OBLONG, Ill. (WTHI) - When News 10's Patrece Dayton was researching our next Golden Apple Award winner, she came across a quote that seemed kind of funny at first...but then it started to make a lot of sense.
It says, "If at first, you don't succeed, try doing it the way your ag teacher instructed."
To some, this might make you laugh, but once you get to know the ag teacher at Oblong High School, in Oblong, Illinois, it will all seem to fit.
Kerry Travis teaches much more than "cows, plows, and sows." He teaches teenagers confidence, comradery, and community service.
When you walk inside Oblong High School, you'll find what many call a fixture in the building.
Travis has been teaching for 29 years. Every single one of those years was in Oblong.
He's a mainstay in the small community, literally teaching generations.
"It's different than maybe English or Math. You might have them a semester or a full year, but then they're gone. A lot of times when I get students in Ag classes they're gonna be there for all four years," Travis said.
Oblong High is a small school. It only has around 175 students. But each year, about half of the student population takes at least one of Travis's classes.
He says very few of the kids come from a family farm, but the kids enjoy hands-on learning.
They do things in the shop or the greenhouse. Travis takes them on field trips to different businesses and farm machinery shows. He also teaches them about commodities on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Learning life-long lessons like career building, resume writing, and interviewing skills.
"It's definitely not cows, sows and plows anymore. It's so much more than that with the leadership, public speaking, and everything else. Computers and we just started a job interview," Travis said. "There's so much more out there that meets the eye of what agriculture or ag education used to be than what it is now. I don't care if you come from a farming area or an area that's more urban...agriculture and ag education are still so very, very important."
Travis is also the school's FFA advisor. It's an organization he says teaches kids leadership, work ethic, and community service.
He has been described as having a heart for serving others. He's well known in the small community for digging in and helping out.
"Groups call me all the time and say hey can I have just like last week we were putting up American flags..can you have 4 people ready to go tomorrow to put flags up on the telephone polls for Labor Day or can you have 20 kids out tomorrow putting up Christmas lights at the park," Travis said.
But perhaps this teacher is more known for his love of laughter.
When we asked him what he wanted his students to remember about him, he said, "I love to be funny and cut up. I just think that's important every day. Even if you're not making people laugh you should laugh at yourself....especially in today's world as crazy as it is and not so funny. I think it's important that you're having fun in life."
Travis told us teaching, like ministry, is a calling. He believes educators are called into their profession to make a difference in the lives of young people.
Our next, and final Golden Apple winner takes us back to Terre Haute.