Polk County Farm Bureau Ag Teacher of the Year recognized for 31 years of service
Fifty-three-year-old Pete Gordon grew up on a cattle ranch. So when it came time to choose a career, he didn’t want to wear a suit to work. “Teaching ag was a good fit for me,” he recalls.
On the ranch, he learned to build fences, operate equipment, manage resources, and borrow money for the operation. Working cows taught him when to hold them, when to let them loose, and when to turn the dogs on them.
“Most of what I learned on the ranch helped me to become the Ag teacher I turned out to be,” he observes. Gordon retired recently from Polk County schools after 31 years. He has been named Polk County Farm Bureau’s 2014 Outstanding Agriculture Teacher of the Year.
As an Ag teacher, he recognized his students’ unique abilities, helped them choose a career path, and taught them the skills they required. “During my tenure at Lake Region High School, I taught many students welding,” he recalls. “Many of them went into that field after graduation— and today, they have good-paying jobs.”
Gordon, who lives in Fort Meade with his wife, Angie, graduated from Fort Meade High School and South Florida State College in Avon Park. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Food and Resource Economics from the Gainesville-based University of Florida.
Through the years, he taught Ag Production, Ag Technology, and Ag Mechanics at Mulberry, Lake Region and Fort Meade high schools. His passion for building led to his development of a two-year revitalization program for Fort Meade High School’s Ag program. The improvement plan called for construction of a full-size Ag Barn, where students could raise animals for the Polk County Youth Fair. “I have always felt that students learn better hands-on,” he says. “I needed to know that they knew how to actually do the task, not just answer a question in a book.”
Part of his job was being the school’s advisor for the National FFA Organization chapter, and helping students prepare for the Youth Fair. Several were elected as Florida FFA Association officers; many times his students ranked high in state Ag Mechanics finals. “Allowing students to choose the activities they want to be involved with has always created a better learning environment for them,” he says.
One of the highlights was helping his own children— Charity, Christal, and Sammy— prepare for the fairs and contests. Now he has helped his granddaughter, Hope Elliott, learn the FFA creed.
Ag definitely is a tradition in his household. Pete and Angie, along with their son Sammy, all received Polk County First Year Greenhand awards at Fort Meade High School. All three were FFA chapter presidents. And, his two daughters and son followed in his footsteps in showing cattle and pigs at the Youth Fair.
story by CHERYL ROGERS
photo by MATT COBBLE