Docent in the Spotlight Summer/Fall 2015

Jim Dietz’ upbeat attitude ensures his students have an unforgettable nature experience.


With expansive lagoon views just outside his front door, Jim Dietz has been appreciating San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve for more than 20 years. When he graduated from docent training in 2013, it was then that he began to understand its rhythms and mysteries.

“Knowing when and why the pickleweed turns red, where the argiope spiders like to hang out, or the many uses of the elderberry plant have helped me appreciate the lagoon in an entirely different way,” reflected Jim. Always comfortable around kids, yet as an engineer, Jim’s skills hadn’t been put to the test. Shortly after docent graduation, he decided to practice a docent walk on his 9-year-old granddaughter. When she asked politely soon after the hike began ‘if they could please leave’, he knew he would have to ‘up his game’.

“I realized very quickly that providing information and facts was not going to cut it," said Jim. "You have to make sure to connect to the kids, guide them to make their own observations and discoveries, and always be enthusiastic and engaging." It didn’t take Jim long to figure out the winning formula and he can often be seen in the lagoon surrounded by eager students begging to ‘stay longer’.

As a fairly recent retiree from Teradata, Jim is looking forward to spending time in Big Bear with his family this summer, hiking in the Andes, and rafting down the Colorado River. We thank Jim for his kind spirit and patience as a docent, and for stepping up as one of the new docent leaders.