By Kim West
Instead of traditional retirement gifts, Randy Blacklidge received a unique present from friends, colleagues and former students of the Elkmont High School agriscience teacher.
Blacklidge, who will officially retire in June after 34 years at Elkmont, has spent nearly 38 years instructing students in the finer points of fish and wildlife, farming, carpentry and metal fabricating,
Blacklidge, the school’s Future Farmers of America sponsor, will be inducted June 6 into the Alabama FFA Wall of Honor during a luncheon in Montgomery.
The Wall of Honor, which began 17 years ago and has more than 150 inductees, recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the agricultural industry, education and FFA.
“The Alabama FFA Foundation sponsors the Wall of Honor. The original goal of the foundation was to raise $1 million, which would be invested and used to fund contests and scholarships,” said Blacklidge. “The Wall of Honor is an ongoing program of that, and a teacher can be nominated by people in the community, friends and students. They raise $1,000 and donate in a person’s name, and that person is added to (the Wall of Honor).”
A graduate of Red Bay High School in Franklin County and Auburn University, Blacklidge will join Red Bay’s Herbert Trulove on the Wall of Honor.
Blacklidge, who also has a master’s degree from Alabama A&M, said his top priority throughout his teaching career was to promote and propel students in FFA and help them find success after graduation.
“What has always been most important is the success of students. A lot of students have gone on to get their national (FFA) degrees. I’ve had two teams that have gone on to participate in national contests, and numerous individuals that have placed in state competitions,” he said. “My proudest accomplishment has been watching students succeed in those endeavors, and there’s been many students I’ve had the privilege of teaching and helping along the way.”
Blacklidge said he followed his instincts and evaluated his energy level after nearly 40 years as an educator.
“I did not want to (figuratively) retire, and teach two or three more years. The time has come for someone else to come in and take over, and maybe take the program in a different direction,” he said. “I’m going to take the rest of the year off, and baby-sit my grandbabies. I want to build a shop, and be a little more involved in church activities. Next year, I might look for a part-time job to add to my time but I just knew it was time to move on to a different career.”