60-Second Interview: Alicia Winter P'17, '19, Garden Manager

When I was growing up, I wanted to be:

A circus rider. I grew up on ponies, and learned to vault at 8. I never did make it into the circus, though!

I got into education because:

When my son started at Marvelwood as a freshman, I drove past the Food Studies garden every day. Being a vegetable gardener and passionate about organic restorative agriculture, I was excited to get involved. When Marvelwood invited me to work with students in the garden and offered me a canvas on which to grow fruits and vegetables, I grabbed at the chance.  Little did I realize I'd be growing teenagers.  From youth to young adulthood, Marvelwood grows people into fruitfulness.  We've got really good soil.

A few words or phrases that describe my approach to teaching/ working with teenagers:

The place to begin is with 'try'. Try everything. Try something new. Everyone needs a chance to try. Students are always surprised by what they can accomplish if they try.

I am constantly surprised by:

The skills my students don't yet have.  I often have to teach students basic skills like how to use a shovel and the proper way to operate a wheelbarrow. 

Describe a student who's done well at Marvelwood:

I have a student who has found a voice in the garden.  This student began to shed the constraints that bound them around others when they were in the garden, like social anxiety, peer pressure, and performance anxiety.  They slowly began to find themselves, to lose their reservations, to get silly, talk loudly, have fun.  Now I rely on this student to teach skills to other students, to follow complicated directions, and organize the flow of work.  They have become a leader.  I'm very proud of them. 

I know I'm reaching a student when:

They open their mind to try something new. When they ask questions. When they volunteer to read poetry at the end of the day.

A favorite project I've done with students:

So many! Pressing cider. Digging potatoes. Picking raspberries. One of their favorites is shelling beans.

If I could take a trip anywhere with students, it would be to:

To a historic colonial garden to talk about heirloom vegetables, seed saving and preservation.  Also, a slaughterhouse. I know that sounds shocking, but I believe that if people are presented, face to face, with the reality of factory farming they would make different choices about eating commercial meat.

I am currently reading:

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reed

The book I'm recommending these days:

Falter by Bill McKibben.  Scary, but hopeful.

List a few ingredients of the Marvelwood 'special sauce':

Attention, time, proximity, trust, compassion, cptimism.

This is what I would tell my first-year/ first-month-teaching self:

Slow down.  You have a captive audience.

What I like about teaching at Marvelwood:

I get to teach what I love.  What's not to like about that?

What I like about working at Marvelwood:

I get to work in the Dome.

What I appreciate about Marvelwood students:

Their willingness to try.  It is the most important trait. Their perspective keeps me young. I learn new things from the students all the time. They can be so passionate and funny.

The funniest/ most interesting/ most memorable thing a student said:

After a day spent digging in the dirt, a new student presented me with a big pile of worms. He was from a desert country, and had never seen a worm, never dug in the dirt, but he thought I couldn't possibly want them in the soil we were preparing, so he had spent his time collecting them for me. It was really sweet.

Three things I want my students to take away:

I want them to understand that everything is connected.  Everything.  Secondly, I want them to understand that any task, be it calculus or shoveling, should be done with 'mindfulness' (intention and attention)  Thirdly, I want them to recognize that what they put in their mouth once came from the earth, and they should be able to trace its journey back to its origin. 

When I'm not teaching, I like to:

Write, knit, do yoga, garden, and walk my dog Lincoln.

Answer your own questions:

What is the most important decision you make every day?

What I put in my mouth. It effects our physical health, our mental health, our environment, our culture, social justice, politics and the even weather. Every choice matters.

What is your immediate aspiration?

To be a speculative faction novelist/

Question: What is your favorite plant?

The kind you eat.

As the garden manager,  Alicia oversees the School's year-round garden program, which focuses on biodiversity and natural and organic methodology. The addition of a geodesic growing dome a few years ago enables the program to span the full year, with students participating weekly for community service and daily as an afternoon activity in the fall and spring.