a very proud position," said high school agriculture teacher Gerald Wenstrand. "We have the opportunity to try, in a positive sense, to mold the lives of students."

Teaching, Wenstrand said, doesn't end with the final school bell. It often goes beyond the boundaries of the school day as teachers involve themselves in extracurricular activities with students. Wenstrand also serves as the FFA advisor at Kern Valley High School in Lake Isabella, California, overseeing a program that includes more than 200 students along with a sizable school farm complete with livestock and pastures.

His students have won honors at the regional, state and national levels in the FFA program and many credit their success to Wenstrand's positive leadership and encouragement.

Being a true teacher requires "sincerity and caring about the students enough to try to provide opportunities to learn beyond the classroom," Wenstrand said. "You try to develop things to enhance learning for the students."

"The most challenging thing is the diversity of students' interests, attention spans and learning abilities," Wenstrand said. "Some are quick and some are slower. Trying to figure out the right buttons to push to create a motivation for students to enjoy school and to want to learn is the challenge. They're all special and if they walk in that door, we've got to try to provide a good education," Wenstrand added.

High school teachers in many subjects have the opportunity to involve their students with tree planting projects from science to social studies. Wenstrand has involved his students with the very practical aspects of tree planting and care with projects that install shade trees in the school farm landscape. Tree planting projects give Wenstrand an opportunity to cover shade tree identification, propagation, proper planting methods and installation of irrigation systems.

Although other careers may offer higher salaries and more recognition, Wenstrand said if he could do it all again, he would still choose teaching. "Without a doubt," he said.

"With those who have a lot of potential, you try to offer challenging activities and learning situations and then there are those where anything is a challenge," Wenstrand said. "When you see growth, when you see success and a change for the positive, that's the satisfaction."

Requires: 4 Year degree plus teaching credentials.

Salary: Varies regionally starting at about $25,000 and increasing to $40,000 with experience.