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No limits: Ag teacher overcomes physical disability

By Paris Walther | Published Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Arriving at the ag barn before most of his students wake up, agriculture education teacher and FFA adviser Jim Allsup prepares for another day.

Three students’ show goats need to be trimmed during class before a horse team practice at lunch. His dual-credit advanced animal science class took an exam that needs to be graded before he goes into a meeting with a parent to discuss the next major stock show.

The floral and landscape team has practice after school until 5, but Allsup stays past 6 to load the trailer for the plant sale on Saturday. There are still students who need help with their record books, so he helps them calculate their hours. After completing some paperwork, he finally drives home a little after 8.

GOING NON-STOP - Decatur High School agriculture education teacher and FFA adviser Jim Allsup (right) and students Shelbie Chandler and Brittney Hubbard prepare for the broiler show Monday at the Wise County Youth Fair. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

GOING NON-STOP – Decatur High School agriculture education teacher and FFA adviser Jim Allsup (right) and students Shelbie Chandler and Brittney Hubbard prepare for the broiler show Monday at the Wise County Youth Fair. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“The man never stops going,” Tarleton State University student-teacher Lauren Petree said. “I’m 22 years old and get tired, but I have to stop and think that this man is 45 and is like the Energizer bunny.”

Born with cerebral palsy, Allsup visited many doctors and endured four major surgeries between the seventh and 12th grades. These procedures left him in braces and recovering for up to three months at a time.

“My parents were told by doctors when I was born that I would never walk,” he said. “My father put me on a horse when I was 2 1/2, and I was walking when I was 3.”

Growing up with his family in New Mexico, Allsup never felt separated from his family and peers by his disability.

“My parents and sisters never treated me any different,” Allsup said. “My father worked hard to keep any of that from happening. I got my butt busted with the best of them, and I had just as much chores as my sisters.”

As he grew up with cerebral palsy, Allsup always felt that his family drove him to achieve large goals and not be restricted by his condition.

“My parents never really told me ‘no.’ I was always encouraged to do everything I wanted to do,” he said. “My sisters were really my driving force behind it, too.”

As a young student in high school, Allsup became deeply involved in FFA and never looked back.

“My ag teacher in high school inspired me to teach agriculture education,” he said. “He was a great influence to me, and FFA was my escape.”

Now a seasoned educator of 23 years, Allsup has taught agriculture to students in Calallen and Decatur.

“I love getting students in agriculture and the FFA program,” he said. “I feel like if I can take any student and show them one thing and inspire a small interest to catch on, that’s what inspires me to keep going.”

When new ag teacher Mark Goggins met Allsup, he was excited to start working with such an inspiring individual.

“I think it is awesome that he is able to teach such a demanding field,” Goggins said. “He makes results when others make excuses.”

Petree, who is student-teaching at DHS this semester, hopes to model Allsup’s actions when she becomes a teacher as well.

“I’ve learned so much from him already in the four short weeks I have been in Decatur,” Petree said. “But I have learned how to balance life by watching him. People always tell me that this job I’m going into is rough on life. But I’m learning how to manage my time between family and friends and still do what I love.”

When she began her student teaching, Petree noticed how Allsup manages to earn students’ respect but also befriends them on a certain level.

“A lot of times, all kids want is to be respected,” she said. “I’ve learned to not only be a teacher, but someone the students can come talk to when they have no one else to listen.”

Participating in FFA for three years, junior Caylla Cotton values all of Allsup’s life lessons.

“He inspires me to keep going no matter what,” Cotton said. “Whatever I go through, I know I can’t be put down by life.”

Cotton feels Allsup has become a major role model in her life.

“He just helps you and treats you like you’re his own kid,” she said. “He’s always happy, and you never know when he’s having a bad day.”

Though he still has physical limitations, Allsup refuses to feel sorry for himself.

“I’ve had someone tell me, ‘You think your problems are bad? You ought to ask your neighbor.’ I like to keep to myself and not go through a pity party.”

Paris is a senior at Decatur High School. To read more from our Youth Spoken reporters, visit WCMessenger.com/youthspoken.

One Response to “No limits: Ag teacher overcomes physical disability”

  1. Cindy Berry says:

    Paris – what a beautifully written story about one of Decatur High School’s best teachers. Thank you both for the passion and dedication that you model each day!

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