This month's blog features a unique Staff Spotlight as our longest-tenured staff member at the Lucas SWCD recently announced her retirement. Jamie Kochensparger, our Education & Outreach Director, will be retiring this summer. But before that happens, we wanted to share Jamie's Staff Spotlight with you to give a glimpse into who she is and her amazing career as an SWCD employee.
How long have you worked for Lucas SWCD?
18 years at LSWCD, 31 years in Environmental Education
What did you do prior to joining the Lucas SWCD team?
I began my “career” in conservation as a child exploring the marshes of the Sandusky River area near Fremont, Ohio. My childhood home and parents are still located on the banks of the Sandusky River, where I have watched the water quality, habitat and wildlife populations all improve in the last 50 years due to environmental laws, improved land use and personal practices. There is still a lot more room for improvement, so that is why I strive to educate and assist people with conservation.
This inspired me to graduate from Bowling Green State University with a BA in Environmental Policy & Analysis with an emphasis on Environmental Education. I worked for 10 years as a Naturalist/Ranger for the Sandusky County Park District, then 3 years as the Public Information Specialist for the Ohio Lake Erie Commission. After OLEC, I was the Director of the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau for a year and a half before joining the Lucas SWCD.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I love creating and developing programs that help people understand environmental concepts and get inspired to make changes. I love interacting with people, answering their questions, and seeing that “light bulb” moment when everything clicks and a better understanding of our earth is reached. I enjoy assisting homeowners with implementing conservation practices such as pollinator habitats and composting, and seeing these residents feel empowered to make positive changes. Smiles and thank you's from our youth are the best highlight of all.
What is something you want to share with our readers?
What is most relevant right now is what was relevant when I was a child. As back then, we are facing many environmental challenges. The good news is at that time, once we decided to tackle those former problems, we were able to make positive changes such as cleaner air, cleaner water, and species recoveries. We have new problems in today’s world, but if we decide to put our efforts into solving these new issues, we can again make a difference. Each person cannot “save the world” by themselves, but each of us can do our part starting with small steps in our daily lives. This is why Soil & Water Conservation Districts were formed in the first place, to assist people with implementing practices that can make a big difference. There are a lot of community groups, events and resources to get involved with. Call our office to get connected!
The pandemic has changed everything we do, and in some cases for the better. We are learning and implementing new ways of reaching people in an increasingly digital and virtual world. This has helped expand our scope of people served, who might not attend a traditional in-person program. As we move forward, the Lucas SWCD is planning and working towards incorporating as many new strategies for outreach and education as possible. While some choices are limited due to budgetary constraints, the Lucas SWCD is able to amplify our work by partnering with many local agencies that have similar missions. Having great working relationships with these partner agencies is key to effectively achieving our mission. As the saying goes, “the sum is greater than the parts.”
What is something you enjoy doing outside of work?
I have sometimes been called an “expert” on nature, but I can never be that. Nature is always changing, showing us something new. What I really am is a professional student of nature, learning as much as I can and sharing it with others. The more we understand the world around us, the better we can be at our part in it. Always keep learning! One of my favorite hobbies is gardening, especially growing some of my own food in a regenerative way. If I focus on soil health and working with nature, I feel like I am giving something back to the earth as well as receiving its bounty.
Thank you, Jamie, for everything you have done for the Lucas SWCD, our students and community, and local environment over the past 18 years!