Dec. 10, 2014
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— Maggie (Folk) Kendall ’99 of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) is one of five winners of the Thank a Million Teachers Dream Big Teacher Challenge. Kendall will receive a $100,000 grant from Farmers Insurance to help realize her dream of building the City of Chicago’s first therapeutic indoor riding facility.
A biology major at Illinois Wesleyan University, Kendall taught in Chicago schools for 12 years before she was recruited to head the animal science department at CHSAS. The college prep high school is dedicated to helping urban students prepare for careers in agriculture, and is the only one of its kind in the Midwest. The 80-acre campus includes Chicago’s only working farm, complete with horses, cows, pigs and chickens.
In her video application for the grant, Kendall said the school is the only viable location for an equestrian program for general education students and special needs children and adults (special needs students comprise 13 percent of the school’s population, and 50 percent of the families are below the poverty level). Currently, CHSAS students can only ride outside; Chicago’s harsh winters severely limit the time the students have with the specially trained horses. The indoor arena will not only extend the program year round, but would also offer more equestrian opportunities to special needs children and adults throughout the Chicago area.
Kendall teaches her students the biology and natural sciences behind raising and managing livestock and companion animals. “When we talk about nutrition, we relate it to the digestive systems of specific animals and their purpose, whether it is a meat animal or one that lays eggs,” Kendall said. “Kids are much more interested in learning about proteins and carbohydrates because they want to take good care of their animals.” Students learn through hands-on experience about animal nutrition, physiology, behavior, reproduction and molecular genetics, and are introduced to new technological applications for animal production.
Part of the hands-on experience is learning about horsemanship and how to properly care for farm animals, which allows Kendall to share her knowledge not only of biology, but farm life and horses as well.
“I love to teach, but I also love farm life and horses,” said Kendall. “To be able to bring those together, I didn’t even know that could happen. That’s why I think CHSAS is such an amazing opportunity to bring together those two passions.”
Kendall’s love of horses stems from happy childhood summers riding with her grandparents, Linnea (Lamson) ’39 and Dick Folk ’39 near her hometown of Mt. Morris, Ill. (pop. 2,900). She believes her passion for learning and teaching came from her time at Illinois Wesleyan.
She said the biology program gave her a strong grasp on the content she now teaches, and her secondary education courses helped her to become a compassionate teacher who understands her students.
“Wesleyan was an environment where I has able to have strong ideals,” said Kendall. “An important aspect of teaching is that you’re not just teaching content, especially at a school where they are taking care of animals. We’re teaching about compassion, character and responsibility.”
Kendall went through a rigorous proposal submission and review process before vying for votes from the American public to be named a winner of the Dream Big Teacher Challenge. In addition to winning the $100,000 grant, Kendall will ride atop the Farmers Insurance “Dream Big: World of Possibility” float at the 126th Rose Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California.
By Danielle Kamp ’15