By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools

Bruce Haley will be first to admit his handkerchief gets wet from time to time.

No. He’s not wiping the sweat from his brow.

It’s from drying the tears that fall when he stops to think about the impact he’s had in the classroom. In two weeks, Haley will begin his 39th year as an agriculture teacher at Eagleville School. He was recently recognized with a Gold Award from the National Association of Agriculture Educators. The award recognizes those who have inspired 10 or more of their students to pursue the teaching of agriculture.

Haley would have been given the award last year, but the conference was canceled because of COVID. As of this year, he has now inspired 11 students to pursue the career.

Haley was the only teacher to receive the honor this year.

“If I didn’t have a few tears, I would feel like something’s wrong,” Haley said. “It warms my heart and I have a feeling of, well, maybe I did do a little something.”

He added, “I was humbled … and I didn’t realize, really, that I had that many teachers out in agriculture.”

Over the years, more than 100 former students have gone into education as teachers, school- and district-level administrators, including current Rocky Fork Elementary Principal Scott Bolden.

Last year, 17 teachers at Eagleville had attended the school and taken agriculture with Haley.

“I just feel a lot of pride,” Haley said. “I’m proud they went on to be in the profession.”

In addition to touching the lives of young people, he’s hoping they will eventually do that same when it comes to impacting the future of agriculture in the classroom and keeping good people in the ranks as educators.

“I had teachers like that,” recalled Haley, who never intended to be in education. Instead, he planned on being a veterinarian until he discovered agribusiness. “I thought, well, maybe this is where I need to be.

“I enjoy being with young people, educating young people, getting them ready for all our competitions. Sometimes I look at myself more as a coach than I do a teacher. I don’t know any other way to say it, I’m sure I’ve gotten more out of it than the kids have gotten out of what I’ve done.”

Haley expressed gratitude for having been blessed with the career he’s had and humbled to be starting year 39.


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