BUTLER — Passing the torch.
Longtime Eastside High School agriculture teacher and FFA sponsor Sam Reinoehl is handing over the program to one of his former students as he moves into retirement.
Reinoehl recently completed his 41st year of teaching at Eastside.
Former student and Purdue University graduate Lauren Jacobs will lead the program beginning in the fall.
“Lauren said, when she graduated, she wanted to replace me,” he said. “I kind of stuck around. I thought enough of her and wanted to give her a chance.
“With Lauren coming back, it gave me something to shoot for,” Reinoehl said. “It’s really kind of neat to know one of your former students is going to come back, take over, make some good changes and continue other things.”
Throughout his career at Eastside, Reinoehl taught mostly agricultural-related classes. During the 2020-2021 school year, he taught a class that was half agriculture, half industrial arts. In the past, he also taught careers courses.
Ag mechanics, animal science, landscaping, natural resource management and taxidermy were some of the most popular classes he taught at Eastside.
With changes in the state curriculum, some courses were no longer standalone offerings or combined with other courses.
“People that took it just loved it,” Reinoehl said of taxidermy. “We had enough kids who were hunting and fishing that they really liked it.
“It’s continually evolving,” he said of the curriculum. “When I started in 1980, a lot of the focus was on production, and then we got more into the science of it.
“Production agriculture is big, the number of farmers is getting smaller and smaller, but (the farms) are getting bigger,” Reinoehl said. “The accessory things that go into agriculture have expanded. Even to sell seed corn, there’s so many genetic traits and treatments that can go into it.”
Science is being emphasized more and more through many courses, and agribusiness is another point of emphasis.
“Most of the changes are good, but it would still be nice to teach sows, cows and plows like we used to,” Reinoehl said. “There’s a lot of great opportunities for a lot of kids.”
Agriculture still has misunderstandings associated with the field.
“They still think it’s for farmers; it’s a lot bigger than that,” he said. “In fact, that’s why FFA changed its name (from Future Farmers of America), because it didn’t reflect the true industry.”
For Reinoehl, seeing some of his former students move forward and become successful in life has been very rewarding.
“I’m unique in the fact that a lot of the students I get, I’ll deal with either through the FFA or through classes for four years, maybe five years,” he said. “In four years, you see a lot of change in kids. I have a lot of former students who own businesses. That has been rewarding.”
Seeing former students who didn’t necessarily enjoy school make something of themselves is another heartwarming feeling.
“The ones you know are going to be successful, you don’t have a lot of influence on,” he said. “I got more satisfaction out of seeing someone who was struggling a little bit.
“You’d like to think there’s a few of them that maybe you did have a little influence on to where they were a little more successful.”
Reinoehl and his wife, Sandy, have twin adult children, with three grandchildren.
“I’m not even a hobby farmer really. Some of my ground, I rent out to a neighbor,” Reinoehl said. “I like to make a little hay, raise corn and soybeans.”
Other than a vacation trip to Hawaii, Reinoehl said his future plans are undecided. He would like to get involved in more church and community activities.