My name is Crystal Rodriguez and I serve as an AmeriCorps member as a Naturalist through Nevada Outdoor School. I go to local and rural schools to teach outdoor-science-based lessons to students from K-6th grade and coordinate camps in the summer.
My service with the AmeriCorps program has been unbelievably eye-opening. This program gave me the opportunity to grow as a person in ways that make me feel so grateful. I just graduated high school and I was not the type of person who had the natural talent of public speaking or presenting projects. In my job, I am required to not only present material to an audience, but I need to teach the material to students so that when I step out of that classroom, they will be able to teach their friends something new. This program has given me the privilege to wake up everyday excited to go to work; I was never able to say “I love my job,” and actually meant it. I am able to go to 11 different schools and visit an insane amount of classrooms each month, all unique with different personalities and vibes.
I consider my job as a Naturalist to be an important job in the education community because Nevada’s education standards does not consider science to be a priority subject to be taught. Children in the school district are on the same routine day after day to do both math and reading at least twice a day. So coming into classrooms for the 45-60 minutes it takes to teach a lesson is important, as well as exciting, to the kids and to myself.
I love that I can make connections with the students, being that I went to school in Winnemucca, and also that I can influence the students to be excited to learn about the environment we live in. My service has removed my fear of public speaking and it has swayed me towards a career in teaching first grade.
The AmeriCorps program has shaped me into a new and improved version of myself and has put me in a position to help the community with implementing the opportunity to teach their kids lessons about the outdoors along with adding an hour of science to their day. I am so lucky to be serving in a program that helps me accomplish personal goals and that helps the community all at the same time.