Just because horticulture students at Fauquier High School can’t go to school doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from hands-on experience. Agriculture teachers Susan Hilleary and Steve Potucek were handing out project materials on Friday so students could get their hands dirty while they learn remotely.

Potucek said he teaches intro to horticulture, landscape design and intro to floral design. “Everybody does the plant project,” he said – using gravel, dirt, cool-season plants and seeds; landscape design students received everything they needed to design a garden; flower design students received the tools of the trade as well. 

Potucek had 26 students drive by Friday; Hilleary saw six. She also teaches animal science, but the chickens and guinea fowl are remaining in the ag department at school. Hilleary has 42 chickens and 10 guinea fowl that are almost ready to leave the incubator. “We hold them up to camera so the kids can learn to identify the males and females.”

Hilleary would love to be able to have a few students at a time into the school to help with caring for the birds but doesn’t know yet whether they’ll have the opportunity to be flexible about in-person teaching. 

Potucek, after being in the landscape industry for 37 years, decided to share his expertise with students. This is his first year teaching in the agriculture department. He admitted that being a new teacher in 2020 “is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

But he’s determined: “My goal is to have kids fall in love with horticulture.”

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