One biology teacher and some farm animals are what got students started in their careers.
Greg Pile, a teacher at Sumner High School is retiring after 38 years of teaching.
Pile encouraged students to join the Future Farmers of America (FFA), an agriculture program that is taught around the nation, including at Sumner High.
When he first started, Sumner was more farmland, but over the past four decades, it has become more of a suburb area.
According to the FFA website, 73 percent of FFA members live in rural farm areas and 27 percent live in the urban suburbs.
Pile kept the program going, even though FFA segments are not common in suburban areas.
The program that Pile taught helped kids prepare for the real world in more ways than one. Not only did it teach them responsibility, it was also a stepping stone into veterinarian and medical fields.
“Kids pick up a lot of skills that they use to peruse some of their personal goals as far as making career choices,” Pile said.
The kids were able to learn how to draw blood from some of the animals and learned about their biology.
Pile and his students worked with the Washington State University’s vet program to do all of this.
He said that not too long ago, he had a student come to his house to tell him that they got into the medical school that they wanted to get into and they wanted him to be the first to know.
Leanne Leistiko, a member of the Sumner High Alumni association, said that Pile has had a huge impact on the students and cared a lot about them.
“He always put the kids first,” Leistiko said.
It is expensive to get animals from other farmers in the area, so sometimes even if a student wanted to be a part of the program, they were not able to afford an animal.
To help, Pile knew just about all the farmers in the area, so he was able to strike up a deal with them to pay them back later. He was so liked in the community that sometimes the farmers would just donate the animals to him and the students.
He was always working to keep the program going, according to Leistiko
Due to medical reasons, Pile choose to retire after years of hard work and passion.
Last year, he experienced a stroke in November, but recovered fairly quickly. Soon after that, in January, he slipped on ice and hit his head while walking out of his classroom. He said the next thing he remembered was waking up in intensive care.
It took him six months to recover, but even though he is doing better, he felt it was in his best interest to retire.
“I have tried to maintain a high performance level as a teacher,” Pile said. “And now I question my ability to maintain that level.”
The replacement for Pile is Maria Montoya. She and Pile attended the University of California.
Pile said he is confident that Montoya is the right replacement for him and will carry on the program and the class work well without him.
He really enjoyed getting to watch the students grow as individuals and to see them get to do something that inspired and encouraged them to do great things.
He said he is okay with retiring now, even though his goal was to make it to 40 years. He has his wife, kids and grandchildren to look forward to spending more time with.
“I enjoyed 38 great years to a great community, I feel blessed.”