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Glimmer of Hope-Story Honoring Mr. Barnes

By: Linda Barnes
McNairy Central High School

“Learning to do….Doing to learn….Earning to live….Living to serve” are the words of the FFA motto and are words that Rod Barnes uses for teaching and reaching students at McNairy Central High School in Selmer, Tennessee.

Mr. Barnes is a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor and was recently named county Teacher of the Year as well as Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year. His philosophy is that all children can learn and that learning should be fun and relevant. He believes in teaching the subject matter to his students, and he also incorporates other disciplines such as English, math, biology and applied science into his curriculum. He tries to make learning relevant and applicable to real-life situations.

While teaching fertilizer analysis and application in his soil science class, students use extensive mathematical calculations and analysis. He stresses that this is not just an assignment but is also a necessary skill when students begin their own farming operation, nursery enterprise or landscaping business. It’s also useful for them to know to fertilize their own back yard or flower beds. In agriscience and livestock management, he teaches advanced plant and animal genetics, which reinforces information learned in advanced biology. This reinforcement helps students score better on the science part of their Gateway exams.

Mr. Barnes is a strong proponent of teaching academics as well as life skills. Public speaking is a part of every class as participants memorize and recite the FFA creed. It is Mr. Barnes’ hope that by learning basic public speaking skills, students will overcome their fear of speaking before a group and will be more willing to stand up for their beliefs. In leadership class, he teaches resume writing, cell phone etiquette, table manners, and how to tie a necktie. He also explores leadership skills and strengths.

He believes in teaching so that all children CAN learn, and he feels that learning should be fun. He uses interactive games, Power Point presentations, outside speakers, traditional lectures, outdoor exercises and hands-on learning so that all children will have the opportunity to learn and excel. His classes are designed with numerous hands-on labs so that everyone can participate, even the children who do not normally enjoy a successful academic career.

Mr. Barnes believes that every student needs to feel that he or she can be successful. He offers numerous opportunities through FFA activities, classroom projects, judging competitions and community service projects for every child to experience success. His goal is for every child to begin to believe that he or she can achieve some measure of success in life. He urges students to get involved, work hard, focus on a goal, dream big, be dedicated to their dreams and believe in themselves.

He says that his greatest reward as a teacher is to see a glimmer of hope in students’ eyes when they realize that someone believes in them. The glimmer grows in strength and intensity as students achieve successes through class exercises such as potting and growing or as they participate in community service projects such as planting a vegetable garden for the local assisted living home. These activities help students realize that they are a valuable and needed part of this community.

Whether staying after school to work with the Dairy Judging Team or taking a class to the Farm and Gin Show in Memphis, this teacher does what it takes to stimulate a desire to learn. Through learning and achieving success, students begin to believe in themselves. This belief changes a glimmer of hope into a beacon of desire for a better tomorrow.