Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You Did Good

Two weeks ago a big part of our 
little town called it quits. 

(but this week his lesson plans live on!)

...Actually, can you consider it "quitting" after forty years of dedication? 

Didn't he  just complete the requirements for accreditation? 

Mr. Sturgeon, our beloved FFA advisor and "Old Owl", has retired after forty years in the classroom. 
The old, cinderblock, back-hall classroom.
That clammy room was a safe haven for hundreds of kids who excelled with technical work, rather than the philosophical studies of Aristotle
Thank you for establishing that place for "our kind".  We owe ya. 

Exactly a week ago, old and young alike came back to our Alma Mater and thanked Sturg for his years of service. 
And millions of miles of driving. 
And late nights. 
And beef sticks and Mt. Dew in the old fridge. 

And sense of humor. 
And tap dancing. 
And Bible on his desk. 

And lemonade shake-ups.
And hall passes. 
And compassion. 

My brother and I were asked to speak at Sturg's celebration last week. 
We don't know why. 
We spoke, anyway. 
The speech impediment only showed it's ugly face once. 

Let it be known:
Don Sturgeon taught us more about life 
than he did 
weed identification or embryology
We are so grateful for that.


It’s no doubt that after more than four years with the same teacher, a student is bound to learn something from that individual. 
At least – one would hope.
Much of it would probably be quite applicable through life, like public speaking, salesmanship, parliamentary procedure and animal evaluation. 
But then there is a bit of it you hope to never experience again, in your life, ever...
Like cleaning out the aquaculture tank.

In the 8 years combined that we spent with Mr. Sturgeon, we definitely picked up a few things that we’ve carried around in our back pockets, through Purdue, maintaining careers and going home to start the next generation at our home place. Whether he realizes it or not, a lot of things Mr. Sturgeon taught us in the small cinder block classroom at 701 Baker Rd. has remained with us through this thing called life. Speaking to us, and teaching us far beyond agriculture. Today, we want to share a few of those lessons with you:

1. Things of value have no fear of time.
I suppose that’s why we’re all here today: To recognize a man who has committed 40 years to this school system and community. 40 YEARS. 60% of  those folks reading this blog were not even born when this man began teaching. 
Sit back. 
Read on:
And it isn’t as though he improved our program for a couple years, and rolled through town. Mr. Sturgeon stuck it out. He promoted agriculture to students through the late eighties – when agriculture was not the place to be. Over a span of forty years, he’s built a valuable ag program that is recognizable and has been quite successful for decades. It didn't take two years to build this program. It took forty. 
He’s even taught generations; sons and daughters of the program.

And between you and me….In my opinion, Sturg probably would have spent all 40 years here at Hagerstown if Brad Culy weren’t in his inaugural class. But that is neither here nor there…
Our world needs more of Sturg's commitment. 

2. People want to be needed.
Not everyone who walked to the back hall to sit through Mr. Sturgeon’s class was the next Norman Borlaug, but Sturg found value in them. Not every student had a burning interest in horticulture or Bovine Reproductive Physiology. In fact, I’d be willing to bet there were more than  a few students that took his class who believed that their cotton t-shirt came from a sheep.
But Sturg gave them purpose, anyway. Sorting fruit, sending letters to the community, setting up for an event, cleaning the greenhouse …or the fish tank…..every student was put to work in the back hall: No matter who you were or where you called home, Mr. Sturgeon made every student feel needed. There were kids who went home every night and never felt like they had purpose at all. I say with confidence, Sturg never let students feel that way. No matter their talents or faults, they were viable. 
Our world needs more of Sturg's ability to make everyone feel valued. 

3. Small words of encouragement go a long way.  
People – in general - need to know they’ve done well, and Mr. Sturgeon taught us that. He never went without sharing a few praises with students, no matter the situation. Small accomplishments - like weighing peanuts accurately, didn't even go unnoticed. 
Words of encouragement or praise are so scarce in this world we live in. It seems we'd rather blame or condemn. 
Whether students placed above their personal expectation in a soils judging contest or a former FFA student married out of their league, Mr. Sturgeon would always say these resounding words to anyone: 
You did good, my child. You did good.

Such a simple, but powerful praise for young adults  even if it came years after they left his classroom.
Our world needs more of Sturg's vocalized praise.

Thank you, Mr. Sturgeon, for playing an incredibly important role in hundreds of young peoples’ lives over the last 40 years. 

No matter how much research and fact-finding we tried to do in preparation for tonight, your timeless reach cannot be quantified and your positive influence cannot be calculated. 

Thank you.

You did good, our dear Old Owl
You did good.


  1. As a former High School Agriculture Teacher, and now as an instructor as part of a Teacher Education team at a University preparing future agriculture teachers, I love this post. Agriculture teachers have a tremendous impact on the lives of youth in our nation. As teacher educators, we strive to instill the values of those generations that came before us and stress how they can and will be positive agents of change. Thank you for honoring your former teacher and sharing it with the world. We have a saying here in Pennsylvania about teaching agriculture, "Do what you love, Love what you do, Teach Ag!" Thanks again!

    1. Laura,
      Thank you for reading about Mr. Sturgeon! We need passionate teachers like him, and schools that support ad education needs. Like fine arts, I think it's a dying area of education. He put in so much extra time and effort to sustain the program for 40 years. I look forward to seeing where it goes in his absence. I appreciate you reading the blog. And - are we related?!

  2. Ag Ed, Family and Consumer Sciences, Industrial Arts, Band, Choir and Art teach students so many life skills. They teach skills such as leadership, time and money management, and working as a team. But they also teach students a practical application to math and science. Sometimes, these are the classes that are keeping students in school when they are floundering in other subjects. The down side is that many times, these subjects are the first ones cut when school districts are facing financial difficulties. Maybe our challenge now is to explain the benefits of these programs and the dedication the teachers have toward developing future community leaders. Signed Everything I need to know about life, I learned in Ag Class and what I didn't learn there, I learned in a barn.

  3. I spent 46 years teaching ag in Jay County and never once did I ask Sturg for help,( listening to reasons, a recommendation, talking about our own children and etc. and etc). did he turn me down. He seemed to be every where, at the local, district and state level for FFA members, teachers, community and on and on. It was never about him, he had a way of making it about you. He was always in a good mood and I think when he passes on to the next life, he will be starting a FFA program and helping others. Sturg, have a great retirement, you deserve it.