YOUTH SPOKEN

Decatur FFA welcomes new ag teacher

By Paris Walther | Published Wednesday, October 19, 2011

National-Competition

NATIONAL COMPETITION - Decatur High School seniors Colton Petty (left) and Cruz Niblett (right) will compete in the 84th annual National FFA Convention in Indianapolis this week. Petty will compete in tractor restoration, and Niblett will participate in the proficiency competition. After national competition, the duo will compete at stock shows in San Antonio, San Angelo and Houston with the pictured John Deere 830 diesel tractor. 2011 DHS graduate Cody Pollard also qualified for Nationals but will be unable to attend due to his college schedule. Messenger photo by Erika Pedroza

During the Fourth of July weekend, Decatur High School’s ag teacher, Rick Elmore, received a job offer from Dubiski Career High School in Grand Prairie to teach mechanics. Though sad at the thought of leaving Decatur, the opportunity to build another award-winning program beckoned.

“My favorite part about my new job has to be the challenge of building another dominating program,” he said. “The most fun part is that whatever we do here is for the first time because they’ve never done anything like that before.”

Known for his tractor restoration program, Elmore led the boys FFA tractor team to Nationals every year since 2002, bringing home the National Championship in 2006 and 2009. He also led the girls tractor restoration team to a national title in 2007.

“Winning the National Championship with my four girls in ’07 was one of the highlights of my life because they told us we couldn’t do it,” he said. “The other two we won [with the boys] were super memories.”

Though excited about the future, Elmore also knows he’ll miss the Decatur FFA’s family connections.

“There’s no way anyone will replace all my kids,” he said. “It was the sense of family, whether they were horse judging kids, horticulture kids or the tractor team; I’m going to miss that part for sure.”

For current tractor team member, Cruz Niblett, Elmore became his guide and mentor throughout high school. Saddened at the thought of not having him around, Niblett knew the tractor program would be different.

“I was extremely upset and disappointed because he made me who I am, and everything I accomplished in high school was because of him,” he said. “It made me feel like my high school career was over without him here to help me.”

Niblett traveled to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., his freshman and junior year with Elmore and has earned one last trip his senior year. He plans to travel with fellow senior, Colton Petty, who also earned a spot to Nationals.

“I will be interviewing for the National Championship on my proficiency based on Agriculture Mechanics and Design Fabrication,” he said, “[And in the future] I plan to be a diesel mechanic and work on new tractors.”

With Elmore absent from the busy ag program, the high school hired a new ag teacher, Scotty Ford. Coincidentally, the two happened to have known each other earlier in their college days.

“I do know Mr. Elmore very well,” he said. “We went to college together at Tarleton State.”

After graduating from Tarleton State University at midterm, Ford decided to take a teaching job in Bridgeport. After working there for 12 1/2 years, he went to work in the oil field with Halliburton as a drilling fluid engineer.

“After being there five years, I realized I wanted to go back to teaching,” he said. “This is what I love and plan to retire someday with a job I enjoy – teaching.”

While Elmore specialized in tractor technician projects, Ford plans on utilizing his skills to further the FFA chapter in a different way.

“I am not a mechanic unfortunately,” he said. “We will focus on shop and animal projects as well as LDEs (leadership development event) and CDEs (career development event).”

Niblett and Petty are working and prepping for this year’s tractor competitions as a continuation of last year.

“We have two tractors for this year that will go to the shows,” Ford said. “The two students are seniors and already know and understand mechanics.”

Starting fresh and new, Ford plans to carry on the tradition that the FFA program and its students have paved.

“I am excited and very happy to be at Decatur,” he said. “This is a great town and school; I plan for continued success as has been in the past.”

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