“I’ve taken every single one of Ms. Taylor’s classes,” says senior Zach Haigdon of Emily Taylor.
Dressed in a blue Future Farmers of America hooded sweatshirt, a trucker hat, jeans and cowboy boots, Zach is hanging out in his teacher’s classroom well after the day’s final bell, playing around with Emily’s two young sons who are frequent visitors to their mother’s workplace. “Amazing teacher. A lot of teachers are here just for a job, but she actually cares about us and our lives.”
Emily is the lead agriculture teacher at Grayson County High School in Leitchfield, teaching animal science, plant science, aquaculture, “ag” business and other topics in the industry so important to in this rural community.
You can find her teaching students how to grow plants in the huge greenhouse next to the football field or in the cornfield just down the road. You can find her students tending to the fish and learning about aquaponics at the massive tanks behind the classroom. You can find her teaching her students, with a healthy amount of the chuckles and gasps expected from teenagers, about artificially inseminating cows and the suture patterns the future vets in her class will use to heal the inevitable prolapses.
“Students get to see the full circle of ag production,” she says. They actually get to do things instead of just being lectured to, learning material that, for some, will prove to be valuable for the rest of their lives.
High school agriculture teacher is a position she’s held for the past 11 years. Emily has been at Grayson County High School for four years after teaching for seven years at Christian County High School in Hopkinsville.
It's a role she’s felt destined for her whole life.
“I grew up on a cattle and grain farm, and agriculture was something I really enjoyed,” she said of her upbringing in LaRue County. “And when I was young I knew I wanted to be a teacher. My sister and I would play ‘school.' I know it sounds so lame, but we would do it, and I think it’s because we had teachers in our families that we were emulating.”
Nestled in the busy shelves in the corner of her classroom, among her old FFA trophies, certificates, plaques and photos of her husband and kids, is a large framed and faded photograph of her grandfather, proudly hoisting a massive pheasant in the middle of an open field. Her grandfather was an agriculture teacher who was deeply involved in the FFA, just like she is today. And he made a huge impact in his students’ lives, just like she’s trying to do today.
“He passed away before my freshman year of high school and never got to see me doing any of the ag stuff,” she says. “At my grandfather’s funeral, so many of his former students talked about his impact: ‘if it wasn’t for your grandfather, I wouldn’t have finished high school,’ or ‘he molded my future career plans,' and ‘I still think about what we did in his class.’ This was decades after he retired from teaching. And I thought I’d just like to do that.”
Emily and her husband Nolan, who she met while studying agriculture at the University of Kentucky, moved to Leitchfield after the birth of their second son to be near Nolan’s parents, who run WindCrest Farms, just a few minutes from the high school. Emily, Nolan, and their children Luke, 6, and Thomas, 4, are always out on the farm, helping tend to the purebred cows and bulls that the farm is known for.
“Experiences are what kids remember,” she says.