Developing Leadership, Teamwork and Confidence in the Classroom | Discovering Student Strengths | Authentic Teacher Interview with Patti Armbrister

Listen to the full episode here

So, I talked to so many parents this summer worrying about their child starting school with confidence and while I was interviewing Patti Armbrister for the Organic Gardener Podcast we also recorded this little piece about confidence building and team work. I know you will like it, and please forgive the sound issues as Patti is just an amazing educator of students and teachers!

Patti Armbrister teamwork and confidence

I am Patti Armbrister, I teach school at the Hinsdale School which is out on the high-line in NE Montana. I am an agriculture teacher. Under that umbrella, I can teach all of the cores, and art, and applied math every single day. We do team work and leadership. I am also FFA Adviser  we do FFA Foundation. It’s a youth building outfit. It’s really cool.

FFA Foundation Adviser Leadership Skills for Students



I’ve had so many compliments from my students after they graduate. They recognize the things they did in FFA brought them out of their shell into a better person.

Natural Educator

You are an amazing natural educator and leader and always so willing to share their passions and knowledge which you have so much of. And you are one of the best speakers, someone who is willing to speak up for our planet and learning. Just what authentic teacher is all about, we could do a whole episode on doing applied math in the garden. One of my first lessons for authentic teacher was building an array in the garden.

Best practices

meeting our standards

team activities (I think this got lost in the audio-recording – it starts again here:)

Teaching kids to become leaders

Teaching the kids to become leaders and to realize they have to work together as a team to be successful. So I will ask the kids, or the team, you know what’s gonna happen, they are going to pick their best buddies, and the same kids not getting picked and then it’s a favorites game.

I’ll let them do that, but then I’ll say today, this is what we’re gonna do and I will use one of the kids they never pick’s strengths, they would be the person everyone wants and then within seconds I would pick a different team, and I would say oh you wouldn’t add this basketball team? And they say, no.

Ok, so the next time we do this maybe you should ask me what we are going to learn today. They are getting beat by the other teams of kids who don’t get picked. 

Next time they can ask, ok, we know we need to have a couple of leaders. I try to get kids to recognize their strengths, they know they are leaders. I’m not gonna follow, and they’re the ones that are gonna pick their team.

We’re gonna learn agronomy today, which is a nerd that would never gonna pick and now they are a rockstar on their team and now they’re best buds!

Then everyone goes outside. The team can only have the team leader raise their hand. Whoever raises their hand first get’s to answer the question first. But they should not raise their hand unless everybody on the team agrees the answer they are gonna chime in. The teacher gets to pick who answers. 

So let’s say I ask Joey and John’s the only one who knows the answer then I say, ok you guys lose a point. 

Then the other team gets to answer. That team has figured it out what is our answer is to the question and they have told everyone on their team they’re sharing the answer.


That’s one of the best ways to learn is by teaching. Let me say I am understanding this right. You have two teams, the Seahawks, and The Jets. Johnny’s the leader of the Jets and Stephen’s the leader of the Seahawk. But just because Steven raises his hand he’s not the one that’s going to answer.

Yes, but they just can’t blurt out their answers, it has to be silent.


Sarah on Steven’s team, you answer the questions, but if they haven’t communicated with her now it’s too late, they lose a point. And the other team get’s to answer the questions. If Sarah knew the answer that team is going to get an answer and they go on to the next question.

Confidence Building

And that’s gonna help build confidence because even if they weren’t paying attention and right before everyone else has figured out the problem but everyone has to know the answer so even if they didn’t help they are going to understand by the time they are done. Maybe you’re out in the garden measuring the plants, but before if they think they are gonna get called on, the team mates are going to make sure they explained it enough every member of the team can answer then the team is going to say, Yeah! You answered correctly and got us a point! And you make it grade level appropriate. Where does the agronomy part, where does that fit in? I’m trying to pick your leadership tasks.

In the beginning of the school years, I’ll ask the kids if they are natural leader or not? Most kids starting 7th grade are like IDK if I am a natural leader. So I’ll explain

A what a natural leader feels or acts like

  • can not stand it if someone else is leading the activity
  • tends to be the interrupter
  • they want to answer
  • they want to be the answer the questions

A lot of people, even adults don’t have the clue if they are a natural leader or not. We talk about the characteristics of a natural leader.

95% of people are natural followers.


Yeah, it’s amazing when you start looking into  it deeper. I’ll even do it with adults, I’ve done it with the ag educators, 64 of them I’ll be like raise your hand if you’re a natural leader. They’re like that would not be me. I had to talk some in that I knew were natural leaders, and they are like no I’m not a natural leader. 

Cool, anything else we didn’t get into.

With this game

I always make sure the quest to learn comes back, so the questions get harder as we go. When we come back the next day and we’re in the garden and we’re doing a walk around. When I stop by the plant and I’m getting ready to ask a questions, and they have no idea what the question is gonna be. 

The laggers dragging behind the crowd, I ask the questions to the ones who are engaged and they’re like where’s Tammy, or so and so, get up here, they know they can’t answer so they do the self-patrolling to keep them and nagging on them to pay attention to get up here, because they are affected by if they are going to pay attention.

Noticing the “in a cloud” kids

Those same laggers, I know their strength and what they know the answer to, so they are like “I know the answer!” Then their team mates will listen to them. The kind of people who live in a cloud or a dust storm because they go unnoticed for lots of reasons and for them to be using their strength and knowledge and coming out of their shell because they’re like I got this. And the other kids are like “good job.”

Discovering Strengths

Do you have any suggestions for kids to discover their strengths?

There is a survey I had the kids do that helped the kids discover their strengths. If they were in what type of personality they had. It’s a personality thing. There is some and that career thing the kids go onto  self discovery in it where they decide if they should go to college, or become a nurse etc. Most all schools are doing it.


Figuring out who they are, what they are, they just don’t know. They haven’t looked at that before, I’m glad to be on. 

I never really heard of that till I went to Portfolio Day in Browning and they talked about that, and then I forget.


Join our Facebook Group Here   

Authentic Teacher Community Facebook Group


I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Please support my site by purchasing a product from the Amazon today by clicking on the link.

Categories Authentic Teaching, teaching, teaching tipsTags , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close