May 6th, 2020
Deborah Stevens loves to make things grow – whether that involves nurturing plants, students, or her community. Stevens does more than just teach horticulture and landscape design at Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center in Newport, New Hampshire. She also strives to provide her students with an appreciation for community and connecting with other people as well as the understanding that everyone can make a difference.
From small acts of kindness to multi-layered projects, Stevens has made a difference in the lives of her students and in her community. Stevens’ horticultural students manage the landscaping in Newport’s downtown area as well as grow plants for the city’s community garden. Her students construct “shoebox lesson plans” which include seeds and other planting materials. The “shoeboxes” are delivered to local elementary school teachers who use them to provide hands-on teaching experiences in growing plants and discovering agriculture’s essential role in our lives. Additionally, vegetable plants raised in the Tech Center greenhouse are given to the regional correctional facility, where the plants are cultivated. When these vegetables are harvested the food is then donated to local food pantries and shelters.
Deborah Stevens stands as an inspiring role model. Practicing what she teaches, she has been known to provide her students with food, clothing and emotional support. Over the course of her 20 years at Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center, Stevens has become a local hero in the Newport community. Her selfless actions and generous spirit were recently recognized after a grateful Newport parent shared Stevens’ uplifting story with the producers of the ABC-TV show, Good Morning America 3 (GMA3): Strahan, Sara & Keke.
In November GMA3 invited Stevens on-air as a guest. The ever-humble Stevens began her interview talking not about herself, but about her 11,000 fellow agriculture teachers across the country and the vital work that they do. When asked to discuss her path to becoming a teacher, Stevens shared an anecdote that underscored her belief in the importance of making connections with people. After acquiring years of experience in landscape and floral design, Stevens was looking for a new challenge and began training to become a nail technician. One day she was giving a pedicure to a woman who turned out to be the director of Tech Center. Their conversation was so inspiring that Stevens shifted her career plans and began teaching at the Center.
In recognition of the valuable work Stevens does in her community, GMA3 presented her with a check for $5,000 from Barbara’s Wholesome Cereals along with $5,000 in Barbara’s products. Stevens, true to her reputation, donated the food to the food pantries in the Newport area, and used the money to make much-needed repairs on the Tech Center’s greenhouse.