The values Lanny Fisk instilled in hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of students who passed through his agriculture classes highlighted his 30-year teaching career. His teachings and the example he set for his students also earned him a place in the Kentucky Agriculture Teachers Hall of Fame.
"Probably the most important thing about teaching was I hoped that I could instill in young people a sense of responsibility and commitment to a task, and the leadership, and character that makes a big difference in success," he said. "If I could do those two or three things and develop self-worth in an individual and help bring students along and build character, that's probably the most successful thing I could do."
Fisk, 70, who with his wife, Ellen, lives on the rural Benton farm where he was born, was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer. The honor was bestowed on Fisk and four other Kentucky men during the FFA's annual convention at Rupp Arena in Lexington with an audience of 2,600 FFA members. Their plaques hang in the FFA Leadership Training Center at Hardinsburg. The others inducted were: James Ladd, under whom Fisk did his student teaching at Trigg County High School; Dr. Tony Brannon, who as a college freshman, was Fisk's student when he was a graduate teaching assistant at Murray State University; Daniel Hale and Marion Higgs.
"There were five teachers recognized across the state for their contribution to agriculture education," Fisk said. "The title was 'Teachers That Make a Difference.' It was just a special award I had gotten bestowed on me." Being inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time as Ladd was a special thrill for both men. "I visited with him just a week ago; we've remained very close friends through the years," Fisk said.
Though he retired in 2004 after teaching agriculture five years in McLean County and 25 years at Marshall County High, Fisk was not content to spend his time in a rocking chair, and he continues to better the lives of Kentucky's youth.
"I still work part-time for the West Kentucky Educational Co-op at Murray," he said. "I direct a federal grant and work in two middle schools in western Kentucky." He is in the fourth year administering this particular grant. "I've worked three grants for them since I retired in 2004," he said, noting the co-op is housed at Murray State University.
"This particular grant where we are working in middle schools deals with two major components: 'The Leader in Me' based on Franklin Covey's 'Seven Habits of Successful Teams' and PBIS -- a part of it, which is 'Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies.'"
Fisk's love of farming and the farm way of life led to his teaching career and still motivates his work. "I grew up on a farm and I always had a love for agriculture, and the things about agriculture," he said. "Having a farm background originally, the thing that I could not do was farm (the land) I grew up on; I knew I could not make a living farming (that property). It wasn't large enough, and it was so expensive to get involved."
So, Fisk decided he could still contribute to farm life through teaching agriculture and working with young people. "I thought if I could work and help them stay involved in agriculture doing it through education, that might be an alternative for me," he said. "If I had it to do all over again, I'd do it the same way. It was a great career and I enjoyed every minute of it. I've said so many times that I feel so blessed to have had a job for 30 years that I enjoyed going to every day. I always looked forward to going to school, and I don't think it gets any better than that."
He added that what he is doing now with the students in middle schools is also one of the most positive things in which he has been involved. "We've got schools here in western Kentucky that the office referrals are down 40 and 50 percent because of these programs we are operating," he said. "That's a win-win for teachers and students. I feel so blessed to be from Marshall County and to have been able to teach in one of the best school districts in the state of Kentucky. I've been around a lot, and I've talked to a lot of teachers across the state, and our district may not be perfect, but it's one of the best in the state."