By Wendy Sweeter
For the past 23 years, Jim Wilson has taught students about the different facets of agriculture and the FFA in Lennox.
Growing up on a small cattle operation in Lander, Wyo., it would take him a few years before ending up in Lennox. Wilson graduated from high school in 1981 before attending Casper College for two years, where he was on the livestock judging team. He finished his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from the University of Wyoming in 1985.
When he graduated from college, Wyoming was fourth in the country for teacher pay but only had two ag ed teacher openings. He knew a local person was in line for one of those positions and the other one was half ag and half science, which he was not interested in. With relatives in Rapid City, Wilson started looking for teaching jobs in South Dakota.
He found his first teaching job in Marion in the fall of 1985. He figured he would get some experience there and then return to Wyoming. Instead, he spent 10 years in Marion teaching ag. Then he bought the Marion Record and ran that for two years before being approached about the Lennox opening.
Since his family farm was too small for him to go back to, teaching agriculture was a way for Wilson to stay connected to ag.
“To me, being the ag teacher is different than being a normal classroom teacher because of the FFA component. It gives you a chance to build relationships with students that last for years,” Wilson said.
In his time as an ag teacher and FFA adviser, Wilson has seen a lot of changes in the FFA program. Instead of targeting only production agriculture like when he was a student, FFA has expanded its programming toward the many different careers available in agriculture.
He notes that shift in thought has been beneficial to the program in Lennox.
“It is important in a community like Lennox because I have a limited number of true kids that come from a farm where that’s their main source of income,” he said.
When the district split from Tea and the new high school needed to be built, Wilson had some changes then. He thought he would see a drop in his numbers when Tea split off, but numbers actually went up.
Building the new high school allowed for his own shop separate from the industrial arts program. While a new space is nice, Wilson said what goes on in the room is what’s most important.
“Ultimately, to me a room is a room. It’s what’s going on inside the room that’s more important than what it looks like. It was a big change,” Wilson said.
In his time, they were able to build the learning lab on the northwest side of the school property. The idea came a few years ago when some students were inspired by a visit from Wilson’s daughter on horticulture when she was doing her master’s program.
This year will be the third summer the hoop barn will be used for sheep and goat projects. With the coronavirus, Wilson said the plans are to go ahead with that project yet so far.
In addition to the hoop barn, they also put up a high tunnel for growing vegetables. However, in December, high winds destroyed most of that.
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