Nita Bozarth of HRVHS and Sara Campbell of CHS say they will miss their cross-river FFA collaboration

June 11, 2011

They are twins raised on a farm with a shared love of young people and teaching, and for each other.

Nita Bozarth of Hood River Valley High School and Sara Campbell of Columbia High School worked together in 2010-11 as fellow FFA advisors and agriculture teachers. Nita's been with HRVHS since 2006 and this was Sara's first - and last - year at CHS.

The collegial part of their relationship will change, once school ends later this month, as Sara will be married and move to Central Oregon.

As Nita puts it, "We will always stay in contact and share ideas no matter how far apart we are."

The sisters grew up on a 500-acre farm near Madras and attended Redmond High School and Central Oregon Community College and Oregon State University.

Writes Bozarth, their love of agriculture "started in 4-H, working with pigs at an early age and we moved on from there to become members of the Redmond High School FFA chapter. (Bozarth's husband, Bryan, teaches metals, construction and other courses at HRVHS.)

What follows is a Q-and-A with Bozarth and Campbell conducted last week via email, starting with the question,

"What do you like best about teaching?"

Sara: I enjoy high schoolers' energy and I vastly enjoy seeing them succeed and become interested in things they may have never imagined. Many students seem to thrive in the agriculture/FFA area and I like seeing the change as they immerse themselves in the opportunities that are available.

Nita: My favorite part of teaching agriculture is that I get to teach what I love and motivates me, sharing my stories from the farm and motivating students to get involved in FFA and in life and to learn how things work and grow. I love seeing a student give a successful speech or lead a group after being involved in our program.

Tell us about your education.

Sara: I worked for the BLM for a year then was talking with my sister one day about teaching and decided I wanted to try teaching, so I decided to go back to school to get my teaching degree.

I received my master's in agricultural education at Oregon State University in 2008.

In 2008 I went to work in La Grande and taught two years of vocational education. My curriculum there consisted of metal fabrication, advanced welding, small engine technology, applied technology - which consisted of beginning welding, woods, electricity and plumbing, as well as animal science. While working in La Grande I served as the primary shop teacher while assisting the FFA Advisor in FFA activities.

Currently I am finishing up my first year teaching in Washington at Columbia High School serving as the agriculture teacher. I currently teach natural resources, horticulture/plant science and AP environmental science.

I have resigned because I am getting married in August and my hope is to find a teaching job near where my fiancé currently work and lives - in Central Oregon. I have applied to two high school agriculture positions

Nita: I worked on the farm from as early as I could pull weeds. We raised bluegrass, carrots seed, mint for oil, alfalfa. Currently our father leases his farm and owns and manages Farmers Small Engine Repair in Madras.

At OSU I received my bachelor's in general agriculture. I feel that the general agriculture degree with its wide variety of required courses allowed me to succeed in the variety of courses that I now teach or have taught.

I never imagined that I could be an agriculture teacher. I knew that I loved animals, gardening and working with kids. One summer evening as I was talking with my now father-in-law about what I was planning on doing in the future, he asked me "why don't you teach agriculture?" I then realized that was what I wanted to do.

I came to interview at Hood River Valley High School and they called me on my way home and asked if I wanted the job.

What were some of your accomplishments this year?

Sara: It takes a while to feel comfortable in a new school but after the first part of the school year I was able to make many relationships in the community and classes had the opportunity to participate in a lot of activities. The natural resource class competed in this year's "Imagine Tomorrow" event in Pullman. The event had over 150 teams who participated in an event that challenges high school students to seek new ways to support the transition to alternate energy sources.

In this competition, as in life, solutions are limited only by imagination. The students came home from the event charged with new ideas and that want to do even better next year.

FFA has been a huge success this year. There were no remaining FFA members, but membership is now up to eight members; we participated in floriculture, BIG (Best Informed Greenhand) and Washington state convention.

Nita: I am pretty proud of our ag program. Due to the popularity of our courses we have three successful ag teachers, offer 10 different courses for students to take with the opportunity for college credit, and due to our year-long courses we make a difference in about 440 students per year.

How has it been working across the river from each other?

Sara: I have learned a ton from Nita ... There probably is rarely a day that goes by that we don't ask each other for help or knowledge on a topic.

Nita: Having Sara next door at Columbia High School has been AMAZING. We have collaborated in our plant science courses sharing lessons and unique ways of teaching standard concepts. Due to Sara's adoption of large land lab I have shared with her ideas of how I utilize our land lab and greenhouses to increase student learning through real-life hands-on learning. Students have the ability to learn concepts and techniques in class and actually go outside and practice those skills.

Due to our success and being Ag Program of the Year in 2010, Sara has been working with our program to build and perfect her program in White Salmon.

What are your thoughts about no longer teaching next door next year?

Sara: I am very sad to leave my teaching position here at Columbia High School. I really fit in well here and many of the students have been fun to teach! I am also going to miss the beautiful land lab at CHS and the potential for growth in the agriculture program, I had so many things I wanted to do in the agriculture program.

I am the most bummed about ending the close proximity to my sister. It is fun to have a friend/sister so close … We call each other almost every day and discuss good and bad techniques when working with students. We use similar curriculum and when we edit a lesson we always send each other the edits so that next time we use a lesson we will not make the same mistakes or share extended activities that worked well. We always seem to be doing little research projects on teaching techniques.

Nita: It will be hard not having Sara close by to visit, collaborate and help out. I know she will continue to teach ag wherever she chooses to go; it is her passion.

Now, about that "twin effect":

Nita: "The one thing I probably will not miss is being called 'Mrs. Campbell' when I am in town shopping.

"I usually just smile and nod instead of explaining to and confusing Sara's students."

Sara: Working so near has been a challenge with the confusion factor. I cannot visit Hood River without being called "Mrs. B" and when we are together we get a lot of stares and confused looks.

We have tried helping out in each other's classroom during the school day, but students are so distracted by our similarities that they have a difficult time paying attention.

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