I have had the distinct pleasure of working with Deborah Stevens, a teacher at the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center for several years now, and we have become good friends. Both she and her students start my tomato and pepper plants, and I have volunteered a few times to help students planting and starting seeds. Deb is an amazing teacher, and during this season of togetherness, we should be celebrating all our amazing teachers.

Deb was honored nationally last week, appearing on the tv show “GMA3” to receive gifts for the tech center, food for distribution to those who are needy and congratulations for who she is and what she does at the nomination by a parent/volunteer. Students in Newport, Sunapee and Claremont who are all eligible to take her courses at the center are lucky to have her. We citizens in the region are lucky to have her. She is one of many, many unsung heroes in our midst and I want to say a public thank you to her and to ALL who work daily to make our lives better and inspire our youth. The following is a reprint of a 2016 holiday column I wrote about her and her mission:

“We had the privilege of hosting a high school horticulture class at the farm this week. The students were extremely polite, asked important and well-thought-out questions, and took a true interest in learning about the business and the process we use for making Christmas wreaths and raising Christmas trees. Their instructor, Deb Stevens, was amazing as she talked to them about their future, their food sources, how they could use their talents and experiences in their future. Kudos to a great instructor.

It seems that we always hear the ‘bad stuff’ about our schools. Taxes are too high. Administrators don’t have a handle on discipline. There are too many tests. There are bad teachers. There are bad students. Classes are not relevant. Technology is lacking. There is too much concentration on technology…or too little. Students are unprepared for the real world…the list of complaints about our schools is endless.

Working for the brief ninety minutes this week with the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center students was enlightening. It made me think about the people that our student are. They are daughters and sons and cousins and grandkids of all of us. We have a responsibility to these kids. They are our future, and we need to remember that every time a school system asks for more tax dollars to improve their education or a program asks for support from the community. Talking with these kids, it became very clear that their teachers were instilling a passion for the future. They spoke about their families, their hopes, their hobbies, their thoughts. One student asked for the opportunity to interview for a job at the farm as she was graduating this year. Another said she needed a job this summer, too, as she got bored just sitting around with nothing to do. These are people with potential, and they are ready to fly. All of the students seemed engaged and excited about the opportunity to have a hands-on experience in the real working world.

These kids are going to be our future…our very near future… and we need to pay attention and guide them into making good choices. We need to pay attention to their mental health and not squash their dreams and help them stay away from the ‘easy’ paths of peer and social pressures and experimentation. We need to boost their self-worth and confidence so that they can become productive citizens. It’s not just their parents, teachers and administrators who are responsible for their education. It’s us. It’s the people they meet on the sidewalk, in the grocery store and in the doctor’s office.

These kids are our business owners, inventors, clerks, nurses, firemen, policemen, doctors, soldiers, plumbers, truck drivers, teachers, entertainers, computer technicians, security guards, mechanics, florists, builders, foresters, fishermen, administrators, electricians and farmers of ten or five or two years from now. Their future is not very far away, and we need to coach them and entice them to become good people and productive citizens, not criticize them for using alcohol, using drugs, bullying each other, being lazy or being disinterested, but building them up for the future.

I urge all of you during this time of giving to give of yourself. Offer to volunteer at school activities. If you have a business, contact the technical centers to support their programs and offer opportunities for students to come see you at work or work with you in internships. Support their academic pursuits by bringing them into your offices to show how what they learn in English, math and history classes is relevant in the real day to day world. Volunteer as a tutor. Go to their concerts to show that it matters to you that they learn music and discipline and might even grace your stages and screens with their talents. Go to their sports events to show your support of their athletic strength, care of their person, discipline and teamwork.

The things these kids of ours learn today are what will propel them into success as individuals and neighbors and providers. The most insignificant sounding experience you have with one of these kids may touch one of them forever. Please give this season. Give to our kids of time and support and energy and encouragement. Ensure your own future as you secure theirs. As one student in the horticulture class said, ‘this is the season of giving, and that’s what makes me happy.’ It only takes a minute or ten or ninety to give a lot with nary a sacrifice…and that makes me happy. Merry Season of Giving, everyone.”

Becky is co-owner of Beaver Pond Farm in Newport, New Hampshire. beaverpondfarm1780@gmail.com.

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