An agricultural journey

By Chase Jordan

June 8, 2014

As Hobbton High ag teacher Tim Warren welded a piece of metal, bright sparks flew and quickly disappeared as they touched the floor. To the average person, the work looks a little intimidating.

“A lot of them are scared of welding,” Warren said about his novice students. “You got something that’s 6,000 to 8,000 degrees at the end of an electrical charge. It’s throwing spatter around and they’re not used to that kind of thing.”

But Warren never wanted his students to have those feelings at the Hobbton High School (HHS) workshop. He encourages his students to be confident.

“I tell them that failure is not always failing,” Warren said. “Failing to attempt something is sometimes failing.”

For 33 years, Warren has taught agriculture science and mechanics at the school.

“I spend more time here than I do at home,” he said.

On July 1, the educator and FFA advisor, also known by his students as “T-Dub,” is retiring.

“It was a hard decision to make,” he said about the choice related to family reasons.

Warren said he would like to spend more time with his father, George, who is currently battling an illness.

He has been married to his wife for more than 30 years and they have two children. His daughter, Erin, is graduating from North Carolina State University, and is studying fashion design and merchandising. Garrett, Warren’s son, is currently pursuing a doctorate from Vanderbilt University.

When he interviewed for the job, there was a lot of turnover. Warren decided to give it a shot for three years. But he decided to stay for more than three decades.

“I made a lot of good friends,” he said.

Those friends consisted of faculty members, students and community members. One of them is local farmer Reggie Strickland. He graduated from HHS in 1983 and was FFA president during his senior year.

“I think he’s done a great job of teaching kids,” Strickland said. “He was a great mentor.”

Warren took Strickland on a tour of NC State, which had a big impact on his decision to attend college there.

“He was great,” Strickland said. “We were almost like brothers instead of a teacher and a student. That’s how he treated me. We were very close.”

Over the years, they kept in touch. Warren was even present when Strickland walked down the aisle for his wedding.

“That’s how much he meant to me,” Strickland said.

He was also present when his mother June passed away.

“That’s the example of the kind of person he is,” Strickland said.

Josh Barfield, a pastor and recent Duke University graduate, was a student of Strickland’s from 2004 through 2008.

“He was always focused on teaching his students to become leaders,” Barfield said. “He didn’t demand perfection, he just wanted you to show up and be dependable.”

Barfield said he always pushed students to go to the next level and encouraged him to help people.

“Out of all the teachers I had, Mr. Warren made the biggest impact on me as a person and my character,” he said.

Former student Amanda Ropp said Warren is a blessing to everyone that has sat in classroom.

“Over my four years of high school, the people that made the biggest impact on my lives were my agriculture teachers,” Ropp stated. “Mr. Warren is an icon in the Hobbton community — and for a good reason. He set an example for his students to lead through service. Early morning Bojangles breakfasts, emergency trips to buy me new high heeled shoes because mine broke right before I was to compete, and teaching me how to catch a quail-those are the memories I have of high school and all are because of my time in the Ag department at HHS. I am who I am today because Mr. Warren and Mr. Jessup sought to instill a passion for agriculture and leadership in myself.”

She graduated from HHS in 2009 and went on to serve as a North Carolina State FFA vice president, the only one from Hobbton.

“Over my term as a North Carolina State FFA vice president, I met many talented, passionate agriculture teachers from across the state,” she said. “All share a love for their career, but Mr. Warren loves his job with a fierceness that cannot be compared to. He was truly a part of my life, and so many others feel the same way.”

She later graduated from the University of Mount Olive in 2012 with a degree in Agriculture Education. She’s currently an agriculture teacher at Northside High School, Pinetown.

“As a teacher myself, I find myself channeling my ‘inner T-Dub’ as much as possible,’” Ropp said. Beyond his ability to wrangle a classroom full of teenaged boys, he had a way of showing — not telling — what we needed to know and understand. I learned more in the walls of the agriculture department in four years than I have nearly anywhere else.”

Some of that learning included leadership, dedication, responsibility and “how to be a killer public speaker.”

With the help of others, Warren said the school has developed a strong FFA program, which benefited many students at HHS.

“It teaches leadership skills and how to work as team,” Warren said about FFA.

While growing up in Halifax County, his agriculture teacher Mack Edwards influenced him to become an agriculture teacher.

“He did a lot for all of his students,” Warren said. “I probably spent more time with him in high school than I did with my parents. He was a good man.”

After graduating from Northwest Halifax High School in 1976, Warren attended North Carolina State University and earned his bachelor’s and master’s in agriculture education. About 13 years ago, he became a national certified teacher.

Along with confidence, Warren tells his students to find something they enjoy doing in life.

“You need to find what your passion is,” he said. “I can’t say that every day I wanted to come here, but 99.9 percent of the time, I did.”

His journey at Hobbton began after having trouble with his car’s brake line. At the time, he made a living by cutting grass.

“I was wondering where I was going to get the money to pay for it,” he said.

After making a few calls, Warren began working at HHS.

“I went from cutting grass to teaching ag,” he said. “The small things make a difference.”

When he arrived in the 1980s, he taught horticulture and was challenged by not having a greenhouse or textbooks to teach with.

“I had nothing to work with except a piece of chalk and a board,” he said.

He eventually built the green house and received text books a few years later.

Warren is thankful for all the support from the school and the community for educational programs.

“Those things mean a lot to me,” he said. “If I asked for something, I can’t remember being turned down. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to come here. If I had to do it all over, I’ll do it again.”

Jason Davis, state FFA coordinator, said his father was in the military and his family moved away to Japan and then to Arkansas from the fifth-grade to his sophomore year of high school. When he returned during his junior year, he enrolled in ag education because his dad informed him that “Every man needed to know his tools.”

“Little did I know the path that I was about to embark on,” Davis said. “Mr. Warren saw in all of us a spark, a desire, something that the average teacher didn’t. We were more than a test score or another paper to grade. He took the time to teach us. We gained more than technical skills and know-how, but rather the values and character on which all other skills are based.”

Davis said Warren was the only teacher that came to visit his home, meet his parents and showed an interest in him.

“He was instrumental in getting us to expand our horizons and our potential wether it was learning how to place livestock, speak in public, or our first overnight trip away from home,” Davis said.

Warren shared many stories about Edwards and how he had been influential in his life.

“Before this I thought I wanted to be an architect because I loved to draw, but realized that a greater passion was teaching, agriculture, and helping others,” Davis said.

He also taught with Warren for seven years and said he was a great teacher, mentor, coach, Godly father and even a fishing and hunting buddy.

“He was my support system and network,” Davis said. “From fixing a piece of equipment to advice on how to reach an unresponsive student, Mr. Warren was there to help. I contribute my success if any as a teacher to his guidance and mentoring.”

Ropp said Warren is an amazing man.

“Hobbton isn’t experiencing a loss…sure things will be different but Mr. Warren’s legacy will always remain,” she said.