Lori Cisneros: A Tehachapi teacher educates beyond the classroom
May 14, 2022
Lori Cisneros, Mrs. C to her students, holds a master's degree in education and has been a teacher for over 19 years. During those years she has taught at public and private schools and most recently in a local homeschool charter setting. She currently teaches at Cisneros Farm Workshops on her very own farm located in Tehachapi's Alpine Forest community. Drawing on her education and nearly two decades of pedagogical and country living experience, she has developed a unique curriculum to teach children about various aspects of farming, including animal husbandry, gardening and garden fresh cooking.
Her workshops focus on one animal or skill each month. This month, students are learning all about chickens: what they eat, how to care for them and about their anatomy. The class I was able to observe had six students ranging in approximate age from eight to twelve. The class was very informative, yet fun and interactive. Each student was invited to hold a baby chick and to feed the adults in the flock. Some of the things they will learn this month are how to tell if the chickens are sick, and what to do about it if they are. In future months, the children will learn all about the care and keeping of goats and horses.
Gardening is a big part of farming, so Mrs. C has incorporated a month of workshops on the subject. Logically, she thought it would make a lot of sense to teach kids what to do with all the yummy veggies they harvest. Naturally, a class on cooking makes sense. In the future, she plans to add canning and food preservation skills to her workshops.
Classes are tailored to fit children's ages and educational levels. The website shows a range of workshops from Mommy/Daddy & Me classes for very young children through high schoolers who will be taught how to operate a tractor.
Last year, Mrs. C was teaching at a local charter school. So I asked her what made her start Cisneros Farm Workshops. She told me that in August 2021, right at the beginning of the school year, she received an email from Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS). The email essentially said that all employees, staff and teachers had to either be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing. "At that point, I invoked my religious exemption from Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act which applies to the vaccine and the testing," she told me. "I am personally convicted - and I believe that it's a conviction that God placed there - to not participate in anything related to COVID. So even the testing felt wrong in my heart and I could not agree to it." She approached KCSOS with at least six different ideas on how they could reasonably accommodate her deeply held religious beliefs, but they denied every single one. After going through a handful of hearings and informal meetings with the district to discuss it, they placed her on unpaid leave in October 2021. In other words, they took away her paycheck, retirement savings plan, and medical insurance for herself, her husband and her children. She could sue them, but has been unable to come up with the $25,000 retainer fee needed for legal representation.
Finding herself suddenly without an income, Mrs. C was forced to think outside the box. "I had to go back to the drawing board to figure something out," she said. She applied to a couple of different virtual schools and even considered working in a different field like food service or retail. "But I can't imagine not teaching kids," she said. Ever since the age of 14, she's felt called to be a teacher. Relying on her Christian faith, she prayed and asked God to help her figure out what to do. "That was when I got the idea of using my property" in this way.
For more information or to enroll your elementary through high school aged child in Mrs. C's workshops, please visit her website at http://www.cisnerosfarmworkshops.com. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out by calling or texting: (661) 472-7341. It will be a truly enriching experience for children of all ages.