The man whose name is synonymous with the study of agriculture at Oak Harbor High School – where he has influenced thousands of students in the classroom and the farm field, is retiring May 31.
An open house for Louie Damschroder is scheduled for May 15 from 1-3 p.m. in the agriculture education shop.
Damschroder was a recent graduate of Ohio State University when hired in 1976 by the Benton-Carroll-Salem district for its vocational education program at the high school.
”The years have gone by pretty quickly,” he said last week. “But kids are kids. Kids today are the same as they were 35 years ago except they have a few more tools to keep them on task. But you still have to keep them progressing in a forward direction.”
The school had what is generally considered a solid agriculture program when he arrived but his peers credit Damschroder’s enthusiasm and drive for energizing the Future Farmers of America Chapter as well as other groups like the Oak Harbor Young Farmers and Young Farm Wives.
The school’s agriculture program went from having two instructors to three and the FFA program saw 43 students receive American FFA degrees and 150 state FFA degree winners during Damschroder’s career.
Noah Neiderhouse, another instructor in the agriculture program, credits Damschroder for garnering community support for the program.
“What separated the Oak Harbor ag program from others was that Mr. Damschroder did not just teach and go home,” he said. “He volunteered countless hours in many different community projects. If any agriculture teachers across the state had questions or concerns about any facet of their program or wanted innovative ideas, they would call Mr. D.”
Some of the most vital lessons students learned occurred not in the classroom but in a 64-acre parcel used for test plots.
“We’ve been using the test plots for 26 years and some of the things we’re seeing today were unimaginable 26 years ago,” Damschroder said. “That makes it fun. It keeps us on our toes and up to date. It makes education that much more fun to see what we talked about in the classroom. It’s a wonderful place to teach this time of the year.”
In the summer of 2008, he redesigned the curriculum to include coursework on an extensive tractor and farm safety unit that allows students to be certified to operate tractors. Water quality testing, done in conjunction with the Ottawa Soil and Water Conservation District, and a hunter safety course were also added to the program.
Neiderhouse said under Damschroder’s guidance, ag students get involved in what is called the Supervised Agricultural Experience Program and donate thousands of hours to public service.
Damschroder credits his co-workers for the success he and the school’s ag program have realized.
“I’m very proud of who I worked with,” he said. “I’ve worked with a lot of really, really good people. I’ve been surrounded by lots of good people who worked with me. I’m going to miss that as much as anything.”