Planting a love of learning
Education alumnus turns one of the country's largest gardens into his classroom
By Kathryn McPhail, firstname.lastname@example.org, 803-465-5562
A self-proclaimed “outdoorsy” person, Todd Beasley started his own small business at just 10 years old gardening for other families in his North Augusta, S.C., neighborhood. Now three decades later, the University of South Carolina College of Education alumnus is the new director of programs at one of the largest botanical gardens in the country — the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.
“To be part of a garden solely aimed at education is a rare treat,” Beasley says.
Beasley is a teacher whose classroom doesn’t have four walls.
“The 38-acre botanical garden is located in the cultural corridor of San Antonio,” says Beasley. “Most people think the city is a desert, but it’s not. We are a transitional area from pine trees — yes, Texas has pine trees, too — to a more scrubby, hilly countryside dominated by majestic live oaks.”
In his new position, Beasley will share his knowledge and love of horticulture by leading educational outreach programs, events and classes at the garden.
“All of our programs, from school field trips to demonstrations in the garden’s outdoor kitchen, must connect back to plants and society. To me, education is about storytelling. And, the best teachers are those that have worldly experiences first.”
And his wide array of experiences shaped Beasley’s outlook on education and life. With aspirations of becoming a game warden for the Department of Natural Resources, Beasley earned his first degree in criminal justice at Carolina in 1998. But he later decided to focus on his love of horticulture and went on to earn a master’s degree in earth and environment resource management in 2008. Then came his third degree from Carolina — a doctorate in education in curriculum and instruction.
“You could say it took me three tries,” Beasley jokes. “But really, I love education. We should all be pushing ourselves to be lifelong learners. It keeps us sharp and prevents us from becoming complacent.”
Beasley’s 20-year career led him from a plant nursery to Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Columbia to teaching horticulture at an area private school, all while also teaching night classes for a technical college.
To me, education is about storytelling. And, the best teachers are those that have worldly experiences first.
“I think environmental education, which uses the outdoors as an integrating context, is limited in the South. Not viewing it as a necessary part of academics is a shame and injustice, I think. That’s why I’m glad to work for a place that values the importance of educating all people about the environment that surrounds us and how to sustain it.”
With 150,000 people visiting the San Antonio Botanical Garden each year, Beasley will enjoy many opportunities to share his passions for both lifelong learning and the environment.
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