Some of the best teachers aren’t paid to teach

It’s Thanksgiving time and we’ve all known some person who could teach us more than we ever learned in school. We need to thank them. Sometimes the person was a parent. Maybe it was a grandparent or other relative. It might have even been a neighbor or family friend, but the depth and broadness of our education depends on other people supplementing our teachers.

This past weekend I took four Northeastern High School students to Sanford to compete in the State FFA Veterinary Science competition. Fifty-eight schools were there including one from our sister school Pasquotank County High School. Northeastern placed first and Pasquotank collected third.

This was a rigorous competition and our local kids outshined those from other school districts with far more resources. Competitors took a general knowledge test, identified from lists of 76 dog breeds, 35 parasites, and 80 pieces of veterinary equipment. They also had to calculate proper doses of drugs to treat animals of various sizes and they had to perform common veterinary tasks. I’m extremely proud of both teams.

Neither would have been in that position without the tireless efforts of Dr. Darlene Lannon. Every Thursday after school she worked with both teams, showing them examples of parasites and teaching about the life cycles. Students learned to administer injections, restrain animals and identify and describe the usage of equipment. Students also learned how to culture and identify parasites at various stages of their lifecycles. Dr. Lannon broadened and reinforced their background in animal nutrition, physiology and general care too.

Those young people were privileged to have someone from the community give up personal and professional time for them. Dr. Lannon could easily have been earning herself more money by treating a few more patients. She also could have been getting some much needed rest. Our students know and appreciate that.

It’s so helpful for us teachers to have people like Darlene to help supplement our efforts in the classroom. Two years ago she worked with our Vet Science team that placed second nationally. Last year, she and Dr. Larry Cooper helped five of my advanced pre-vet students by giving them practical experience. That preparation enabled all five to pass the National Certified Veterinary Assistant test. Volunteers from the community can provide our students resources they can’t always get in school.

The whole experience also teaches our students that learning is a lifelong endeavor, and we always should help the upcoming generation. We also need to help wherever we can. Initially some of my students are puzzled as to why I help their competitors from other schools. It’s simple. The tougher competition they face the better they get. Facing national competition is hard enough without having been pushed as hard as possible first. These Northeastern students will get that opportunity in Louisville next October.

As a teacher I’ve learned to find other people who could help my students. I’m grateful our community is full of examples. Darlene is just one of many, but she surely helped these young people rise to the top.


Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School. (

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I recently retired from teaching high school agriculture after 25 years teaching with my wife. Until recently I wrote a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper ( I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that can be purchased on Amazon in Kindle format. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone (presently out of print), a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death (this one is not yet published). In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books. I also wrote a romance novel titled Virginia. It is available on Amazon and is a different type of romance from a man's perspective.
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