Monday, August 29, 2011
It's been 40 years since I started my career as agricultural education instructor at Blanchester Local School District. The superintendent and school board took a risk on a young guy who didn't even have his degree yet. I did "student teaching on the job" that fall and taught school in the morning and then watched my mentor, Al Cramton teach at Lynchburg Clay nearby, in the afternoon.
It was 1971 and the Viet Nam war was still raging. My birthday, December 19, came up number 340 of the 365 days in the Viet Nam draft lottery so I had to work. I really wanted to farm and I wasn't sure I wanted to teach.
The teacher before me rented a farm on the south side of town on Fayetteville Road so I could teach and "farm." We had a brand new Allis Chalmers D-15 Series IV and 4 row cultivator purchased with state matching funds, a used disk and a John Deere 494 corn planter. One of my first jobs was the Clinton County Fair and then cultivating the FFA Chapter soybeans.
I soon found out the chapter was broke with no operating funds and people he had borrowed money from starting looking me up hoping to get paid. We even owed the cafeteria milk shake fund nearly $1,000. I became a professional fund raiser as most ag teachers do, very quickly.
It was hard learning how to teach, really hard. I was 5 foot 11 inches and 160 lbs and most of the students were as big or bigger than I was. I quickly learned to love freshmen as they were smaller and more naive than older students and hadn't been prejudiced too much by that age. Freshmen are still my favorite class to teach.
I got married December 3 and got my Bachelor of Science Degree two weeks later. Things were changing fast. By Christmas I did not want to go back to the classroom. I was ready to quit but I didn't have anywhere to go so I stuck it out. It was that hard and every class was a constant battle.
I got addicted to the paycheck. My salary was $5000 and you got paid once a month. It was Big Boy hamburgers at the first of the month and peanut butter by the end of it.
Slowly, over time, I got a little better and a little smarter and teaching became easier. By year five I was selected as Teacher of the Year by the National Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association.
But it was no picnic and definitely hands on learning in the school of hard knocks.
Today I thank Dick McKinnis and the members of the Board of Education for taking a chance on a big idea, wild eyed farm boy.