Soil & Water Conservation
As we all rejoice in the scattered rains of the last week, today I want to spend time with Allison Martin, the outgoing Valencia SWCD environmental educator for most of the past four years working out of the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area.
We sat down last Monday to get her thoughts on the district job she’s departing, what her next chapter might hold and some thoughts on the very tricky balance we all try to strike between our personal and professional lives.
Q: Hi Allison! The first item on my list is an expression of gratitude for the many contributions you’ve made as the district’s educator since 2018.
Do you share my sense that the educational offerings and the associated human network is at an all-time high for the district?
A: Yes, there’s no better time than now to connect with the environment as we grapple with so many new changes (drought, fires). Finding new partnerships, ideas, connections that give students authentic learning experiences that touch upon individualism, cultural relationships to our land and placing them at the center of what they are learning and the real impacts they are feeling.
Q: Can you share a few of you very best moments or memories of your time with the district?
A: Going into a school and having the principal announce that “Whitfield is here.” I knew that the work I did mattered to my community and that made me want to do more of it and do it better to reach more students and schools.
Also, it was so fulfilling to be a part of the EENM fellowship program, working with other like-minded individuals who shared the love of the outdoors and the need to connect others with it.
Q: Yes, I love your stories of how you’d enter a Belen or Los Lunas school classroom, and in greeting the children would exclaim, “Whitfield’s here!”
Special public places can become so meaningful to communities. I was so happy to see the Legislature passed the Outdoor Learning Program (HB2), a huge achievement for you and your EE team of advocates striving for environmental education to be part of all our schools’ core curriculum and staffing. How did you feel when this bill was passed?
A: It felt amazing because I was a small piece of it. I knew that when it got passed, all the right thinking went into it because I got to see it being made. We started our conversations by turning to the outside and inviting the voices that were not in the room to be front and center in our decisions.
Q: Can you share what makes the Whitfield experiment most meaningful to you?
A: Because it allows the program to grow how it needs to. Whitfield is a platform to start and grow from; it is the center for connecting students, farmers, families, organizations and communities. People and programs can grow here.
Q: Finally, on a personal level, I remember sometime before your official “last day” of May 27, you telling me in essence that you couldn’t be the mother of two young children that you wanted to be while also being the fulltime educator that Whitfield needed. Will you share a few thoughts on your balancing of the personal and professional?
A: Yes. There are times in your life that you need to put your passion for the work aside as you put more passion into being present.
The most important thing to me is that my kids have a mother who was able to be at the baseball game, show up for them and help them grow into the individuals that can help make a difference in this world.
My gears are needing to shift to tend to them so when the time comes to continue to be part of the strong work happening in environmental education, I will be able to share my new experiences and hopefully continue to add positive changes to the story. For now, the program has a strong foundation for it to grow where it needs to at the district.
Q: What’s next?
A: Right now, my presence at home is the most important thing to me. When I show up for them, I can show up better for myself and this work. My scope is bigger now.
When I re-enter this work, I want to work on policy and systems change. I want to help make a healthier, more equitable place for us to coexist in. In the meantime, I will slow down and focus on the small things to better know how to change the bigger things.
Allison — Please accept my thanks on behalf of the district and the children beyond count that you’ve touched in your time working out of the Whitfield office, traveling to every of the 24 public schools in the district. I know you’ll stay connected — best of luck in all things!
(Andrew Hautzinger is the district director of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District.)
Andrew Hautzinger, guest columnist
Andrew Hautzinger has been the district director for the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District since 2020. Prior to that, he was a volunteer VSWCD board member for 12 years and spent many years volunteering at the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area.
Hautzinger has a bachelor of science in watershed sciences from Colorado State University. He worked for more than 27 years as a federal hydrologist working for agencies within the Department of Interior including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. National Park Service, and for the final 20 years of his career, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ National Wildlife Refuge System.