Utley proves teachers  change lives

By Josh Beavers

Mr. Josh Utley, Lakeside teacher extraordinaire, traveled to West Monroe last week for the annual Louisiana Agriculture Teachers Association Conference. 

Little did he know he’d come home with not one but two distinct honors.  Utley was selected as Area 1 Vice President at large for the LATA. This means Utley will be president of the organization within a few years and charged with leading an initiative to help new AG teachers gain valuable skills they did not learn in university training. 

“There are more than 300 AG teachers in the state,” Utley said. “Our duty is to train new AG teachers in something they can’t get at school. We want to help them impart knowledge and skills for hands-on learning such as welding, small engines, leadership, pubic speaking, etc.”

In addition to the board election, Utley was the yearly recipient of the Teacher of Teachers Award, which is an honor earned by Ag teachers who have a former student become an Ag teacher. 

Early in his career at Lakeside, Utley taught Brooke Walker Henderson, who is now an Ag teacher at North Webster High School in Springhill.

In a previous interview with the Journal, Brooke was quoted as saying “whenever I find myself in a difficult position, I just ask ‘what would Mr. Utley do?’ And it usually works out.”

Of the honor, Utley said, “I guess I did the right things. She came to me when she was in school and said ‘I see what you do and I want to do.’ I’m so proud of her and want her to be successful. That never leaves you.”

Lakeside principal Denny Finley heard the news second hand from this reporter but was not surprised as all who know Josh Utley know his name is synonymous with humbleness. 

“He is a humble fellow,” Finley said.  “Josh is very passionate about his profession, and he passes it on to his students.”

Finley said longtime AG teacher Guy Sanders is the reason Utley is in the profession.

“He would have never went to college without Mr. Sanders building that confidence in him and Josh is forever grateful,” Finley said.  “Mr. Utley is doing the same thing on a daily basis.  He is helping people like Brooke, but Josh also sees it as keeping his profession alive for future generations to enjoy.”