Friends and family gathered Sunday to honor a longtime Dawson County teacher and member of the Georgia Agriculture Education Hall of Fame on his upcoming retirement.
Reggie Stowers, who began teaching at Dawson County High School in 1983, said he's decided to retire from teaching and "catch up on 30 years of chores."
"I will miss the contact with the students, the daily class time when I got to watch students as they connected the points that what they were doing in agriculture actually applied in the math and science classes," he said. "It gives some students a real life tie to the academic classes."
Stowers, who previously taught at Winder-Barrow High School, is ending his more than 30-year education career on a high note, having received numerous Future Farmers of America awards and the hall of fame induction in January.
He also has been all over the country with "his kids," taking them to agriculture shows across the Southeast and as far as Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Mo., and Oklahoma City.
Last year, the school's FFA went to 28 contests, which Stowers said took countless hours and some 40 days of preparation.
"Being a successful FFA adviser and agriculture teacher becomes a way of life," said Dawson County Superintendent Keith Porter. "Mr. Stowers gave many weekends, mornings and nights to work with students so that they could be successful at competitions."
He went on to note that the two men had "taught together for a number of years."
"I have always had a tremendous level of respect for him as an outstanding educator and person," Porter said. "In his field, he rose to the very top, being selected to the FFA Hall of Fame and earning numerous awards and recognitions. However, the one thing that I will remember the most is the difference that he made in so many students' lives."
Dawson County High Principal Jute Wilson praised Stowers for his service.
"Reggie has reached thousands of students over the years, providing instruction and preparing them for careers," Wilson said. "He will be sorely missed by students, teachers, parents and community members."
A 1975 Dawson County High graduate, Stowers held the position of Future Farmers of America Chapter president his junior and senior years, as well as the state FFA vice president during that same time.
One of Stowers' former students, David Wilkins, recalled that Stowers was the kind of teacher who would do anything to keep his students invested in the coursework and to ensure they got the most out of life in agriculture.
"Most teachers teach their whole career without students letting them know they made a difference," he said. "I want Reggie to know that he did. He made a huge difference in my life."
Wilkins was a member of the first team Stowers took to FFA nationals in 1980 at Winder-Barrow.
Stowers said his immediate plans are to continue working with FFA, only from a different vantage point.
"I have a new job that will allow me to work a few days a week from June through September. I will be working with Southern Heritage Fund Raisers," he said. "They work with FFA chapters, sports teams and other school groups that need to raise money. My area of work will range from Macon up to north Georgia and east Tennessee."
Looking back, Stowers said it was difficult to pinpoint a favorite memory in his career.
"There are so many ... it is very hard to pick just one," he said. "Standing on stage and have a student, Bradley Weaver, be named the top FFA member in the country was very special. Coaching four teams in national FFA contest was awesome.
Also memorable to Stowers were "standing and watching my own children, Leah and Seth Stowers, earn FFA Awards and just helping hundreds of students over the years achieve awards and accomplish goals that they set for themselves."
According to Wilson, Stowers will remain at the high school long enough to assist his successor, Eric Hickox, in the transition.
"Reggie is a big man, with a big heart, who has left very big shoes to fill," Wilson said.