This past October, the Academy welcomed its third cohort of schools to their first workshop. We asked a couple of teachers to provide insight into their reasons, both as individuals and as schools, for participating in the program.
Gianna Fazioli is the Director of Shady Side Academy’s Farms program. Gianna oversees the operations, expansion, and educational activities of the farms on all three Shady Side campuses.
Brett Slezak is Allegheny Valley School District’s 7-12 grade Health and Physical Education teacher. Brett teaches PE, advocates for sustainability technology, and supports and encourages innovative, student-led projects at AVSD.
Why did your school choose to participate in this program?
Gianna: I believe we chose to participate in this program because we are all committed to providing a comprehensive, diverse, and interdisciplinary experience to students that prepares them to face challenges in the real world. Thus, we hope to take advantage of the incredible resources we have in our beautiful campus and couple these resources with our staff and faculty to provide a curricular and experiential learning process that prepares future leaders. By learning from others in our cohort and taking the time to have in-depth conversations around sustainability, I think this program will allow us to build off of our strong foundation and guide us in the direction towards a healthier and more fulfilling educational experience for our students.
Brett: First, we have had a long partnership with GBA in other programs and value the partnership that we have built over the years. Also, as a school we understand and value the myriad of factors that go into helping a student be successful. One of those factors is creating a safe, healthy and sustainable school environment. When the spaces around children are healthy and inviting, it creates an atmosphere that promotes learning. We want to be able to better foster those types of learning environments for our students and feel like the School Sustainability Culture Program can help us achieve that. Additionally, our school sits on the Rachel Carson homestead, we have a deep and storied connection to her legacy and feel like working with GBA is a natural fit to preserve that legacy.
What are 1-2 goals your school has for this program?
Brett: 1) We want to become better informed about best practices for creating a culture of sustainability in our school to make lasting cultural changes. 2) We want to use this program as a catalyst for creating change and excitement in our school around healthy habits.
What are you most looking forward to about this program?
Gianna: I think this is a really pivotal time in Shady Side Academy’s history. Sustainability, which has been a concept incorporated into the buildings and the grounds practices, is now on the forefront of our decisions as we renovate parts of our school and take our farm program to the next level. I am most looking forward to being one of the leaders in the master plan of overall campus improvement. I am also grateful and excited to use this program as a space to reflect on the new position I was given as SSA Farm Director and my role in the new phase of sustainability at Shady Side.
At the end of our first workshop, we had each participant write a journal reflection of their experience of the day. We asked Gianna and Brett if they would each share a sentence or two from their reflections.
Brett: I am excited to help my fellow staff and administrators find their voice about green and healthy schools.
Gianna: Looking at David Orr’s book on the table, I reflect on how he was one of the driving voices in my Masters’ thesis and I can feel that my career in education is really beginning to flourish. I hope that I can inspire faculty, administrators, students, and our community to improve the academy. I can provide the groundwork on so many of the fundamental ideas, influence them along the way through positivism, and catalyze the work that will bring us to our fullest potential.