The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Layne Taylor brings hands-on learning to our Ag program

 

February 3, 2021

Big Sandy High School AG students have been blessed for the last three years by the presence of Layne Taylor. Layne brings his interests, experiences, and passions to the classroom to make the AG education experience a benefit to our community's young people. One example (of many) is the newest addition to the shop: a metal forge. Mr Taylor turned his personal interest in metal working into an opportunity to teach. "I built a forge over Christmas break. For 23 years, I've been been curious about wanting to teach forging. We've been watching forging fire on tv," Mr. Taylor explained during our interview. "We're teaching it, and the kids are loving it. We're teaching about different metal properties and how to identify different kinds of metals and carbon content of metals. How to heat-treat metals to anneal it and temper it, what all that means. Any kind of metal work and foundational stuff that people want to know that are not really taught very well. That's just one example. We've been able to bring in the forge. I just intended to teach it with my freshman kids as their gas-welding unit. I have a great bunch of freshman boys that are just eating up what we are doing. I just have a lot of fun with them and they were really excited about it. And the juniors saw it, and they want to do it. The sophomores saw it, and they want to do it. So, I'm like sure! We can all do a lesson with it." Later, he showed me the project each kid completed in the unit, a chisel hammered from a car's coil strut. The metal working unit is just one example of interests and experiences finding their way into practical education.

Layne's energy to inspire a love for Agriculture in young people began at an early age on his father's farm in Colorado. "I've always loved agriculture. I was raised on the farm, really my whole life. I wanted to farm, but Dad sold the farm when I was 13, 14 or 15. He was just going broke at it, so he sold.In the 80s, a lot of farmers were going broke and even since then, it's a tough, tough livelihood. So, I didn't really have a farm to go back to. I grew up milking the cows at my grandpa's place. I milked cows on the bigger dairies all through college. I just have always loved agriculture. I love livestock. I love the crops. I love rural America. I love being in a small town. I love associating with people in agriculture, down to earth, salt, hard-working people. And I've always loved building things. I took shop classes - every shop class that I could take in High School. I just really enjoyed those shop classes - woodworking and metals and ag. My whole life, I've just found a whole lot of joy building things for myself."

Mr. Taylor has been teaching AG for 23 years in various schools. He also worked as a crop consultant in Dillon for 2 years after working in the large Ag program in Dillon, where the pressure to teach larger and larger classes, along with coaching 8 or 9 FFA teams at a time, and constantly butting heads with the school's administration prompted a time away from the classroom. During that time, he worked as a crop consultant in the Dillon area. Today, that experience is applied in the classroom with hands-on work analyzing crop needs. "There's a lot that I learned during those time periods that I brought back with me into my classroom. Especially my juniors and seniors. I go through that same soil test process with my juniors and seniors that I was taught. It's a 10-step process, and we go through it nutrient by nutrient and look at MSU data. How do we figure out [what we need] if we've got this much Nitrogen in the soil, and we want to raise this crop, how pounds of Nitrogen to raise this crop? Then how do we come up with a Nitrogen recommendation. Basically, what we're seeing in the soil based on the organic matter and how to calculate those. And then we go through the Phosphorous and Potassium and look at the micronutrients - Magnesium and Boron and Zinc. I walk them through that as juniors and seniors. And we go out and learn how to probe the soil for soil moisture. How to interpret a tissue sample test. A lot of the stuff I learned. It's been great to be able to bring that stuff back and use it in the classroom."

Mr. Taylor came to Big Sandy from another large Ag program in Kallispell. He says he loves the opportunity to work in a smaller classroom environment where he can develop relationships with students.

Layne came to Big Sandy with his wife of 27 years, Wendy. The couple met in college at BYU-Idaho. The couple was introduced by a close friend of Mr. Taylor's. They have four kids. The oldest recently graduated with a degree in Agronomy. Their second son is currently in the Marine Corps. Their daughter is currently doing her 2 years of mission service in Utah. The couple's youngest son is currently a freshman in Big Sandy.

Layne indicates that Big Sandy has treated him well. He was a little apprehensive of working in a small school after a bad experience student teaching. He particularly likes the combined junior and senior high school setting. "I really like the idea of working with Jr. High through High School kids. Some of these kids I will see every day for 6 years. That's part of the reason you'd become an Ag teacher, so that you'd be an influence on kids' lives. And in those big schools, they come and go, and it's just all numbers. It's harder to develop those relationships. I wanted the opportunity to develop those relationships. It's been a nice fit. After 23 years, it's been a relief - to be able to come back and teach, and focus on teaching and eliminate all of the politics."

 
 

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