Teaching teens to love landscaping

Steve Potucek has been teaching greenhouse management, horticulture, landscaping and flower design courses at Fauquier High School since August.

The veteran horticulturist and landscape architect last year saw that Fauquier High School wanted to hire someone to teach the disciplines he’d been practicing for nearly four decades.

Steve Potucek from the Orlean region was intrigued by the opportunity to share a professional life full of know-how, experience and love for work with young people. He called a friend who works in the school’s agriculture department to discuss the job.

Mr. Potucek, 60, liked what he was hearing. Encouraged, he applied and got the job.

“This is the hardest work I have ever done in my life,” he said of teaching. “There are a lot of different things to do and learn at work and you have to keep up to date.”

This includes the preparation of lessons and tests, grading and, most importantly, the technological requirements of the job.

The pandemic presented different challenges for all educators, Potucek said.

The occasional bug with WiFi or in the Google classroom, for example, temporarily made virtual teaching and learning more imperfect, the teacher said in the first year.

When you take a curve, “you have to be very flexible,” explained Potucek. “You just roll along. Things change and you adapt. “

Otherwise, his career move into the classroom has not proven “that far away,” said the late-blooming educator who started Ironwood Landscapes in 2007 and who still runs it.

“I think what I’m doing now isn’t that different,” than landscaping, he said. “I think teaching is very similar to selling. You have to convince a person that what you want to convey to them is important. And you have to do it in a way that piques their interest. “

Mr. Potucek added, “If I were to make a design for someone, I would describe how the design will work, just as I would describe it to students: ‘Here is what we are going to do. Here’s why we’re going to do it. “

He also wants students to know that horticulturalists and landscapers are making a “good” living and enjoying the creative process and results.

“Yes, it’s hard work,” said Mr. Potucek. “But I always liked to step back after doing something and saying, ‘I did this’.”

Over the course of a school year, he teaches flower design, greenhouse management, horticulture and landscaping. He also manages the school’s greenhouse and helps oversee the students’ popular annual plant sales.

• Age

• At home
Near Orlean

• Job
Agriculture Teacher, Fauquier High School, August to date; Owner, Ironwood Landscapes, 2007 to present; Commercial Landscape Project Manager, White Oak Nurseries, Prince William County, 1985-2007; various positions, Treese Nursery, New Baltimore, 1983-85.

• Why are you doing the job?
The students . . . Learning. I just love watching the lightbulb go on. When it happens, you just sit there and say, “Wow! I am doing something that is important. ”

I’ve seen kids who have never taken a device in their life and they have a blower – they blow leaves and they have a great time.

• family
Mrs. Diane, 50; Sons, Stephen, 21, Daniel, 18, Zachary, 16 and Jacob, 14.

• Education
Bachelor’s Degree, Horticulture, Virginia Tech, 1983; Associate’s Degree, Applied Science, State University of New York, Morrisville, 1980; Marcellus Senior High School, New York, 1978.

• How long have you been living in Fauquier?
Over 38 years.

• Why do you live here?
Fauquier is very similar to Upstate New York, where I’m from. In the hinterland there is nothing like the city. They are mostly land and rolling hills, lakes and streams. And I’ve always been a country person.

I’ve always lived in the country, lived on a farm. When I got a job here in New Baltimore, I just wanted to live and work in the same area. So that’s what I did. “

• How do you describe this district?
Rural. There is open space. The people are very nice in this part of the forest.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I probably know that some of my boys couldn’t afford to live here. It’s kind of sad. It is a very expensive place to live. I think if we could find a way to balance open spaces with more dense development in service districts.

We could have more entry-level accommodation so that our teachers and deputies don’t have to live further out. You can actually live and work in the same area. I think that would be a good start.

• What do you do for fun?
I like the garden, sit in my back yard and do nothing.

• What is your favorite place in Fauquier?
My garden.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
Pretty much as it is now. It all just depends on what is happening in the areas where there are services.

• Favorite TV show?

• Favourite movie?

• Favorite book?
Any “Marvel” comic.

• Favorite vacation spot?
Sandbridge, Virginia Beach.

• Favorite Food?
Red meat and potatoes.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? By whom?
It doesn’t come from anyone. It’s a quote: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work.”

When I train kids in basketball, I ask them, “What does talent beat every day?” They say, “Hard work.” It kind of says a lot. Clint Eastwood said a man has learned his limits. I know I have to overwork people to be good.

• Who is your hero and why?
My mother and father. You have instilled great moral values ​​in me. And they taught me the value of hard work. I am fooling them. But I think these are important things that young people need to understand.

• What would you do if you won $ 5 million in the lottery?
Give it away I had set up a kind of foundation and in my spare time I was out in the country to find people in need.

Do you have a suggestion?
Do you know anyone who lives in Fauquier County that you would like to see on Faces of Fauquier? Email Don Del Rosso to (JavaScript must be activated in order to be able to display this e-mail address.) or Lou Emerson (JavaScript must be activated in order to be able to display this e-mail address.)

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