November 3, 2020
Allan Nason
Allan Nason
If there’s one thing Allan Nason tries to teach students in his green industries/construction class, it’s how diverse the landscape and horticulture profession really is. Nason is currently teaching his fifteenth year at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School in Burlington, Ont., where the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) curriculum he teaches is something he helped to develop.

What experience/education do you have?

I worked between Connon CBV and NVK for 15 years, and plant ID was my specialty. I also did watering, weeding, order picking, shipping and receiving and customer service toward the end. While at Connon I did my Horticultural Apprenticeship through Humber College. Sean James was teaching the program and he also mentored me through the whole process of teaching and I was able to teach a couple of courses. In 2004-2005 I was invited to go to the Ministry of Education to help write the actual green industry curriculum that we teach now. From there, I got offered a teaching job at the board and went to Windsor University, got my Bachelor of Education and I’ve been teaching ever since.

What do you enjoy most about landscaping and horticulture?

Just the fact that it’s outdoors. It’s never the same day twice. You take something that didn’t look nice and turn it into something that’s totally beautiful. You can go back years later and say you had a hand in building it. There are not very many jobs in the world where you get to see the start and the end of things, and I think that makes the job way more satisfying.

Why is the SHSM program so important to the profession?

We were the first SHSM program in the province. I started that and we’ve been running since 2007. From there we were able to adapt the dual credit program with Humber so the kids are earning their high school and SHSM diploma and they are also earning college credits.

How has Landscape Ontario helped with your program over the years?

Our kids have to do 220 hours of actual on-the-job experience and the number of employers that have helped out with coop to do experiential learning has been great. I’ve had a great contingent of people through Landscape Ontario that have helped out through there. I honestly don’t think the course would be as good as it is without the backing of Landscape Ontario.

In addition to Sean James, who else inspired your career path?

Brent Vanderkruk and also Paul DeGroot from NVK. Paul was very knowledgeable and pushed me to be a little bit better. I have never met anybody as good at plant ID. I don’t know where I would be without him. He taught me it’s okay to not know everything, but it’s not okay not to ask. He was always there to help.

What is the highlight of your day or your most memorable achievement?

I seem to get a lot of students that are having a hard time achieving a grade 12 diploma, so giving them something realistic they can attain and then seeing them being able to excel through that is amazing.

The best moment for me was being invited to LO’s Awards of Excellence three years ago and was presented with Educator of the Year. To have a huge organization like that see everything you are doing and knowing you are helping them out, it was a good moment. I’ve also won the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for my work with poverty and adverse kids (in 2012). It was a pretty touching moment as well.

What is the hardest part about being an educator?

The hardest thing is getting past the stigma that landscaping is not an actual career and it’s good for some students, but not for all. From 2006 on I am still dealing with that. People don’t give it a chance. Another aspect to that is because you don’t work 12 months of the year. If you can make a great income in 10 months, you deserve two months off. To me, that is also a great opportunity for learning. Over the years, teachers are starting to come around. If you can find a career that pays the bills and makes you happy, then you are much richer than someone who has all the money and is unhappy. The real kickback is when the parents come back and thank you for pushing the kids into the profession, and they then promote it to other parents.
Do you know an inspiring educator? Email your suggestion.