Editor’s Note: In 1988, a teacher most commonly had 15 years of experience. In recent years, that number is closer to just three years leading a classroom. The “On Teaching” series focuses on the wisdom of veteran teachers.
Even a couch potato notices nature with the New Orleans teacher Rahn Broady. Walking in the Arthur Ashe Charter School garden in May, he plucked a blue feather off the ground. “There was a fight here,” he said. Maybe an owl ate a blue jay? He walked another few steps and, sure enough, found an owl pellet and a tiny bird hip bone. He beamed. “I try to influence the kids to be explorers, and I turn into a kid myself,” he said.
At 47, Broady radiates enthusiasm. He won a school award for being fun. He’s stylish even when working in the garden, wearing his hat cocked at an angle and a belt buckled with turquoise. On the side, he churns decadent ice cream flavored with local plants. But a sense of seriousness is always close to the surface. “We forgot about the environment, so the environment has to bite back,” he told his students when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. “We’re wearing masks because we’ve done this to ourselves.”
Broady works to fill what he calls “the nature deficit.” For eight years at Ashe Charter, he worked as a garden teacher introducing students to the worlds outside their door. In July, he started as an agriculture and careers teacher at Living School, a high school in its second year that follows a “learning by doing” philosophy; students focus on multidisciplinary projects, and the goal is to graduate with both a college acceptance letter and a trade certification. But even in a slightly different role, Broady has the same mission as always: bringing health, healing, and connection to students, particularly children of color.