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Cox says good-bye to teaching

DUBLIN — “I’ve had two jobs my whole life,” said Mike Cox.  “I’ve farmed and I’ve taught school.”
However, after 30 years of balancing those two jobs, Cox has decided it’s time to focus solely on farming at his family farm in Allisonia. 
As for teaching, Cox began that career in the agriculture department at Pulaski County High School in 1978 and remained teaching there for three decades.
Before that, Cox graduated from Dublin High School, where he had been very involved with FFA, serving as the chapter president and as a state FFA officer. 
At the encouragement of his agriculture teacher, Cox pursued and earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech in agriculture education in 1976.  He later went back to VT and earned a master’s degree in agriculture education in 1981.
Since then, he has been named both a National and Virginia Outstanding Agricultural Educator, has served as president of both the National and Virginia Association of Agricultural Educators and has served as chairperson of the PCHS agriculture department for 28 years.
In addition, Cox has served on numerous directorial boards and associations throughout Pulaski County and the state, and is currently the president of the Board of Directors for Pulaski County Farm Bureau.
According to Cox, the agriculture department at PCHS has transformed over the past three decades that he has taught there.
“When I first started, there were four ag teachers, very few girls and the classes were much more production based,” he said.  “Many of our students were ‘farm kids’ at that time.”
However, constant changes have been made over the years to meet the needs of what the local community wants, Cox said.
Some of the major changes have been in curriculum.  Since Cox has been teaching in the agriculture department, a forestry program has been implemented, along with welding, small-engine, equine and leadership classes.
“We’ve also had to make changes because a majority of our students now are non-farm kids who are very interested in agriculture, so we try to teach things that are not just production or farming oriented,” Cox said.  “We try to teach the whole area of agriculture.”
In addition, today, female students outnumber male students in the agriculture department.
“One thing I tried to do early on was recruit girls into the ag program,” Cox said.  “That was a goal I had.  I even used to meet them in the lunch lines and ask ‘hey, why aren’t you taking ag?’. Then once you get a few in there, that’s all it takes.”
As another goal, Cox made it his responsibility to recruit incoming freshman to the department through being the primary teacher for ‘Ag I,’ the entry level course for agriculture.
“I always felt it was my responsibility to get those kids in there as ninth graders and get them turned on to ag,” he said.  “And as the saying goes “they’re going to find a home somewhere” and we wanted that home to be in ag.”

As for the future of PCHS’ agriculture department, Cox said that he would definitely like to see the forestry program kept intact, especially since the forestry program is being phased out for next year.  He added that he’d like to see it reorganized and said that it should be more in tune with outdoor recreation instead of just forestry. 
“Right now, even in this county, agritourism and outdoor recreation are booming, so I think the ag program should take advantage of that and center more around that,” Cox said, noting that if he weren’t retiring, he would definitely be heading in that direction with the program. 
In addition to reorganizing the forestry program, Cox said that he would like to see his teaching position filled for next year.
However, as of now, it looks as though that won’t be happening.
According to Dr. Don Stowers, school superintendent, in creating their budget, the Pulaski County School Board had to cut several teaching positions.  Three of those teaching positions were at PCHS, including a technical education position, assistant band director position and Cox’s position in the agriculture department. 
Stowers explained that these cuts were mainly due to the loss of approximately 200 students within the entire school system over the school year, which in turn lowered the amount of funding the school system received, along with a drop in Virginia’s sales tax which decreased funding. 
In addition, Stowers noted another reason for the agriculture teaching position being cut is that the number of students at PCHS who selected agriculture education courses as their first choice for elective classes has declined over the past three years.
Cox fears that cutting this third teaching position will have a detrimental effect on the agriculture department. 
“That program is set up for three teachers— no less than three,” Cox said.  “Because of the activities and different programs, and the classes that are taught, it almost demands three teachers to be there.  If you looked at our after-school activities, it truly is remarkable.  Two teachers just can’t get it done to the level that this community expects.”
And according to Cox, the local agriculture community has high expectations.
“When I first started teaching, one member of the community in particular, Bonnie Boothe, came to me and point-blank said ‘you keep this program strong,’” Cox said.  “I’ll never forget that and I always tried to do that through maintaining a very active program, because I know what this community expects from their ag program. They demand a strong ag program. They don’t want any less.”

Cox said that as for Jennifer Delozier and Laura Grove, the two agriculture teachers who will remain, “I have no doubt that they will try their best to maintain the type of program that this community wants, but without that third teacher, it will just put a workload on them that will be way too much.  So I think for this community to have what they want and a program they can be proud of, having that third teacher— it needs to happen.”
While Cox’s position may not be filled for next year, steps are already being taken to explore changes to strengthen the agriculture department at PCHS.  An example of this took place this past Thursday evening, when the School Board, Superintendent Stowers, PCHS administration, Cox, Delozier and Grove, and students, parents and members of the agriculture community met to express overall concerns, ideas and suggestions related to the agriculture department. 
As Cox enters his retirement, he said that the things he will miss the most will be “my colleagues and people that I’ve worked with for so many years, the kids, the activities, and just the hustle and bustle of it all.”
Cox will be greatly missed by his colleagues as well.
“It has been a blessing to work with Mike during my first three years
of teaching,” said Grove.  “He is a model example of a teacher who is professional, passionate about his content area and sincere with his students.  Mike exhibits a true love for agriculture and he continues to be an inspiration to me.”

Delozier added, “As a former student of Mr. Cox I was taught the value of education, leadership and integrity, all of which have molded me in to the person I am today. From a colleague’s perspective I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be mentored by such a superior role model for the first four years of my career. I can honestly say I have experienced the best of both worlds. Thank you, Mike. “  

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Cox says good-bye to teaching

DUBLIN — “I’ve had two jobs my whole life,” said Mike Cox.  “I’ve farmed and I’ve taught school.”
However, after 30 years of balancing those two jobs, Cox has decided it’s time to focus solely on farming at his family farm in Allisonia. 
As for teaching, Cox began that career in the agriculture department at Pulaski County High School in 1978 and remained teaching there for three decades.
Before that, Cox graduated from Dublin High School, where he had been very involved with FFA, serving as the chapter president and as a state FFA officer. 
At the encouragement of his agriculture teacher, Cox pursued and earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech in agriculture education in 1976.  He later went back to VT and earned a master’s degree in agriculture education in 1981.
Since then, he has been named both a National and Virginia Outstanding Agricultural Educator, has served as president of both the National and Virginia Association of Agricultural Educators and has served as chairperson of the PCHS agriculture department for 28 years.
In addition, Cox has served on numerous directorial boards and associations throughout Pulaski County and the state, and is currently the president of the Board of Directors for Pulaski County Farm Bureau.
According to Cox, the agriculture department at PCHS has transformed over the past three decades that he has taught there.
“When I first started, there were four ag teachers, very few girls and the classes were much more production based,” he said.  “Many of our students were ‘farm kids’ at that time.”
However, constant changes have been made over the years to meet the needs of what the local community wants, Cox said.
Some of the major changes have been in curriculum.  Since Cox has been teaching in the agriculture department, a forestry program has been implemented, along with welding, small-engine, equine and leadership classes.
“We’ve also had to make changes because a majority of our students now are non-farm kids who are very interested in agriculture, so we try to teach things that are not just production or farming oriented,” Cox said.  “We try to teach the whole area of agriculture.”
In addition, today, female students outnumber male students in the agriculture department.
“One thing I tried to do early on was recruit girls into the ag program,” Cox said.  “That was a goal I had.  I even used to meet them in the lunch lines and ask ‘hey, why aren’t you taking ag?’. Then once you get a few in there, that’s all it takes.”
As another goal, Cox made it his responsibility to recruit incoming freshman to the department through being the primary teacher for ‘Ag I,’ the entry level course for agriculture.
“I always felt it was my responsibility to get those kids in there as ninth graders and get them turned on to ag,” he said.  “And as the saying goes “they’re going to find a home somewhere” and we wanted that home to be in ag.”

As for the future of PCHS’ agriculture department, Cox said that he would definitely like to see the forestry program kept intact, especially since the forestry program is being phased out for next year.  He added that he’d like to see it reorganized and said that it should be more in tune with outdoor recreation instead of just forestry. 
“Right now, even in this county, agritourism and outdoor recreation are booming, so I think the ag program should take advantage of that and center more around that,” Cox said, noting that if he weren’t retiring, he would definitely be heading in that direction with the program. 
In addition to reorganizing the forestry program, Cox said that he would like to see his teaching position filled for next year.
However, as of now, it looks as though that won’t be happening.
According to Dr. Don Stowers, school superintendent, in creating their budget, the Pulaski County School Board had to cut several teaching positions.  Three of those teaching positions were at PCHS, including a technical education position, assistant band director position and Cox’s position in the agriculture department. 
Stowers explained that these cuts were mainly due to the loss of approximately 200 students within the entire school system over the school year, which in turn lowered the amount of funding the school system received, along with a drop in Virginia’s sales tax which decreased funding. 
In addition, Stowers noted another reason for the agriculture teaching position being cut is that the number of students at PCHS who selected agriculture education courses as their first choice for elective classes has declined over the past three years.
Cox fears that cutting this third teaching position will have a detrimental effect on the agriculture department. 
“That program is set up for three teachers— no less than three,” Cox said.  “Because of the activities and different programs, and the classes that are taught, it almost demands three teachers to be there.  If you looked at our after-school activities, it truly is remarkable.  Two teachers just can’t get it done to the level that this community expects.”
And according to Cox, the local agriculture community has high expectations.
“When I first started teaching, one member of the community in particular, Bonnie Boothe, came to me and point-blank said ‘you keep this program strong,’” Cox said.  “I’ll never forget that and I always tried to do that through maintaining a very active program, because I know what this community expects from their ag program. They demand a strong ag program. They don’t want any less.”

Cox said that as for Jennifer Delozier and Laura Grove, the two agriculture teachers who will remain, “I have no doubt that they will try their best to maintain the type of program that this community wants, but without that third teacher, it will just put a workload on them that will be way too much.  So I think for this community to have what they want and a program they can be proud of, having that third teacher— it needs to happen.”
While Cox’s position may not be filled for next year, steps are already being taken to explore changes to strengthen the agriculture department at PCHS.  An example of this took place this past Thursday evening, when the School Board, Superintendent Stowers, PCHS administration, Cox, Delozier and Grove, and students, parents and members of the agriculture community met to express overall concerns, ideas and suggestions related to the agriculture department. 
As Cox enters his retirement, he said that the things he will miss the most will be “my colleagues and people that I’ve worked with for so many years, the kids, the activities, and just the hustle and bustle of it all.”
Cox will be greatly missed by his colleagues as well.
“It has been a blessing to work with Mike during my first three years
of teaching,” said Grove.  “He is a model example of a teacher who is professional, passionate about his content area and sincere with his students.  Mike exhibits a true love for agriculture and he continues to be an inspiration to me.”

Delozier added, “As a former student of Mr. Cox I was taught the value of education, leadership and integrity, all of which have molded me in to the person I am today. From a colleague’s perspective I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be mentored by such a superior role model for the first four years of my career. I can honestly say I have experienced the best of both worlds. Thank you, Mike. “  

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