Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories about retiring ag teachers and the future of ag education.
Pat Redden, retiring from Lincoln High School this year, never intended to teach when he headed off to college. He was coming back to the farm, and he did for a while. He shares the accidental entry into ag teaching in common with Don Sturgeon, who will retire from Hagerstown High School after 40 years of teaching later this month.
"I didn't intend to teach," he says, "I grew up on a farm near Hope, and went to Vincennes for two years. I really thought I would get a job in a profession like soil conservation or some other technical field."
That's not what fate had in store. Jim Clouse, then an ag education instructor at Purdue University, had relatives in Hope. One day he stopped and talked to Don, urging him that teaching would be a good field for him.
The rest is history, almost. He student taught at Rushville High School, then he and his wife Jane moved to Hagerstown. It was her home area. He started at Hagerstown and finished at Hagerstown – that's 40 years at Hagerstown, right?
"No, we were here for six years and then left," Sturgeon says. "Sometimes you need a change and think the grass is greener on the other side.
"We moved and I taught at Tri-Central in Tipton County for four years. Then when the opportunity came we moved back here. We've been here ever since."
"My biggest accomplishment is producing productive citizens," he says. "Both FFA and ag classes are a tool to do that. It's rewarding when you're in town at a bank or somewhere and you see former students who are leading productive lives. You hope maybe you had a little something to do with how they turned out."
Related: Life Lessons Abound For FFA Students
With 150 in ag, a second teacher, Nathan Williamson, who teaches mostly shop classes, and 65 members in FFA, Sturgeon has impacted the lives of lots of students and continues to do so.
The administration assures him his position will be replaced, but a new teacher has not been named yet.