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To that very first class of students who sat in his classroom more than 34 years ago, he said he was sorry.
"I had no clue what I was doing," William Wallace Evans said.
Yet every person who attended the retirement celebration for Taylor County High School's longest-serving agriculture teacher on May 31 will readily vouch for Evans' value as an educator and leader in the Taylor County community.
From the roughly 3,800 students who had him in class through the years to the teachers he has worked alongside and the friends he has made, Evans has influenced the lives of countless members of the community.
His career highlights include him being named Taylor County Agriculture Person of the Year, establishing the Taylor County Agriculture Horticulture Department and being a founding member of the TCHS site-based decision-making council.
Most recently, Evans was nominated for the Kentucky FFA Foundation's Ag Teachers Change Lives. The program was started in 2009 to honor those teachers whose students can say, "Without my agriculture teacher, I would not be where I am today."
Whether he taught you how to grow award-winning corn and flowers or challenged you to be a leader in FFA, the seeds of opportunity he planted in the minds of young people helped lay the foundation for many to become successful farmers and leaders in the community.
Evans said what he is going to miss most about teaching is getting to interact with the students every day. As a former TCHS student, this doesn't surprise me.
While I never had Evans as a teacher, he always made a point to stop and ask how my day was going when I passed him in the hall. And even in the years since my graduation, when I see him out and about, he still goes out of his way to ask how I'm doing.
If you're fortunate enough to know Evans or another teacher who has influenced your life in a meaningful way, make sure you let them know. Often it's not until many years later that we realize how a few words of encouragement, or even a bit of discipline, helped put us on the right track.
And although Evans is retiring from teaching, his dedication to helping others will continue. He reassured the audience in the closing line of his speech.
"If there's anything that I can ever do for you, just let me know and we will try to do it," he said.