'Mr. FFA' recognized for bringing ag into classrooms
Highlands TodaySEBRING - Gary Lee had no idea why Sebring High School's ag teacher Hallie Webb's students were interviewing him, but he went along, anyway.
Published: November 1, 2012
Published: November 1, 2012
Turns out it wasn't idle curiosity that was driving the questions.
Webb's students were on assignment by their teacher to find out more about the veteran ag teacher and administrator, who continues to work as a part-time resource teacher for agriculture even after he retired from the school district in 2008.
Lee found out this summer why he was being grilled, and it was a pleasant surprise.
Webb called him up to tell him about someone from another county Lee had nominated for the Florida FFA Hall of Fame.
This person was selected to be inducted.
Then Webb, who had nominated Lee, coyly added, "Oh, by the way you were selected, too."
This October, Lee became the first person from Highlands County to be inducted into the hall of fame that seeks to recognize those who have "dedicated their life to the enhancement of agricultural education/FFA."
A number of teachers and students from Highlands County attended the induction ceremony.
"Thank you for all the support I have gotten over the years," Lee told the Highlands County School Board at its meeting Tuesday. "I really couldn't ask for a better place to live for over 30 years and work here and raise my family."
School Board Chairman J. Ned Hancock read a resolution in Lee's honor.
Florida FFA Foundation Inc.'s executive Director Gary Bartley said in an email that anyone can be nominated by teachers, alumni and others.
A selection committee reviews the nominees and evaluates their accomplishments.
"This is a statewide effort to recognize those deserving people throughout our 84-year history," he said. "Our rules state that we can recognize up to five people annually, two of which, may be deceased."
Lee, 66, was raised with seven siblings, including a fraternal twin.
He has a bachelor's degree in agricultural education from the University of Florida along with a master's degree.
Before coming to Highlands County in 1978, Lee worked with the Polk County school system and was an agricultural consultant for the Florida Department of Education.
He was the Highlands County School District's director of career and technical education for 28 years, and was widely known as Mr. FFA.
"He worked to develop agricultural education programs in schools that had none by explaining the importance and value of teaching youth about agriculture and developing their leadership skills through FFA," according to a bio on the foundation's web site.
Over the years Lee has been an advisor to three state-winning parliamentary procedure teams.
"His knowledge of agricultural education, his integrity and sense of duty, and his work ethic have been second to none." The foundation added.
Lee has also been a director and past president of the Florida FFA Alumni Association and secretary since 1983. He is a charter member of the Sebring FFA Alumni Association.
He has also been recognized with honorary membership in six FFA chapters, as well as the honorary state FFA degree and honorary American FFA degree. He has received National FFA Alumni's Legion of Merit citation for 19 continuous years and received the National FFA Alumni Achievement award in 2011.
Lee retired in 2006 after 38 years of teaching and administration but couldn't stay away for long.
"Still longing to be an active agricultural educator," he became a part-time resource teacher, where he coaches FFA parliamentary procedure teams and helps FFA advisors, along with volunteering for Ag-Venture, a local program that promotes agriculture in the classroom.