Local advisers to receive Honorary American FFA degree


They competed against each other in FFA contests in high school.

They received agriculture degrees from Purdue University.

Then they returned to Jackson County the same year to teach agriculture and serve as FFA advisers.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

On Nov. 1, Brownstown Central High School’s Blake Hackman and Crothersville Junior-Senior High School’s Linda Myers will share one more similarity — receiving the Honorary American FFA Degree.

The organization’s highest honor is given to those who advance agriculture education and FFA through outstanding personal commitment, according to a news release from the National FFA Organization. It’s also an opportunity to recognize those who have gone beyond valuable daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students, inspiring confidence in a new generation of agriculturists.

Hackman and Myers will be among 51 people receiving the award at the 2019 National FFA Convention and Expo during an onstage ceremony at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“It’s rewarding but at the same time humbling,” Hackman said. “It also makes you think, ‘Oh, it’s toward the end of my career, too,’ which that’s like a deer in headlights. It just kind of hits you, and it’s like, ‘I’m not ready to retire.’”

When she received the email about the honor, Myers said she had to look at it twice because she thought it was a dream. It meant a lot because her father, Bob Myers, also received the degree. He died in 1995.

“I just sat there at my desk and cried,” she said, tears again welling in her eyes. “First of all, it would have been great for Dad to be here. And it’s an honor because your fellow ag teachers get to vote on that, and there are so many people in Indiana that I feel like they do so many more things than what I do. We have so many great people that being in that type of a group, just to say I’m overwhelmed is understated.”

Blake Hackman

Hackman was in FFA all four years at Seymour High School, serving as district president, chapter vice president and state secretary.

He said he was drawn to the competitions, including creed speaking, public speaking, livestock judging and soil judging. His adviser was Nelson Lewis.

“He was a quiet man, but he had a sly way of challenging me, saying, ‘You can’t do that,’ and it would challenge me, and he knew that,” Hackman said. “He told me afterwards, he goes, ‘I knew you had it in you, but I had to challenge you.’ Wonderful man. He was a really good man.”

After Hackman graduated from Seymour in 1978, he went to Purdue to study mass communications. He, however, didn’t like the curriculum.

“I finally went back to what my love was, which was agriculture, but I didn’t want to return to the farm, so I decided I wanted to be Nelson Lewis, an ag teacher,” Hackman said.

Once he earned his degree in 1985, he taught a semester at Union High School before spending two years at Knox Community High School.

Then he was hired at Brownstown and spent seven years teaching alongside Bob Myers. After that, it became a one-man program.

“I had a former principal say, ‘It’s your program. You do with it what you want,’” Hackman said. “I was completely in charge to do anything and everything I wanted to do. I had standards I had to meet. The state requires standards, but they don’t tell you how to teach it, so you can be as creative as you want. I’m creative, so it was like I was on a stage every day being able to act in front of those students teaching them.”

Under Hackman, Brownstown Central FFA has participated in crop judging, livestock judging and chapter meeting contests; attended camps at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center in Trafalgar; helped set up and man the FFA building at the Jackson County Fair; sold fruit, vegetables and flowers; and done community service projects.

“That’s one thing I stress, community service, because a lot of these kids are going to return here, and you get them to partake in the community, and then they have ownership in the community and they take care, they take pride in the community,” Hackman said. “That’s what’s cool.”

He said the students who come out of the program become like family.

“The kids develop into really good citizens, and I know the program helps them because they learn to speak in front of people,” he said. “Especially in a texting society, it gives them an edge of being able to speak in front of people. They become leaders, and I take great pride in that.”

Hackman said he also has been fortunate to have a very supportive administration.

“You can’t do this without a supportive administration, and they see the effects of the program, and they are just 100% behind anything I do,” he said.

Receiving the Honorary American FFA Degree takes Hackman back to the early 1990s when he accompanied Roland and Doris Hackman to the national convention in Kansas City for Roland to be presented the same honor. Roland was a local farmer who donated money to the Indiana FFA Foundation.

“He and Doris always had a soft spot for FFA, and he was recognized nationally for raising all of those funds,” Hackman said. “Now, I’m getting that award that he received, which that’s pretty special.”

Hackman has 75 members in his FFA chapter, and he doesn’t have any plans to step away from his position any time soon.

“I love coming to work. It gives me a purpose to get out of bed, and I love what I do,” he said. “I know there will be a day that I won’t enjoy it anymore, and then it’s time to retire. I think I’m still effective, too, because I get that from the kids, and I think you’ll know when you’re not effective with the kids anymore.”

Linda Myers

While Myers didn’t join FFA until high school, she was around the organization at a young age because of her father.

“When I was old enough to go anywhere, Dad would say, ‘Let’s go to this meeting,’ so I would carry the books and I would carry the briefcase,” she said. “I got to know a set of ag teachers that were of his generation.”

At BCHS, she served as chapter president and district secretary and also was a state exchange student in Wales in the summer of 1982 after she graduated. She stayed with eight different families during that trip and taught Wales’ agriculture upon returning.

She earned an associate degree in agriculture from Vincennes University in 1985 before transferring to Purdue, where she received a bachelor’s degree in ag education in 1987.

Myers was a student teacher at Central Nine, a vocational school in Greenwood, focusing on one of her areas of interest, horticulture. The ag teacher at the time, Jim Cummings, was from Seymour and near retirement, and everyone thought Myers would take his place.

She, however, learned of a job opening at Crothersville. She and two others from Purdue were interviewed, and she was the one chosen.

One day, Myers and her father were in Brownstown eating lunch when a man approached their table. Bob asked the man if he heard who was hired as the ag teacher at Crothersville. He assumed it was a man.

“I reached my hand across the table and I shook his hand,” Myers said, smiling.

At the time, there was only a handful of female ag teachers in the state. Now, the roles have been reversed, including in Jackson County, where four of the seven FFA advisers and ag teachers are women.

When she started at Crothersville, she taught small engines and welding, so she immediately had to prove herself by showing others she knew about the various aspects of agriculture.

Another challenge was turning the ag and FFA program around.

“When I got here, for the last five or six years, they had had an ag teacher every two years, so there was nothing that was really concrete. It was just another class,” Myers said. “They had FFA, but they didn’t even have enough members to have an officer team, and the treasury was in the red. It was a big decision to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to start with something at that level.’”

Crothersville FFA received support through the organization’s craft show in November and toy and food drive in December. This year, those events are celebrating 25 and 31 years, respectively. Plus, Myers said she has received good support from administration.

Through FFA and ag classes, Myers tries to instill the love she has for the broad range of topics in the students.

“Crothersville kids don’t predominantly come from a farm, but they still can love agriculture, so whether it’s operating a lawn mower, having a garden, small pets, they can still teach that to other students,” Myers said. “Here, I’ve got the elementary right at my back door, so it just really, really is convenient for us to be able to do that.”

The Honorary American FFA Degree is special to Myers not only because her father received it but because she will be joined by one of her ag teachers, Tom Wallace, in receiving it Nov. 1.

The plan is for 30 of her FFA members to attend the national convention and see her get the degree. The Crothersville chapter consists of 55 members in grades 6 through 12.

Beyond that, her career goal is to at least reach 34 years, which is how long her father taught at Brownstown.

“I have to top Dad. I’ve got to at least do that,” she said, smiling. “I still have things I want to do.”

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Six of the 51 people receiving an Honorary American FFA Degree at the 2019 National FFA Convention and Expo on Nov. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis are from Indiana.

They are:

Dale Griffin, Rossville FFA

Blake Hackman, Brownstown Central FFA

Joe Martin, Indiana FFA Association

Linda Myers, Crothersville FFA

Greg Schneider, Greensburg FFA

Tom Wallace, Owen Valley FFA


No posts to display