Award for Tomales High agriculture department


The California Agricultural Teachers’ Association applauded Tomales High School’s agricultural department—a popular program that attracts nearly a third of the school’s student body—presenting the department’s leader with an award earlier this summer at a ceremony in San Luis Obispo. Bill Costanzo, the department’s head and sole teacher, oversees seven courses at Tomales—a school he said mostly serves children from ranching, dairying and oyster farming families. “This is huge for me. I’ve been working hard at Tomales to really turn the program around and have these kids be successful,” he said. Since taking over the department 12 years ago, Mr. Costanzo has designed classes that consistently meet adaptive state standards while preparing students for a career in agriculture. His current courses include agricultural mechanics, project fabrication, leadership, welding and biology, as well as soil chemistry, floral design and sustainable agriculture. Each of the more than 50 of the school’s 160 students who is involved in the program participates in a so-called supervised ag experience in which they pursue hands-on activities, such as showcasing animals at state fairs, maintaining a home garden or working at Building Supply hardware in Point Reyes Station. Mr. Costanzo said it was the combination of that program, the curriculum and the department’s robust enrollment that caught the attention of his peers. Hugh Mooney, the teachers’ association’s North Coast regional supervisor, commended Tomales for producing two elected regional presidents of Future Farmers of America over the last decade. “Especially for a small school, they have some really good kids coming out the program,” he said.