Glen Dossett doesn’t technically retire from teaching until the end of this month. He has been a part of the teaching establishment for 50 years and it’s somewhat comforting to know he’s not completely out of the field, yet.
A day was declared in his name in Mineola, a surprise party in his honor was held in Golden and his daughters gave him a scrapbook packed full, all as part of the celebration of this milestone event.
For many, the veteran teacher has been part of the Mineola School District as long as they can remember. When he started teaching, he pointed out, nobody had even been to the moon yet.
Two weeks after his last day in the classroom, sitting in an armchair in his home there was only some resemblance of his stoic self – he was relaxed and ready to talk about his profession.
Of course, there’s been lots of changes in the 50 years he’s been in teaching. As an example, on his first job on the first day of school all students started the day in the auditorium. When the principal called their teacher’s name students would hold their hands up and then they would be led to the classes. “It’s a lot more computerized and technology is all an intrical part of it anymore,” he said.
“Kids are different. Parents are different.” When he started a lot of his students lived on farms and now, seldom do the children live on farms. “But just the whole environment is different than when it was when I started – the way of doing things is all different.”
Dossett weathered 50 years of educational, administrative and staffing changes. “You conform and do what you have to do to make the best of it. Some of the change is good. Some of it’s not so good. It’s just part of the job.”
As he pointed out, the moon landing occurred during his first job as a teacher – which was in Pittsburg. Computers, he said, were “unheard of.” Pocket calculators were the latest thing in technology. “Back then there was controversy of whether you were going to let kids use calculators or not.”
Teaching tools have changed from film strips and 16 millimeter projectors to the internet. But, he realizes the whole world has also changed. “Just driving your car - cars are a lot different than they were then. So it’s no different than what everybody’s got to do - everybody’s got to adapt, get along the best they can.”
Also, a half a century ago when he started, he said there were no women ag teachers. Now when he attends a district meeting, there are as many women there as men. There also weren’t girls in the program. Anita Tucker was his first girl student. She followed in the footsteps of her big brother, Bobby, who was in Dossett’s first class in Mineola, beginning as a sophomore who rose to the level of national FFA president. In fact, many of the students from his first class are still in the community and he sees them on a regular basis including James Huff, Carlist Brinkley and Ron Minatrea.
Dossett said that agriculture programs can be many different things and can go in many different directions. “But I’ve always favored leadership - the individual leadership part that’s developed through FFA activities and experiences.” That can involve speaking contests, animal projects and career development events. “I think that’s interested me the most, seeing kids progress and develop.”
And just like a seed that’s sown, watered and grown in a farmer’s field, he has seen results from the program. “Sometimes,” Dossett said, “those kids were a lot different when they graduated than when we started with them in ninth grade. They’ll tell you that.” He’s gotten feedback that the things - the events, projects and positions - the students participated in were much more valuable than the actual instructional part of the program. The instruction changes just as, “a textbook is pretty much out of date when it comes off the press. A computers like that.”
His former students have used skills they learned in FFA in their lives. He said it might be speaking or the ability to reason and figure things out on the spot. Those are skills sharpened by being involved in livestock projects, leadership positions and fulfilling those responsibilities. “I think it’s served the kids well, most of them that’s been in it,” he said. “It’s been good for them.”
His alumni have used the leadership education well. He and his wife Darla recently counted the FFA officers and they number 44 district officers, “a lot of” area, four state officers and one national officer. Those competitions are not categorized by school size, so Mineola students can compete in their district with students from schools that range in size from Fruitvale, and Yantis, to Robert E. Lee. Mineola’s district includes Wood, Smith, Van Zandt and Rains counties. But despite this, “They’ve done well,” he said.
“That’s not because of me. That’s just the program,” he says. “There’s other schools around that have successes like that. It’s just the opportunities that they’ve been exposed to.”
Many of those officers, but not just the officers, have gone on to do quite productive things in their lives. The Mineola ag program alumni include a railroad executive, school teachers, a principal, assistant superintendent and a superintendent. There are very successful businessmen who have a background of vocational education, as well as firefighters, first responders, law enforcement and members of the military. Many of those students keep up with him.
Teachers include Brant Lee who has been the ag teacher at Quitman School District several years. One of his Mineola High School classmates, Corey Hammond, was hired at the same district as an assistant to fill in and ended up being hired on a fulltime basis. Paulette Aguilar is a teacher in Pittsburg, where they have five teachers and 400 students. Rocio Martinez has been working in Gladewater but will return to Mineola next year to teach Spanish. Cody Mize is a superintendent in Winona, Michael Mize in secondary school principal in Alba-Golden. Torri Harbuck Miller is the assistant superintendent in Winnsboro.
Dossett said many of his students joined the ag program late in their high school years, after they fulfilled the required courses. Two of those who entered his program this past year as seniors were very active and claimed scholarships after only one year in the program. And one of this year’s graduates started a job at Tyler Pipe the Monday after graduation. He was hired from a field of 300 because he knew how to work the plasma cutting machine in the ag department.
Dossett’s wife, Darla who retired after 35 years of teaching more than a decade ago, said that she recently had a mother tell her that her son is a welder and he has said, “every time he lays a bead, he thinks of Glen. He taught him how to weld.”
The ag alumni include three Mineola School Board members – Board President Regan Brandon, Brinkley and Jill Quiambao. Mayor Kevin White was in his program, as was former Mayor Rod Watkins.
“They’re everywhere,” Darla said and laughed.
Dossett has a high opinion of the youth in the community. “There’s a lot of kids in the community with a lot of talent.” The ag program is “just an opportunity to express it.”
In addition to reaping a crop of successful and skilled adults, the Hay Show, known to be the longest-continuously running event in the state, sprouted from the ag department. Last year’s was the 50th anniversary of that event, and Darla said they added up the figures of the years and a half a million dollars had been raised through the event.
All that money has been spent on youth agricultural activities – scholarships, livestock shows, an ag truck and trailer, the show barn and event expenses. This past year $18,000 worth of scholarships were awarded to seniors.
Dossett says the community has been “exceptionally supportive” of the ag program and that’s not something he sees everywhere. He’s speaking not only of finances, but of people helping out when needed. “I’ve been fortunate to be in that setting. Some people are not. It’s hard when you’re not.”
His wife was a teacher, but Mineola’s long-time ag teacher didn’t come from a family of educators. His father was a farmer all of his life and that was all that Dossett knew. “Did you know Mr. (Lester) Cole” he asked. He was Dossett’s high school ag teacher and when Dossett said he’d like to get an ag degree, Cole encouraged him to get a teaching certification as well, just in case he needed it someday. So Dossett took that advice, but, “I never intended to teach.”
But for his student teaching he went to Winnsboro and Burt Bullock was his supervising teacher. “And I guess he’s responsible for me being in the teaching business.” They worked together during the spring 1967 semester and in the fall Dossett was hired in Pittsburg, even though the district really wanted an experienced teacher. They couldn’t find any such teacher who would take the job so, “they gave it to me,” he said with a slight grin. Dossett was there three years until Mineola added a second teacher to work with Cole. “So that’s how I ended up here.” He said that Cole, Johnny Cates and Burt Bullock, “as far as career-wise, those people had all the influence on me. That’s the reason I’m doing what I do.”
With his years in education, one can’t help but wonder what Dossett thinks about the current emphasis by the state on vocational education.
“We’ve done this before,” he said. “There’s been a push for vocational education and, it’s like a pendulum clock – it swings this way and swings that way.” But as far as emphasis on vocational ed, he does believe that is good. He’s not nearly as much of a fan to trying to get children to decide what college and career they want while they’re in junior high school though.
Asked why he’s retiring now, the teacher answered, “It’s time. I’m 71 years old.” He said the environment is different and the past two or three years he’s struggled with the technological end of things. There is a lot of the job though, he admits, “I wish I could still be active in but it’s just time to retire. They needed a younger person that can hear better,” he said with a little chuckle.
One thing he’s considering becoming involved in is a brand new teacher mentoring program the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas is starting. He said there have been many teachers getting into the field who leave in less than five years. The association is hoping older teachers could help with that.
While the ag program has been good to his students, Dossett said it has also been good to him. He would definitely recommend it to someone considering becoming an ag teacher as a career. “We need good teachers and if your heart and souls not in it, you don’t need to be in any teaching profession – whether it’s ag or anything else.” One of his students who’s now a teacher spent many years in the private business world before finishing his education to become a teacher because that is what he really wanted to do.
“So those are the kinds of people that you need in teaching. People that are there because they want to be there. And they’re willing to put up with things that are not so desirable about the job.
“Yeah, I’d recommend it. It’s been good to me, my family. It’s been a good way of life. I wouldn’t do anything different.”
What does he plan on doing in his retirement? “You see, I don’t have any plans. I’m more focused on what I am not going to be doing than what I am going to be doing.” Chuckling, Darla commented, “I know he’ll be watching `Gunsmoke’ at 12 every day.”