By Ayanna Fhagen-Smith and Julianne Joseph
For 24 years, students at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School have been learning horticulture skills, such as landscaping, tending to greenhouses, and manning a fish hatchery, under the program’s teacher–John Wojkielo. The program, however, will be under new leadership when Mr. Wojtkielo retires at the end of this school year.
In the years that Mr. Wojtkielo has taught at the high school, he has expanded the horticulture department from one greenhouse to three, also adding hydroponics and hydraulics systems for growing plants.
Horticulture is part of the Career Technical Education department (CTE) where students have a chance to learn practical skills in each field that may interest them.
Emma Kristal, a senior and four year student of the program, said, “He is knowledgeable on all aspects of horticulture and is always pushing us to do more. He also gives us the opportunity to work with plants outside of school.”
Every year, Mr. Wojtkielo and his senior students take on a landscaping project. In years past they have designed, grown and planted the Vineyard Haven Library front gardens, both the Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs Senior Centers and Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs.
Once a year the horticulture class holds a plant sale, started in Wojtkielo’s second year, where many of the plants are organized and laid out by the students. Emma holds a memory from that time. She said, “During the plant sale my sophomore year, I had labeled a plant wrong and when a man confronted Mr.Wojtkielo instead of getting mad, he just laughed and corrected my spelling.”
The students are taught Latin names for plants, types of fertilizer, transplanting, deadheading, and how to sketch a landscape design. While there may be less exciting things in the class, Mr.Wojtkielo likes to spruce things up with random facts about trees or insects. There is never a dull moment with him.
Looking back on four years of the class Emma said, “He has taught me real life experiences and given me advice I am very thankful for.”
Mr. Wojtkielo said, “I loved teaching young minds, it’s such a rewarding job.”