Name: Christina Wild ’05
Sterling degree: I transferred from Warren Wilson College where I was an Environmental Studies major. I graduated from Sterling with a Sustainable Agriculture degree and later earned a Masters in Education from New England College focusing on Curriculum & Instruction. I am currently a PhD student in the Graduate School of Leadership and Change at Antioch University.
Current hometown: Norwich, Vermont
Employment: I work at the Dothan Brook School as an elementary school teacher in an outdoor based classroom as the school moves to all grade levels going outside for at least part of the school day. That was pre-COVID, but now is happening as part of the COVID reopening plan!
Other activities/volunteer work/interests: I volunteer with Farm Aid, the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock, the Upper Valley Response Team providing mutual aid, and I “grow a row for the hungry.”. I also work with the Upper Valley Teaching Place Collaborative, running day camps to teach about the natural world.
Can you tell us about your current work? My primary work is in teaching outdoors via the Mt. Lebanon School.
How did Sterling influence your career path and life path? Sterling was so wonderfully interdisciplinary! I may have been studying sustainable agriculture but I also took classes in the outdoor education department including a really wonderful class about principles of education with John Zaber. I got interested in teaching then. My SARP (Senior Applied Research Project) was about agricultural education. I also designed more than one independent study.
I always felt that everything I put into my time at Sterling, I got back in spades. After working on farms and starting farm-based education programs I went back to school to get my Masters. You don’t get more place-based than agricultural education so my classroom teaching was always grounded in place-based philosophy & technique.
Sterling taught me so much about being outdoors. When you are trying to teach little people about being outside the last thing you want to do is be grumpy about being cold or wet. Sterling taught me to be excited to be out in the rain or cold. Have some humor about wearing your socks pulled over your pants for tick protection.
Growing up, I went to very traditional schools in Boston. I want my students to get outside the classroom both literally and figuratively. When I first worked on farms in my teens, it was life changing. I am passionate about helping all kids experience love of the outdoors. In my PhD work, I am studying leadership and change. I often think of Sterling: from Systems Thinking to the writing I did for my SARP. Sterling prepared me more than I knew.
How are you serving as a beacon in these turbulent ecological and political times? On the day after the 2016 election, I was in the woods with my students. We were spelling words with sticks. One student spelled out “love” and my heart melted My students are super excited to come to school and be outdoors. That enthusiasm plays into wanting to write and/or read about the outdoors. The joy they experience is pretty wonderful on its own but it has a fabulous ripple effect. I take a lot of hope and inspiration in my students’ joy!
What is your most memorable Sterling “out in the field” story? There are too many to choose from! Sterling was (and is) so connected to the greater NEK community. I came to Sterling and I didn’t leave Vermont. I developed a Sense of Place through the Sterling community and through connections fostered through my undergraduate experience that have been long-standing and very much the foundation of my personal and professional life.
Any words of wisdom for the current Sterling generation? Sterling helped me embrace “the peace of wild things”. So often personally and professionally I reflect on Wendell Berry’s poem. I was first exposed to it at Sterling:
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.