In the past 29 years, members of the Soroco High School National FFA have garnered more than 100 awards under the leadership of chapter sponsor Byron Dean. He was honored Thursday night at the chapter's annual banquet.

Photo by Matt Stensland

In the past 29 years, members of the Soroco High School National FFA have garnered more than 100 awards under the leadership of chapter sponsor Byron Dean. He was honored Thursday night at the chapter's annual banquet.

FFA sponsor Byron Dean honored for 29 years of service

Soroco adviser recognized for 29 years of success with 1 left to go

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2009-10 Soroco FFA officer team

Joseph Long, president

Michael Rossi, vice president

Lanette Laman, secretary

Bailey Forester, treasurer

Danielle Donaldson, reporter

Derek Crawford, sentinel

Madison George, historian

Taylor Hammer and Tyler Kelliher, executive committee

— It's been more than 25 years since South Routt rancher Bobby George took agriculture classes from longtime Soroco High School National FFA chapter sponsor Byron Dean, but the life lesson George took from his teacher stays with him today:

"The harder you try, the better success you'll have in anything."

On Thursday evening, George's daughter Madison, a Soroco freshman, was one of about 25 students honored in the chapter's annual banquet in the Soroco gym. Dean hesitantly accepted some recognition himself, in the form of a "retirement basket" filled with a fishing rod and crossword puzzles.

At the end of June, Dean technically will retire from his position as agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor. He plans to stay on for one more contract year before leaving the school.

FFA chapter president Kimberly Rossi said Dean encourages students to work independently and do things for themselves. For Rossi, those things have included four years on the chapter's award-winning parliamentary procedure team and earning her American degree, the highest honor in FFA.

"He doesn't hand things to you, and he doesn't push you. But if you are motivated to do something, he'll help you do it," Rossi said, recalling about two weeks during her junior year when she sat in Dean's classroom every day after school and worked through the lengthy and detailed American degree application. The process was filled with numbers and calculations that have to be done accurately and that Dean has helped more than a dozen students complete.

"He's been here for 29 years - he kind of knows the ropes," Rossi said.

Sustained success

When Joseph Long and Jephrey Donaldson receive their state degrees in June, they'll be the 29th and 30th of Dean's students to achieve that honor. Alumna Glenda Long will be the 16th chapter member to achieve her American degree. Dean compared his chapter's numbers to national averages.

"It's less than 3 percent that ever get their state degree, and it's less than 1 percent that get their American degree. : We're way above the mark on both of them," he said. Those statistics, and the more than 100 district and state competition plaques that line the walls of Dean's classroom, have been a point of pride. Achievement in FFA tends to spread to other endeavors, Dean said.

"I've been able to watch compared to other students, and these kids tend to really excel, and I'm very proud about that," he said. FFA advisory board member David Long estimated about 90 percent of Soroco chapter members go to college or trade school after graduation. His daughters, Courtney and Glenda, and his son, Joe, have earned top FFA honors in their time at Soroco.

The sustained success - which South Routt Schools Superintendent Scott Mader compared to a championship basketball program - is a different outlook for the chapter than what it faced when Dean took his job 29 years ago, David Long said.

"He took a group that was basically on probation that fall that he came, and has taken it to be one of the top in the state, consistently," David Long said.

Independent spirit

Before Dean showed up in Soroco, he was a military veteran who was back in school, taking agriculture classes with a plan to eventually become a veterinarian.

He was in his late twenties at that point, and he was told he might want to try teaching.

Dean - who grew up in a family of Arkansas Valley melon farmers - thought becoming an educator might make more sense than committing to another four years of school before starting a career, he said.

"I picked this school as the school I wanted to go to, and I've been here ever since," he said.

When he does retire, Dean said he hopes to move to a ranch in Westcliffe, a small town about 60 miles away Pueblo.

For now, Dean has one more year to teach agriculture, win a few more FFA awards, and encourage students to think and act for themselves.

On Thursday, as the final table settings were arranged and a slide presentation was set up for the banquet, Dean pointed out how smoothly everything was running, how not a single student - except for one FFA officer who wanted to make sure Dean understood the order of the program - had asked for his help.

"My role in FFA is adviser, and that's what I do," Dean said. "I just advise things, and they take the ball and run."

- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.

Comments

JusWondering 4 years, 11 months ago

It was more than 20 years ago that I sat in Mr. Dean's classes but I have to tell you the practical lessons he taught us have stuck with me through today. I learned how to be a salesman through the orange and grapefruit sales. I learned about my rural heritage... and that it is something to be proud of; something to embrace and something to cherish. I learned about stewardship of our lands and wildlife and that it is a responsibility not a right. I learned about self-sufficiency and that I can try to do anything and succeed at most... even though I may be better at some things than others (I never did get the perfect weld). One of the most important lessons that has helped me in my career today has got to be the lessons in parlimentary procedure. As an officer of a 50 billion dollar company my reflection on proper protocol taught by Mr. Dean has got to be one of the greatest lessons this humble teacher could have ever imparted.

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upstream 4 years, 11 months ago

Can't say enough about the youngsters pushing the edge of excellence in South Routt's FFA program- you kids amaze and inspire me! Thank you to the pilot for remembering to recognize our agricultural heritage- as the superintendant stated, this program is akin to any championship sports program. Thank you Mr. Dean for your dedication to our children, our past and our future. Enjoy the feeling of a job well done (-: . Who among us will step into these shoes?

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