Jeff Simpfenderfer | Liberty High School

The SJCOE visits the 2019 San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year's classroom

On Jan. 22, the SJCOE’s Associate Superintendent of Student Programs and Services Troy Brown stopped by the site to visit Jeff Simpfenderfer’s English class.  During the morning visit, students filed into Simpfenderfer’s classroom and settled in their seats, getting ready to learn about Dante’s Inferno.  Simpfenderfer began his class by passing a slip to each student with a passage from the Inferno.  Students read their passage aloud in order of the number listed on the top of their slip while Simpfenderfer engaged students in learning and sparked dialogue by asking questions.  “Who knows who Medusa is?” he asked.  “The snakehead lady,” replied one student.  He also provided relevant, modern-day examples to help students relate to the content.  

Simpfenderfer, the 2019 San Joaquin Teacher of the Year, not only teaches English at Liberty High School, but horticulture, and family living as well - which includes working with students in the school’s garden.  At the visit, Simpfenderfer gave Brown a tour of the evolving garden and greenhouse, which he has big plans for – including eventually implementing a “farm to fork” culinary arts focus in which students can learn to cook meals using the crops from the garden. 

The curriculum that Simpfenderfer has been developing will prepare students for careers in the culinary industry, teach students about the science of nutrition, and provide students with math skills as well as life skills such as how to feed themselves and their families.  The activities he has in store to pair with the curriculum, such as student hosted family meals, will spark parent engagement at the site, too!

Since the cold winter weather conditions are not currently conducive for optimal gardening, students have begun to grow their seedlings – such as herbs, peppers, watermelon, zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, and more – inside Simpfenderfer’s classroom.  Come spring, the students will transfer the seedlings to the student-made raised garden beds.  Once ready to harvest, Simpfenderfer will reward students by making salsa and zucchini cakes to share with them.  He’ll also encourage them to reap the benefits of their hard work by taking some of the crops home.  

The SJCOE was delighted to supply Liberty High School with solar lights - part of an Amazon donation – for the school garden during our visit. We want to thank Simpfenderfer and Liberty High School Principal Tamara Dillon for welcoming us and look forward to returning this spring to see how the garden has flourished!

Posted: 1/23/2020