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WIU Alumna Helps California High Schools Open Floral Business
Illinois Ag Connection - 01/21/2019

Western Illinois University alumna Kaylyn Davenport, who is a floral design teacher at a California high school, has created a unique learning opportunity for her students to run their own floral shop through her class.

"Falcon Floral" was started in Atwater High School in Atwater, CA, and allows students to learn not only floral design abilities, but also managerial and leadership skills.

When Davenport, a 2014 agriculture education graduate, took over the program, there were three sections of introduction to floral design and one section of advanced floral designs, with only 21 students. Now there are five sections of introduction to floral design, with about 40 students per class. Davenport teaches three of those sections, as well as two sections of advanced floral design to 57 students.

The floral shop, staffed by 19 students from Davenport's floral program, was recently added to the curriculum. Five shop managers each oversee the shop for one weekday. Students from the floral classes create a variety of arrangements, with orders placed online and money raised benefitting the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and its floral program. Davenport said students must apply to be a part of the floral shop, including developing a portfolio of their work and practicing interviewing skills.

"They had to go through this full process when applying for a job in the floral shop," said Davenport. "Students submitted a cover letter and resume, filled out an application and interviewed for a position. Only students enrolled in my advanced floral classes were eligible to apply. I have worked with each of the applicants for at least a year in my intro to floral class, and knew that all applicants would be good workers in the shop. They all received a position, but I thought it was important that they went through the process of applying for a job."

Davenport said business is "booming," but sometimes she has to remind people the floral shop is not her full-time job.

"There are many customers who forget I am also a teacher," she said. "I love working with brides, and doing large events for community members, but the need to communicate with them can get overwhelming. My first priority is being the best teacher I can be, so I don't want to let anything take away from that."

The buy-in from the students has been a source of pride for Davenport and she said she feels thankful to be a part of a program like this.

"I have been able to see them in a work setting outside of class, and I am beyond impressed," she said. "Students are leading, working as a team and taking charge to get things done. The main purpose of the floral shop is to expose students to work experience opportunities, and it is doing just that."

The class designs the floral shop orders outside of class time, using techniques used in class. The larger arrangements, or wedding flowers, are created in class.

Davenport said while she was a student at WIU, she was impressed with the passion and pride the School of Agriculture professors showed toward students. She said the hands-on learning opportunities provided during her classes helped prepare for her future career.

"Dr. Baker had us observe and teach classes in my first ag ed class during my freshman year," she said. "I discovered my passion for teaching, and was able to build on that over the next three years. I felt ready and excited to earn my first teaching position. I never took a floriculture class in college, but Dr. Baker showed me the importance of working hard to learn content, and teach it in the best way possible. My teaching strategies stem from the time spent in my agriculture education courses at WIU. I am so thankful for my time at WIU, and hope I am showing that same passion and pride in my program that my agriculture professors showed for theirs."

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