A Community Garden Grows in Long Beach: A Teacher’s Students Persevere

By JOE BROOKS
—CWI Education Director
CWI alum Alexandra Gonzales is truly a talented and visionary STEM teacher at Saint Athanasius School in Long Beach, CA. Alex worked hard on a dream project when she joined us at CWI’s Summer WEST last summer—a dream of building an integrated school and community garden with her students and colleagues. Her school, Saint Athanasius, is a small catholic school serving a high needs population.
After overcoming many obstacles, internal and externals, it is now thus. Putting a focus on food justice and nutrition needs is a large focus of this work. The garden has been planted and tended by students and flourishes with the guiding support of a wonderful local Master Gardner, teachers and students, and supportive community members. Aside from using it as a classroom, the vision for the garden is as an act of informed social justice. Informed because food insecurity and healthy eating needs are pervasive in this school’s neighborhood. So the community garden at the school also becomes an act of empowerment for young and older.
I visited with Alex and her students recently as they prepared for a visit from a large tour bus full of enthusiastic community gardeners looking for inspiration. This event also turned out to be a bit of a farewell for Alex as she was recently appointed principal of another high needs local catholic school. Some educators are followers and some are leaders. Alex is clearly the latter as she makes social justice a center piece of her teaching. We feel privileged to know and work with her.

learn more about CWI’s Summer Institutes for Educators: cwinstitute.net

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Community Works Institute (CWI) provides resources, professional development, and collaboration opportunities for educators. Our focus is on place based education, service learning, and sustainability.
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