Radakovich teaches student naturalists, handles animals

Emily Gray, Reporter

Learning about nature is exciting for many students, but for Joan Radakovich, science teacher, it’s a way of life.

Radakovich has been teaching for 29 years, four of them at Olathe South. 

In class, Radakovich teaches students how to properly care for exotic animals and how to identify different plants. 

Radakovich grew up on a hobby farm where she had horses, cattle, chickens, and ducks so she has been surrounded by animals her whole life.  Most of the animals she has in her student naturalist classroom are exotic and cannot be found in Kansas. 

Animals range from rabbits to bearded dragons to ball pythons. 

 “It’s my passion,” Radakovich said.

 She is currently bonding with two sugar gliders, Sugar and Spice.  Sugar and Spice are both adults, so bonding can take up to three months. 

Over the weekend, Radakovich comes in and checks on the animals to make sure that no animals are sick or injured. 

In case an animal does happen to be sick, Olathe Animal Hospital does all veterinary work for free.

Most of the animals Radakovich takes care of were given to the school as donations.

Getting a new animal takes a lot of learning on Radakovich’s part.  She does a lot of researching online and she talks to experts about the animal to make sure that it is getting the proper care.

At the end of the year, students pick one animal to present to elementary school students.

“It’s a great experience for the students,” said Radakovich. “They have a chance to show off everything that they’ve learned throughout the year.”

Not only does Radakovich teach about exotic animals, she also teaches about plants. She has students gather leaves from trees and identify the specific plant it came from. 

To give her students a hands-on experience, Radakovich takes them to Indian Creek to gather samples. There, the students collect plants, water samples, and take the temperature of the creek. 

“My favorite part of my job is seeing the interaction of a student and an animal,” Radakovich says.

Students switch off animals every two weeks to have experience with different ones. They have to learn how to properly care for the animal in any way. 

“I definitely think I have the best job at school,” Radakovich stated.