Not Your Typical AG Teacher
by Rusty Bates
When you walk into the Agri-science area of Ardmore High School, you quickly notice a major difference from most Alabama AG areas. The classroom is very similar to most in nearly all aspects. The shop is filled with welders, framing tools, and all kinds of equipment. The students are your typical teenagers learning new skills for the first time. The difference that sets this program apart is the teacher, Mrs. Lauren Graham. You read that correctly; the AG teacher is a female.
Lauren (Curtis) Graham grew up in Ardmore on the family farm. She attended Ardmore High School. After graduation, marriage, and the birth of her first child, she decided to go back to school. Agriculture is what she knew and loved. She chose to pursue that passion as a career. Her career choice would lead her to east Tennessee and then back home to her alma mater, Ardmore High School.
Graham understands that most students today don’t get the opportunity to grow up on family farms as she did. The Ardmore community is rapidly growing with subdivisions popping up everywhere. She feels that it is important to teach students and to make them understand that the very fiber of who we are and that the foods we eat all stem from agriculture. Mrs. Graham feels that this message is vital to our young people today.
There are many challenges facing teachers today. Graham says that being part of such a small minority can be one of those challenges. The state of Alabama currently has 306 registered Agri-science teachers. Only 17 of those are female. Graham relates this challenge with some of her earliest memories working on the farm with her mother. In her family, gender didn’t matter; finishing the job did. To her, hard work is just a way of life.
Graham credits her mother and father for her hard work and her success. She is very thankful for their support. She also speaks highly of her teachers and advisors at Middle Tennessee State University for their support as well. Former Ardmore Agri-science teacher Joe McKay also had a huge part getting her where she is today. Graham feels it an honor to succeed McKay, who retired last year.
Lauren Graham believes agriculture is all about life lessons, and from her personal life experiences, she has plenty to share. With the population growth of today, farmers are expected to feed more people on less land. New age farming technology must mesh with one of the oldest professions known to man. Mrs. Graham is certainly doing her part to help this process.
Note: Ardmore High School currently offers classes in Agricultural Exploration (which covers all things agricultural), Agri-construction Framing, Residential Wiring, and Metal Fabrication, all of which Mrs. Graham teaches. Ardmore chapter of The Future Farmers of America has 96 members and competes in 7 different competitions throughout the year.