POWAY, Calif. — The best farmers can turn any seeds into plants, just like the best teachers can help any student thrive. In this Zevely Zone I met a man doing both at a special garden in Poway. "Good morning. I see all of the Padre gear," said teacher Bob Lutticken. He prefers to be called Bob in his classroom at Abraxas Continuation High School. It was Padre's Day at the school and this story fit like a glove. "Yeah, I was a catcher, ha, ha, ha," said Bob who played baseball for the Padres minor league system from 1986 to 1992. "Spokane, Charlestown, Wichita, Riverside, Yuma," said Bob.
Now, Bob is a biology teacher running his own farm system. How is this for a home run? Everything grown at his school garden is given away to feed hungry families. The main objective of the garden is to teach students how to grow healthy food, and then donate it to families in need. The garden sits on an old, unused tennis court on the campus and has become a beautiful addition to the community. Everything the students grow is planted from seeds. Last year, they donated over 5,000 heads of lettuce and 800 pounds of tomatoes to the community.
"It feels really good to give back to the community," said student Natalie Estep who described her teacher Bob with these words. "Honestly if I were to describe him it's like he is a big teddy bear, he is really loving," said Natalie. During our visit, music was blaring in the garden. "It's like a dance party garden class?" I asked. "Yes. Ha, ha, ha," replied teacher Kelly Spear who told me she loves coming to the garden with her students. "It's the best job in the world," said Kelly.
The campus serves two types of students; those who don't prefer big schools. "They just didn't fit in the regular educational plan where you sit down and you read the book and you take the notes," said Bob. Abraxas also serves students with special needs transitioning into adulthood in need of life skills. "Cooking, telling time, reading bus charts all of that kind of stuff and they come down and help me in the garden as well," said Bob.
"The students built a fish tank, an 8,000 gallon in ground fish tank," said Bob. Tilapia provide plant food to grow all of this, which is so ingenious, Bob was nominated as a Top Teacher and appeared on the Kelly and Ryan show. "Everybody around here was super excited I was getting emails from all over the place Hey!!! a lot of people watch the show," said Bob.
The whole country is talking about the former catcher, who caught these kids before they could fall through the cracks. "They are great kids; they just need to be dusted off a little bit and kind of propped back up and say let's get it. You know?" said Bob.
Bob calls the garden a classroom without boundaries. If you'd like to learn more about the program to either volunteer or make a donation click here.