On Saturday, April 24, Harris County School District Retiree Mike Turner was honored at the 93rd State FFA Convention. With his family in attendance, Turner was inducted into the Georgia Agriculture Teacher Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by the Georgia FFA Alumni.
Turner served as an agricultural science teacher at Harris County High School for 30 years. The nomination was submitted by Jessica Bowden, a former student and current ag teacher at LaGrange High School.
“I am blessed in more ways than I could begin to count. On Saturday, I witnessed Mr. Turner being inducted into the Georgia Agriculture Teacher Hall of Fame. It was an honor to apply on his behalf. But I would have applied every year if I had to,” Bowden said of the award. “Mr. Turner has influenced so many lives, including my own. Mike Turner, you will always be the best Ag Teacher a ‘gal’ can have. It was an honor to have you for class all four years of high school. But it’s even a greater honor to call you my mentor and friend.”
After World War II, the Harris County Agriculture Education Program and FFA Chapter was established by Turner’s father, Dewey H. Turner, Sr. Dewey Turner began the program by teaching both school and adult classes in farm management throughout Harris County. When Mike Turner began teaching, he taught alongside his father and developed the same pride and dedication to the agriculture program in Harris County. Turner’s Classroom/Laboratory Instruction areas included Horticulture, Forestry, and Agriculture Mechanics. The classes gave technical instruction that related to high school students. Turner took instructional materials and adapted them to meet the needs of individual students.
“I had the privilege of following in my Dad’s footsteps and carrying on the legacy of teaching Agriculture in Harris County,” Turner said about his Hall of Fame induction. “The true rewards of teaching is being a part in the development and success of young adults.“
Turner is credited with creating the school’s first Work-Based Learning program with companies in the area and by modeling hard work and ethics that impacted his students.
In 1955, the Harris County High School agriculture program received a 55-acre forestry plot donated by Cason J. Callaway, founder of Callaway Gardens, for instructional purposes. The plot was used to teach students the proper techniques in managing forests through hands-on labs and activities. Turner had a unique way of managing the forestry plot with his classes. Every acre of land was divided into a rotation. Every year each class learned how to survey a plot of land, measure and calculate the amount of timber harvested from the plot, selectively mark, and cut the plot, and sell the wood for money to go back into the program.
Jay Borden is the current HCHS agriculture education teacher and manager of the forestry plot. “I am proud to continue the heart of the program that Mr. Turner began here in Harris County. Mr. Turner set the bar for success both in agriculture education in the classroom and in the community, and that is what I try to model and teach to my students today. We are excited about all our ongoing projects on the 55-acre forestry plot, which is now called the ‘STEAM Farm’. Today, we have evolved the land to be an outdoor, hands-on, learning lab where we can teach the principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics to students of all ages and from all schools in Harris County. Mr. Turner continues to be a supporter of our program and a mentor to me.”
Other plots of land were managed through firebreaks and prescribed burns that the students performed. Through the years, Mr. Turner attempted to plant every tree that was native to Georgia for identification purposes.
The local chapter won 1st place in the Area Forestry Contest 19 times and Georgia Agricultural Education Hall of Fame Sponsored by the Georgia FFA Alumni placed 3rd in the National Forestry Field Day.
In 1999, the Partners in Agriculture Education was established in the Agriculture Department. The program included employees from Cessna Aircraft. The employees taught job market skills and leadership abilities in conjunction with the Agriculture classes.
In 2002 Harris County high school won 1st place in the State Partners in Education Award. Ultimately all departments of the high school were included in the program with field trips, sponsorships, Cessna Community projects, and instruction in various classrooms throughout the school.
In Harris County if you mention the Agriculture Program, someone will immediately refer to one of the Mr. Turners because of their dedication to the agriculture program, community, and students. In the words of one former student, “Everyone looked up to Mr. Turner. We wanted to make him proud.”