Harney County man reclaims fallen trees to make posts and other creations

Story and photos by TAMMY DOWNS

Gerard LaBrecque works with his portable mill to turn juniper trees into posts, pictured below.

Gerard Joseph LaBrecque seems to have found his calling in life. He has had a passion for juniper trees for a long time and is finding many ways to reclaim fallen trees.

LaBrecque and his wife, Lori, bought property and moved to Harney County in 1993. With this move began a love of the land, and the wood that grew on it, especially the western juniper found in areas around Burns.

In 1995, LaBrecque began an abstract art business called “ Creations by Joseph,” which primarily uses juniper wood. He uses the western juniper to build a variety of things such as heirloom furniture, flooring,  wainscotting, fireplace mantels and even staircases.

As his business expanded, so did LaBrecque’s interest in juniper, and it should be no surprise that he has found another way to reclaim fallen juniper trees.

In 2009, the Harney County County Court was asked by Patrick Shannon of Sustainable Northwest Non Profit Organization if they could pick a representative from Harney County to attend a secondary wood products tour in Silver City, N.M., and LaBrecque was picked to go. Attending that tour was the seed of this operation.

In March, the LaBrecques were approved to use $145,000 of Harney County’s Title III funds to start their own business, Joseph’s Juniper Inc.

LaBrecque thanked the  Harney County Court and especially Commissioner Dan Nichols, who was instrumental in helping him get the project started.

He also added that Marty Suter of the Harney Soil and Water Conservation District has been a huge help in all the computer work involved.  “Suter has an unbelievably creative mind,” LaBrecque said.

He has wholesalers who  purchase the juniper wood, as the market is growing for  juniper posts.

Wineries are a huge part of the industry wanting juniper. Organic or “going green” wineries cannot use any kind of wood that has chemicals on it, like pressure-treated poles, so juniper is a huge benefit to them.

Finding wood that has already been cut down is another plus to “going green,”  because it is utilizing something that would otherwise just lay around and go to waste.

LaBrecque has a portable mill that he is using in reclaiming falling juniper. The portable mill basically is a large portable band saw. Other equipment used in this operation include a skidder, bobcat and gravity rollers.

The site that he is currently working on is 159 acres of private land in Harney County. To make the venture profitable LaBrecque said he needs to harvest 60 usable posts to an acre.

About 20 semi loads of the finished product — 6-inch by 6-inch square juniper posts — will be shipped out from this site.

He also has roughly 350 straight-trimmed cured juniper fence posts available for sale.

The crew consists of four employees at this time. LaBrecque can foresee getting a stationary mill in the near future, and then his crew would grow to around eight people.

LaBrecque and his crew are working on areas where the junipers have already been taken down. In the future, they would go to land that has junipers that need to be cut down as well.

LaBrecque is very excited about this new venture and said, “The pillar of my strength is my bride, Lori.”

LaBrecque can be contacted at 503-931-6287 or visit his websites: www.creationsby joseph.com
or www.westernjuniper.org/joseph


Like father, like son

Posted on June 15th in Feature Story

It took 30 years for Nick Collins of Diamond to find out who his father really was, but now that he knows, it all makes sense

Nick Collins of Diamond, below, and his father, above, found each other after 30 years. They have quite a bit in common such as interests in hunting, fishing, sports and NASCAR. “We’re both short, full of it and we like the same things,” Collins said. (Submitted photos)

By Debbie Raney
Burns Times-Herald

Looking in the mirror, most people can see bits and pieces of their father in their reflection. Many see a resemblance to their father’s eyes, his smile or even the shape of his face.

In addition to the physical traits, there can also be similarities in likes and dislikes, hobbies and job interests.

Imagine for the first 30 years of your life, looking in the mirror and seeing nothing that resembles your father. Even as you get older, when most people find the resemblances growing stronger, you can’t see anything that would remotely connect you to the man who you called “Dad.”

This is the case for Nick Collins of Diamond.

Growing up, Collins lived in Baker City. When he was 10 years old, his “dad” died, leaving his mom to raise him and sisters. Collins said he didn’t really have anything in common with the majority of his family members, so he spent a lot of time with his friends and their families.

Collins went on to get married and become a dad himself, all the while thinking his father had died years before. And then one day (he said he doesn’t know why) his mom decided to tell him the truth — he had never met his dad, he was still alive and he probably lived somewhere on the East Coast.

Last May, Collins got online and “Googled” the name  his mom had given him. His search found two people with that name, one was 25 years old, the other was old enough that he could possibly be his father. At that point Collins said he thought, “Well, I might as well find out if it’s him.”

It was.

Collins’ father, whose first name is also Nick, lives in South Carolina, and was elated to hear from his son. As it turned out, he had been there the day Collins was born in Waterville, Maine, but due to his work schedule he had to leave the mom and baby for a few days. When he returned, both were gone without a word.

Once they found each other last spring, and talked on the phone every day for a month, Collins flew to South Carolina to meet his dad for the first time last June. Upon their first glances of each other, his dad said, “I know where you get your good looks.”

And Collins said it was obvious they were related. “We’re both short, full of it and we like the same things.” After 30 years he finally found out why he is such an avid hunter, fisherman and sports enthusiast, and why he likes NASCAR.

“Liking NASCAR, that has to be genetic,” he said.

After sharing their individual histories of the past 30 years, Collins and his dad realized that there may have been times when they were in the same room. His dad vacationed in a town where Collins regularly spent time at a friend’s restaurant. His dad knew of the restaurant and had often dined there.

Through the years, Collins’ dad said he searched for his son, and he did know he lived in Oregon. He also knew that Collins had never been told the truth, but he didn’t want to step in and ruin his relationship with the man who had raised him.

With that one phone call made last spring, Collins not only gained a dad, he said he gained a “whole bunch of Italian family.” In the past year, he has been in contact with two step-sisters, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins. All of whom are happy to have a new member of the family.

His dad is retired from his trucking company, and hopes to make a trip to Oregon this summer — he’ll have to work it into his tractor racing, BINGO playing and NASCAR watching schedule. These hobbies, with the exception of NASCAR, Collins said were thankfully not genetically passed down to him. The two men talk on the phone daily, and Collins visits on Facebook with several new family members on a regular basis. After 30 years, there’s a lot of catching up to do.

Now when he looks in the mirror, Collins sees more than just his own reflection. He can see family.

He can see bits and pieces of his father.


Harney pioneers

Posted on June 8th in Feature Story

The Harney County Pioneer Association will honor two longtime residents on Saturday, June 11, during the annual Pioneer Day festivities

By Tammy Downs
Burns Times-Herald

Queen Mother Ruby Baird

Ruby Baird will be crowned the Queen Mother during this year’s Pioneer Day celebration at the Harney County Senior Center on Saturday, June 11.

Baird was born on April 3, 1923, to Charles and Bertha Parker (Oard) in Albritton. Her father worked for Union Pacific Railroad in Crane.  She grew up in Crane and graduated from Crane High School in 1942. She is the last living child out of 10 siblings.

She married E.H Baird (who was also known as Hale) on May 17, 1942. They moved to Bonneville, where he worked at the Bonneville Dam until he went into the service.

When her husband joined the service, Baird went to live with her parents until she could join her husband. She then moved from base to base with him until he was sent overseas.

When Baird’s husband returned from the service after  World War II, they moved back to Bonneville. They stayed there until they went into the hardware business in Burns with Jenks Harris, which, Baird said, was around 1952 or 1953.

When Harris passed away, Baird and her husband bought the store and renamed it Baird’s Hardware. They ran the hardware store with their two sons until the 1980s.

Baird has been a member of the American Legion Auxiliary for more than 48 years. She has held many titles through the years — vice president, president and district president. She is still an active member.

After retiring from the hardware business, Baird and her husband spent the next 20 years traveling. They were know as “Winter Visitors” or “Snow Birds.” They traveled around in a 34-foot travel trailer. It was their “home away from home,” Baird said.

She recalls that they had a great time traveling around and meeting many people and enjoying friends, visiting many places. Baird said they liked to go to casinos and play cards, go to dances and they even went to a few “Powwows.” She said, “They just had a great time.”

Baird has had many hobbies. When she had the opportunity she said she loved to do yard work, garden,  camp and hunt.

Baird has four children —  Phyllis, who lives in Tucson, Ariz.; Dick, who lives in Hines; and Jim and Beverly, who both live in Bend.

Pioneer President Richard Temple

On June 11, the Harney County Pioneer Association will honor Richard Temple with the title of Pioneer President at the Pioneer Day Celebration held at the Harney County Senior Center.

Temple was born on Nov. 12, 1929, to Jap and Ruby Temple at the Stewart Place, north of Burns. He had two sisters and three brothers. Three of his siblings have died.

He was raised on his family’s ranch at Cow Creek, northeast of Burns, and graduated from Crane High School in 1947. Regarding his experience in living in the Crane boarding school, Temple matter-of-factly said, “It’s where we had to go to school.”

After high school, Temple went to work in Drewsey for the Williams family. He stayed there for a couple  years, and then returned to Cow Creek and rented his dad’s ranch.

He met his wife, Glenda Stephenson, and they were married in 1965. They had two daughters — Mary Jo Shoemaker and Jennie Lee — both of whom continue to reside in Harney County. They raised their daughters at the Cow Creek Ranch. Temple also has four grandchildren.

Temple, one of his brothers and his dad went in together and bought the Chambers Place in Buchanan. They spilt up the partnership around 1967, and he bought the family ranch from his father.

In 1982, the Temples became partners with George and Mary Duncan and bought the place next to them from the Catterson family.

For the next six years he continued to operate his own ranch, until selling the property to Hoyt and Sons in 1988. After selling, he worked for Hoyts for a few years until deciding to retire.

After retiring, Temple kept busy by volunteering for the Harney County Fair, working with the 4-H program and the Stockgrower’s sale committee.

In his spare time, Temple said he enjoys hunting and fishing, though he admits that he’s not really good at it, and his wife catches the most fish. He is also a member of the Burns Elks Lodge.


“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
— Dr.Seuss

Left to right, Valedictorian Gabe Bentz, Jessica Hodge, Valedictorian Casey Thein, Cole Potter and Meghann Gini. (Photo by TAMMY DOWNS)


It’s a family business for owners Samuel and Maria Sanchez of Crane

The Sanchez family looks forward to serving local residents Mexican food at El Castillo. (Photo by TAMMY DOWNS)

By Tammy Downs
Burns Times-Herald

El Castillo is a new Mexican restaurant that recently opened its doors for business inside of the Ye Olde Castle Restaurant, located at 186 W. Monroe. The restaurant officially opened for business on May 5.

The owners of El Castillo are Samuel and Maria Sanchez. They said they had been looking for a place to rent where they could open a restaurant, and it worked out that Ye Olde Castle had an empty space and the owners were willing to lease it out.

Prior to opening the restaurant Samuel had been a long-haul truck driver, and he said that it was too hard on the family to be gone all the time. He knew he needed to find a job where he could be by his family and  they could all be together.

The Sanchezes have five children ranging in ages from 3 to 18. The older children are a big help with this new business, the Sanchezes said, and they hope their restaurant offers a family atmosphere for their customers.

Everything on the menu  at El Castillo will be made with fresh items — nothing will be made using leftovers from the day before. The menu will offer different varieties of tacos, burritos and tostadas made with chicken, pork, beef tongue, beef head and grilled beef steak bits. A couple of American items will be on the menu, too.
One of the specialty items is the “Alan’s Chronic Burrito.” This is a huge burrito filled with all of the available fillings. If anyone can actually eat a whole one by themselves, the Sanchezes will take the customer’s photo and post it up.

Customers who are celebrating their birthday can let the Sanchezes know, and they have two different sizes of sombreros for the special birthday person to wear while singing them “Happy Birthday.”

For those who want a drink with their meal, El Castillo carries different types of American and Mexican beer, and they also make a lemon and strawberry margarita.

The restaurant is not making deliveries at this time, but it is a service that may be added later on.

Samuel said they do not want to lose the castle name so they will not be changing it — “El Castillo,” and “Ye Olde Castle.”

Ye Olde Castle owner Rosie Kimble said she and husband, Jerry, are semi-retired. After 51 years in business in Burns Rosie said, “The restaurant now serves breakfast and lunch only. The Kimbles wish to thank their many evening customers for their patronage and friendship.”

El Castillo’s business hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m., and Friday through Sunday,  3 p.m. to 11 p.m. For more information, call 541-573-7110.


Onward & upward

Posted on June 1st in Feature Story

Crane Union High School seniors graduate with much pomp and circumstance on May 27 in a ceremony full of music and merriment. (Photo by DEBBIE RANEY)


Ties to the community

Posted on May 18th in Feature Story

Larry and Cindy Williams open new business in Hines

Larry and Cindy Williams in their fly shop in Hines. (Photo by TAMMY DOWNS)

By Tammy Downs
Burns Times-Herald

The owner of Steens Mountain Outdoors is no newcomer to fly fishing or Harney County. Larry Williams was born and raised  in Harney County and has been an avid fly fisherman since he was 12 years old.

Williams, along with his wife, Cindy, opened the doors for business on April 2. He had found himself unemployed after Monaco closed its doors and had been searching for work. He knew he did not want to leave Harney County and have to move somewhere else.

Williams and his wife said they are a strong Christian family and had been praying for the right job to open; and then an unexpected door opened when they were able to purchase the building where their business is now located. So began their adventure into opening up the new fly shop.

Williams is also a taxidermist and the back of the store will be for his taxidermy shop. He opened up the taxidermy part last October. He has been a contractor with Artistic Taxidermy out of Portland since 1982. He does a wide variety of animals, fish and birds.

Steens Mountain Outdoors is well on its way to becoming Southeast Oregon’s only destination flyshop. Their goal is to cater to customers who are coming here to fish so they will carry flies that work in this area.

They carry an assortment of flies; some are hand tied by a couple of local guys and they also carry flies that are purchased from various vendors. Williams said he purchases flies that the locals don’t know how to tie or don’t have the recipe for. He is overwhelmed by how many flies they are selling.

They carry products from a lot of very popular fly fishing supply companies such as Umpqua, Hareline, Tiemco, Metz and Mustad.

One of the main companies that they carry products from is Loon. They are an Oregon company based out of Ashland. They specialize in products that are biodegradable and are safe for the environment.

Also in the store are various fly rods and Williams also custom builds fly rods.

They will also be offering fly tying classes throughout the year. The first class will begin on May 17, and will run for  four weeks. This first class will be for beginners. The cost for the class will be $65. A potential student can either bring their own equipment, or Steens Mountain Outdoors will  have a package to buy at a discounted price. They will provide all of the supplies.

Williams hopes to have three classes a year. In the early spring it will be a beginners class, later in the spring an intermediate class and fall will be an advanced class.

Willams really has a heart for the youth and he has been asked by the Harney County Chamber of Commerce to see if he could work with some of the Oregon Youth Authority kids and teach them about fly fishing. He is also working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to see if there is something he can put together for the youth at the gravel ponds.

Williams’ wife, Cindy, knew what it was like to go to an outdoor store with her husband and opt to sit in the car because there wasn’t anything of interest for her.

So, a necessity in their new store was a corner for her to carry different things that would be of interest to wives, so they wouldn’t be out in the car bored.

She wants to carry unique items that can’t be found anywhere else, in any local store. Right now she is carrying different bird feeders and even has feeders for squirrels. They are a metalspiral feeder and the wires spring apart so the squirrel can pull out a peanut.

She also carries various knick knacks, maps, binoculars and an assortment of bird seed.

Updated fishing reports are available on a board by the front doors.

The Williams’ main goal is to be able to expand their business and to be able to support a few employees and to fill the community’s needs so people don’t have to travel out of town to shop. Special order requests will gladly be accepted if a product is not in stock.

The store is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Williams are in the middle of getting a website set up, and they can be contacted at: Steensmountainoutdoors @centurylink.net


Physically demanding job keeps Tassie Hooper on her toes

Fifteen years ago, Tassie Hooper started mowing lawns to bring in some extra income. Little did she know it would turn into a career. (Photo by TAMMY DOWNS)

By Tammy Downs
Burns Times-Herald

When you are a stay-at- home mom with small children and you realize that you need more income to help your family, what can you do?

That is the dilemma local resident Tassie Hooper found herself in 15 years ago. She racked her brain trying to come up with different ideas and decided, “I can mow lawns for extra money.” So she went down to the local Sentry supermarket and hung up a simple “Mow Lawns — Fair Price” sign.

What started out as earning extra income has turned into a full-time career that, 15 years later, keeps Hooper busier than she wants some days. She makes herself take two days off a week so that she can have a break, or, she said, she would be run into the ground.

Hooper was born in Burns but was raised near Philomath. When she was 13 years old she set the national record for the fastest running time in the 5,000-meters for 13-year-old girls. That title was not broken for almost 10 years.

She returned to Harney County 23 years ago with her husband, Dave.

Hooper attended college and was three and one-half years into receiving her accounting degree when she realized that it was not the career path that she wanted to follow, so she quit.

She said when she started mowing lawns her business started out slowly and then gradually got busier and busier as word of mouth spread. Hooper has never had to advertise again, just the one sign started it all.

She said this job is very physically demanding and when she first started out she was doing all the jobs  using only a push mower.

Hooper said one day she thought, “I can’t do this anymore.” She was just too physically exhausted and sore.

She thought, “I need a job where I can sit down.” And then it came to her,  “I need a riding lawn mower.” Now she gets to sit down and work and be outside.

Her job is still extremely physical, though. Hooper said it’s seasonally varied, and different muscles are sore throughout the year depending on what she is doing.

Currently, Hooper has about 40 lawns that she takes care of — her schedule is very full.

Some of her clients are businesses and others are residential. She said she has some of the neatest, greatest clients; and some of her clients have been with her since her business began.

Hooper said the best thing about her job is that she gets to decide who to work for. She gets to be picky and as she put it, “If someone’s a stinker, I don’t have to work for them.” She does add that she very much enjoys the people she does work for.

There really isn’t anything that she doesn’t like about her job. Hooper said she has a lot of freedom and she enjoys taking care of yards. She gets enjoyment out of seeing what she has accomplished.

During the winter months she can slow down a little bit, but not completely. She still shovels snow by hand, with a snow shovel, as well as with her four wheeler.

She said she is usually in full swing mowing lawns by April 15. This year has been a little bit later because of the weather. Hooper said in the summer it is a necessity for her to get out early in the mornings to beat the heat.

She said things are always changing, and she picks things up as she goes. She has learned to be professional.

Hooper said when people are grateful, it makes you want to do a good job.


Rising country star

Posted on April 27th in Feature Story

Nathan Ritches poses for a photo with country star Sara Evans after one of her shows at the Oregon State Fair in 2006. Evans was one of the people who inspired Ritches to seek out a career in country music. (Submitted photo.)

Nathan Ritches responsible for bringing singer Blaine Larsen to Burns for concert

By Tammy Downs
Burns Times-Herald

Country’s coming to town thanks to local resident Nathan “Nate” Ritches. He is finding his niche behind the scenes in the country music industry. Ritches is the tour manager for country music artist Blaine Larsen.
It is interesting how he got to where he is now. Ritches is the owner of Hilander Sound & Light, a disk jockey company he started while he was attending Burns High School. Back in 2006 he needed some new sound equipment and ordered it through Suntrack Sound.

Through Suntrack Sound he got hooked up with the Deschutes County Fair and started working stage production at their events. Ritches got to know the fair manager, Ross Rogers, who told him that country music is where he needed to be and introduced him to Clint Higham, one of the executive vice presidents of Morris Management Group out of Nashville, Tenn. They were impressed with Ritches and offered him employment.

Ritches’ being new to the country music industry is a bonus for the company he works for because they said he is like an uncarved block of clay that they can mold into what they want.

Blaine Larsen will perform May 5 at the Burns Elks Lodge. (Submitted photo)

Ritches is the  main-man behind Blaine Larsen’s west coast tour. Morris Management Group knew Larsen and Ritches would be a good fit to work together as they are both from the west coast and are only a year apart in age. They work well together as they have the same thought process. Ritches does everything from tour managing/marketing director to chauffeur.

Larsen’s west coast tour is going from Seattle, Wash., to Bakersfield, Calif. The night before Larsen’s concert in Burns he will be in Boise, Idaho, and the night after he will be in Redmond. Ritches saw the chance to bring Larsen to Burns in between the two concerts. Ritches contacted Harney County Arts in Education Foundation and worked closely with them to get this accomplished, and all benefits from this concert will go to support their efforts in keeping music and art in education.

Ritches is still very busy running Hilander Sound & Light, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary of being in business next February. He has jobs all over Oregon, Idaho and Northern California. Sixty percent of his clientele base are weddings, and the rest are split up between school functions and other fund raisers. He is trying to keep this business from getting too “big for its britches” as he believes in quality not quantity. His friend Wyatt Shelley, who also DJs, steps in and services events when he can.

Growing up in Harney County has helped mold Ritches into who he is today. He attributes growing up in a small town to making him more grounded and driven.  Being active in 4-H and school leadership helped him gain public speaking skills and people skills.

Ritches is not living full time in Nashville yet; as he put it “he gets his mail and does his laundry in Burns but does rent a home part time in Nashville.” He spends a lot of time on the road but does foresee himself full time in Nashville  by next year.

After getting established in Nashville, if the opportunity presents itself with today’s technology to work virtually anywhere, he would like to move back and be based out of the Northwest.

Ritches said the most asked question he is getting from people is what is he doing in Nashville? Ritches explained, “This show (Blaine Larsen) I see as a ‘showcase’ with the talent I am now working with.”

With a George Strait cut under Blaine Larsen’s belt Ritches can see a strong future ahead for him. “Give it a couple more years and we will be able to look back and say, ‘Wow! He was in Burns,’ ” Ritches said.


Educators of the Year

Posted on April 6th in Feature Story,News

Story and photos by Randy Parks

Harney County School District No. 3 recently announced the Educators of the Year from Hines Middle School (HMS) and Burns High School (BHS). The staff members at each school nominate and then vote on the honorees. Kim Schweiren was selected from HMS and Jimmy Zamora was chosen from BHS.

Kim Schwieren

While teaching has many rewards, the favorite for Hines Middle School (HMS) Educator of the Year  Kim Schwieren are “those lightbulb moments.”

“When you can see the students eyes light up because they get it,” Schwieren said. “There’s no substitute for that.”

Schwieren has been teaching for 24 years and currently teaches sixth-grade social studies and seventh-grade math at HMS. “Teaching these two subjects is a perfect blend for me,” she said.

Her social studies classes learn about different cultures and past societies through a number of different projects designed to keep them engaged and interested. “I like it when the kids look up and ask, ‘Is class over already?’ ” Schwieren said. “When they get excited about what we’re doing in class, and want to go visit some place in the world because we studied it makes me happy.”

Schwieren’s teaching career in Harney County came by way of a circuitous route, but it seemed almost destined to happen. “My dad was in the Air Force and was stationed at the radar base in Burns in the 1950s when he met my mom,” Schwieren said. “I was born in France, and then we came back to the states and lived all over, Alaska, Mississippi, Utah, Texas, Hawaii, but Burns was always a special place for us to come to. We had lifelong friends here, something you didn’t have in other places when you’re only there for a short time.”

Schwieren graduated from Belleville High School in Illinois in 1981 and then went to Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, Texas, for a year. She then attended the University of Utah for one year, and finished college at Weber State with a bachelor of science degree in education, with a minor in social studies.

During her college years, her father had retired from the Air Force and eventually purchased a ranch in Harney County, so Schwieren moved to Burns after college. “I worked with the BLM during the summer when I first got here, and then started subbing in the Burns-Hines school district,” Schwieren said.

She then accepted a teaching position at Frenchglen, where she had two students. “P.E. was a bit of a challenge,” she laughed.

The following year she was hired to teach fourth grade at Slater Elementary School. Throughout the years and the reconfiguration of the schools, Schwieren has instructed both elementary and middle school students.

While Schwieren is excited to come to class every day, the lack of funding for education causes some concerns. “The crisis of funding forces the schools to use people and set priorities differently,” Schwieren said. “Every year we face cuts, challenging us to do more with less. I just try to give everything I have to the kids every day.”

Looking back on her childhood and career path, Schwieren seems satisfied. “I wouldn’t trade what I’ve seen and done for anything,” she stated. “But I think this is my niche, I was supposed to end up here. It’s my chance to give back to the community that gave so much to me.”

Jimmy Zamora

Growing up on a ranch near Mitchell, Jimmy Zamora developed a passion for agriculture, and it’s something that has served him well for teaching students at Burns High School (BHS).

“My favorite thing is when the students are enjoying a hands-on project,” Zamora said. “They’re involved, it’s something fun for them and they’re learning, even though they may not realize they’re learning at the time.”

Zamora’s days are full,   as he teaches forestry, horticulture, ag science, animal science, ag leadership and one section of math. He also serves as the FFA advisor. “One of the challenges is that these are elective classes and it’s important to get kids to buy into the program,” Zamora said. “Plus you’ve got to integrate the essentials such as science, reading and writing while still making it fun.”

The class periods are long at BHS, 80 minutes, which actually works well for Zamora. The class spends the first 20 minutes or so on what is expected of them that day and the remainder of the time is spent doing it.

Hands-on projects the students experience include maintaining a greenhouse, preparing for a spring plant sale, raising willows for the U.S. Forest Service, raising FFA animals and the Ag in the Classroom Project, where Ag Leadership students go to Slater Elementary School to teach ag to fourth- and fifth-grade students.
Zamora really had no intentions of becoming a teacher after he graduated from Mitchell High School in 1991.

“I went to Oregon State for ag engineering, but they cut the program, so I went into ag business management,” Zamora said.

His senior year, an advisor suggested that he might make a good teacher and the seed was planted. “I remembered I had a good relationship with my high school shop teacher and I kind of liked the idea of working with kids like he did,” Zamora said. “Before that, it never crossed my mind that I could teach ag.”

After finishing college in December 1996, Zamora took a job in Poulsbo, Wash., teaching ninth-grade horticulture.

Three years later, he moved to Vancouver, Wash., to teach environmental science, animal science and ag biology at Mountain View High School.

In 2001, Zamora, his wife, Jenell, and their son, Isaac, moved to Burns. When he was first hired, he taught half-time at BHS and also worked at the experiment station. Several years later, Zamora began splitting his time between teaching ag at the high school and math at Hines Middle School, and for the last three years he has been full-time at the high school.

The Zamoras have also added three more children to their family since they arrived in Harney County, Elizabeth, Gabriel and Hannah.

Throughout all his successes, one project seems to stand out for this year’s BHS Educator of the Year.

“Building the greenhouse was special,” Zamora said. “We had an idea and the kids and I built it together. It was neat to see.”


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