Teacher Spotlight: Nelver Brooks of Nahed Chapman New American Academy

Interview with Nelver Brooks, a teacher at Nahed Chapman New American Academy in St. Louis, MO., about how she personally became involved with the school’s garden. 

The Nahed Chapman New American Academy opened in 2009 and provides students aged KG-8 who have recently immigrated to the United States with a safe, supportive environment to learn the English language and to learn about American culture. 


How long have you been gardening with the students?

This is my third year and [the students] third year. We started [gardening] to help the students transition from their homelands to the United States. The students actually suggested a garden because they’re used to having a garden back home.


What is the most worthwhile part of school gardening?

The joy and the pleasure of going from seed to crop. And how grateful the children and parents are for being able to take the fruits and vegetables home. The students are eager to work in the garden because it’s very therapeutic for them.


What is your favorite thing to plant with your students?

Herbs and tomatoes. Because I try to grow stuff that is from their home countries.


What do teachers need the most in order to use a school garden successfully?

A curriculum for them. I try to incorporate science into the garden and get super creative.


What are you excited to try/do this coming growing season?

Working on the compost. Using food from the cafeteria and getting student leaders from every lunch period to bring out leftovers.


What is your best garden anecdote?

A mistake I made way by cutting my Rose of Sharron shrubs. I didn’t get as many pollinators which affected my tomatoes and had a slower growing season.



Interview with Nelver Brooks conducted by Allison Berndt, Education Intern at Gateway Greening in Fall of 2017.


Looking for more ways to incorporate the school garden into your lesson plan? Stop by:

  • Gateway Greening’s Educator Workshops page to explore monthly workshops that address the challenges and opportunities represented by teaching in school gardens
  • The Gateway Greening Educators Facebook group to connect with other teachers throughout St. Louis with similar interests in school gardens
  • Check out our In the School Garden Youtube playlist for short, actionable how-to videos that are seasonally relevant.