I have to admit that I was both surprised and disappointed by the resignation of HHS Ag Instructor Paul Marshall at Monday night’s School Board meeting.
I never took one of his classes, but I have heard enough from those who did to realize he certainly knows his way around a corn field and a milking barn.
However, in addition to his unquestionable knowledge of agriculture, Marshall also knows his way around teaching high school students, especially those who need a little extra incentive in trying to learn the road to success.
It doesn’t come easy to plenty of teens, but Paul seems to have a knack of finding the key to earning both the trust and respect from his students.
Back in my days as the editor and publisher of this newspaper, I spent plenty of time around the high school, especially while covering sports and other extracurricular activities. Fresh from a big city, I was intrigued and amazed by the competition in a whole new world called agriculture.
The importance of a successful FFA chapter was not only an eye opener, but an introduction to the wealth of knowledge available to rural youth that their big city cousins had never even realized.
From that knowledge, it was a short step to personal pride, respect, and even teamwork. Their competition with other FFA chapters, brought out a kinship that spilled over onto their other school work, similar to the importance of athletics to many students.
While covering their school events like Tractor Day, Ag Olympics, and FFA Week, I developed a real respect both for the program and the students who participated.
Many HHS alumni and their parents, I’m sure, have many favorite memories of the FFA days, and the teacher who led them.
I have two in particular.
One year our football program was having a bad “numbers” problem and there was some question as to whether or not we would have enough players to field a team.
Someone got the brilliant idea of asking “Mr. Marshall” if he would be an assistant coach, specializing in recruitment. I have no idea if he had ever competed in the sport himself, but he accepted the challenge and brought a number of his farming students with him.
I still remember chatting with him on the sidelines in between photos at the games that season. He wasn’t much for whispering a play suggestion into the coach’s ear, but he really mastered the art of supporting anyone who came off the field with a pat on the back and a “nice job” comment.
There is no doubt in my mind that there were Tigers on the team that year, playing their hearts out for the sake of the team and the school, but also for “Mr. Marshall!”
There also was another group of FFA members who had the use of an old shack in the woods that they called “the cabin.” Others called them the “cabin boys.”
They became famous for carrying around an old, beat up couch in the back of a pickup and using it for seating everywhere they went. No doubt there are photos buried in the Sentry files of those happy-go-lucky future farmers relaxing on that old couch at many events, including the grandstands at football games!
I can’t even remember one of their names now, but I’ll never forget their antics, and the fact that the one thing they all had in common, other than a love of agriculture, was their admiration for Mr. Marshall.
I never was really able to uncover what his secret was, but I’ll bet he will be remembered by many of his students longer than he will ever realize.
I’m sure many of them are thinking like me and wish him the best of everything wherever the path from HHS leads him.
They all learned a lot about the agriculture field in the years they spent with Mr. Marshall in the FFA, but they also learned what respect is, and how it can lead to very long friendships.
On another school note, here’s a reminder to parents to collect those General Mills box tops for the Elementary School Drive Apr. 15-19. Many have already been collecting them for months.
Funds raised by the drive can show wonderful dividends for the Hillsboro Elementary School and its students.
In other words....eat more Cheerios!