South Carolina's Association of Agricultural Educators (SCAAE) is an organization of professionals providing agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy, and service. For more information, please visit www.scaged.org/SCAAE/index.htm
Veteran Educator wins Agriculture Award
BY ROB NOVIT – Staff writer with the Aiken Standard (July 2012)
After graduating from Clemson University with a bachelor's degree in agricultural education and a master's in animal science, Allen Williams thought he was heading toward a career as a county extension agent.
In 1983, however, there was a freeze on hiring, so Williams decided to try a job as the Wagener-Salley High School agricultural education teacher. Nearly 30 years later, he's still there.
"I fell in love with the people, and my wife Kathy and I felt at home," he said. "We raised three daughters there and they would show sheep in 4-H."
His peers say he's done a great job. They named him the first-ever winner of the Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award at the S.C. Association of Agricultural Educators banquet in Aiken on Wednesday.
Trent Rushton, a student of Williams' and the new S.C. FFA chapter president, presented the award to his teacher. In an earlier interview, Rushton described how the program helps anybody who wants to become a better person.
"You learn about agriculture, but also about respect and other life lessons," Rushton said. "Mr. Williams is an excellent teacher and from the first day, he told us how we decide our own future. If you're willing to listen, he'll help you."
Williams taught Rushton's parents and when he took the Wagener-Salley job 29 years ago, he began teaching the children of the students of his predecessor and mentor, Spencer Smith, who is still active at 90.
"With the help of their parents, our little school has provided some wonderful, very successful children," Williams said. "I carried many of them to national and state conventions. Derrick Cooper is teaching agriculture at Gilbert High, and Ethan Busbee is studying ag eduction at Clemson. But there are also pharmacists, farmers, brickmasons, welders and a lot more."
People still tend to associate agriculture training with the stereotype of the poor farmer, Williams said. The field is much more than production and farming. It's about the processing and marketing of agricultural products and involves engineering, computers and other sciences. The large farms spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment "to provide the safest, cheapest food in the world," Williams said.
Over the years he has appreciated the opportunities to network and become friends with other agricultural education teachers throughout the state and beyond. He has mentored young teachers, among them Meghan Wood at Aiken High - the coordinator of this week's conference.
"It's an honor to stand beside Allen and other teachers who have so many years of experience," Wood said. "It's such a tight-knit group, and they took me and made me feel welcome."
Williams plans to meet next week with two first-year agriculture teachers - Henderson Rowe at Midland Valley High School and Jacob Laughlin at the Aiken County Career and Technology Center. Both graduated from Clemson last December.
Michael Crim, the Ridge Spring-Monetta High agriculture education teacher, said Williams' guidance has been invaluable to him, "although we always seem to finish second to him (in competitions)," he said with a smile. Crim won a "30-minute" award at the banquet - given to teachers who have promoted South Carolina's agricultural education efforts in other states.
Read a full article on Williams from the Aiken Standard here: http://www.aikenstandard.com/story/072012-Allen-Williams