Students bid ag teacher farewell


YODER – There is no doubt about it, when there is a problem, Jay Clapper, Southeast Agricultural Education Instructor and FFA Chapter Advisor, is there. 

Pigs won’t gain weight. Call Clapper.

Do your chickens have bumblefoot? Call Clapper, he will know what to do. 

What about if your alligator won’t do what alligators do? Don’t worry, Clapper can help. 

“I was so blessed that I got to be in this profession,” Clapper said in an earlier interview.

This winter, Clapper announced he would be retiring from education and leaving Southeast High School (SHS) behind after 14 years. When he was interviewed for a story regarding his retirement, Clapper stated, “I want this about the kids.”

With the help of Cheryl Alps, Clapper’s assistant, present and past students, co-workers, and friends were interviewed as a tribute to the long-time FFA advisor and educator. 

“I had Mr. Clapper from eighth grade through my senior year and was a substitute teacher for him after I graduated. He loves to banter with people and has a heart of gold since he did everything for us students,” Laurel Luke Herbst, a 2015 graduate of SHS and chapter FFA member said. “His philosophy was for us to learn life skills and to be able to go out into the world and succeed. It was never about the ribbons or the trophies for him. It was about helping kids grow, be confident in themselves, and teaching them responsibility and accountability. He had many programs for kids whether you came from an ag background or not.”

During a recent event, Clapper explained, through agriculture education classes and the chapter FFA organization, he is one of the few educators who has worked with students from eighth grade to graduation. 

“Mr. Clapper was my ag teacher from my eighth-grade year through my senior year,” Blaine Wilker, 2015 graduate of SHS and FFA chapter member recalled. “The bottle calf program I was a part of was probably my most memorable experience in his program. As far as favorite memories go, I’d say the range judging trip to Elko Nevada would be it, with James, Laurel, Jacob, and Cheryl. Lots of lessons, and laughs.” Wilker continued. “Honorable mention goes to when we had a trip to Glendo and we came up on some road construction and Mr. Clapper mistook the flagger’s stop sign as a suggestion rather than an order, and instead slowed way down, gave the flagger a neighborly wave, and tried to swerve around.”

Most of the students Clapper taught through his stories and witty education explained Clapper could tell a story better than most. However, according to Clapper, his stories come from real-life experience. 

“Does the carpenter build the house or does the house build the carpenter?” Clapper asked. “I promise you the house will build the carpenter and I’ve been so fortunate, that it wasn’t a small house. Ninety percent of what I am able to do, I had to learn on my own. You don’t get it from college. I either grew up with some of those experiences and I had to learn almost everything the hard way,” Clapper reflected in an earlier interview. 

“Mr. Clapper. I wasn’t really sure what to think when I first met him as a seventh grader. Especially when the first project involved skinning dead rattlesnakes. However, over the next six years, this at first interesting character, has had immense influence on where I’m at in life today. Anything from shop skills, butchering chickens, business knowledge, or advice on everyday life he shared it all,” Ben Rein, a 2016 SHS  graduate and FFA member said. “From day one, he treated us like adults and he even on day one said he was going to treat us as such. Which in turn earns a lot of respect from teenagers who are being treated like second graders elsewhere. Personally, through class and FFA he helped guide me towards all kinds of opportunities. I can’t find the exact words other than he was a great teacher, counselor, and a friend for life. As he goes on from teaching, between the humor and deep, serious talks with his students, he will be missed and I wish him well with his next chapter of retirement,” Rein said. 

“I’m so thankful I got to have Mr. Clapper as my Ag teacher for all six years I took ag class. The many, many memories of how good I was at annoying him make me giggle,” Jordan Stoddard, a 2022 SHS  graduate and FFA member said. “But oh man let’s just talk about his driving really quick. Please Lord, take that man’s drivers license and give him a small sense of direction. Our Ag mech trip was one of a kind, to say the least. The roads were crappy and we had a suburban full of highschool boys and me, so you can only imagine the amount of horsing around that went on. Mr. Clapper was well entertained, but no one was giving this man directions which was our first mistake,” Stoddard recalled. “Our second mistake was making this man laugh so hard I think sometimes he forgot he was driving. But we somehow some way made it there safe after missing the first couple of turns.”

Clapper developed relationships with his students.

“Mr. Clapper really did a good job of making kids feel comfortable in the FFA chapter and in his Ag classes,” David Becker, SHS graduate and FFA member said. “My class was the first group that had him from seventh grade up through 12th grade, and there are a lot of memories that I will carry with me from that time – from the beginning when we tried to improve on the previous class’s fart machine prank in junior high, to my final state convention in Cheyenne.”

The connection Clapper has had with his students is one of a kind, according to his daughter, Kaylynn Clapper. Kaylynn, an SHS graduate and FFA member expressed having her father as her educator and FFA advisor from seventh grade to senior year made her successful. 

“There are six of us, so I am the middle child,” Kaylynn said. “I am the third oldest. 

“From my perspective, if I look at the totality of his career, this man is just so about projects and really truly engaging with students on that next level,” Kaylynn said. “I just feel like at his old role in Wray (Colorado) he actually got a solar turbine grant funded and produced power to the entire city as just an ag teacher. In one little quote, that he’s always had his whole life is he’s ‘just a teacher’, and the thing about being ‘just a teacher’ is there’s such a larger connection. One person really has the ability to influence over such a large span of time. I was adopted by them when I was eight years old so I was already a full-fledged little human when I met them and I feel like the entire direction of who I am and my profession and what I really clung to in high school steams from his passion of public speaking and getting out there and forcing you to do things you are uncomfortable with,” Kaylynn added. “It’s been crazy the life-long connections he has made from it.” 

“Jay is an excellent teacher who truly likes kids and puts them first in his plans for them. Retirement is a good choice for Jay but a loss for the education world. I enjoyed my time working with Jay at Liberty School and call him my close friend,” close friend and colleague, Dale Oliver said.

“When looking back at all the years I spent with Mr. Clapper I don’t think there was one day where it wasn’t fun in AG Class or in FFA,” Southeast FFA Chapter President, senior, Kailey Porter said. Clapper has a lot of sayings that are on repeat daily. Clapper is an amazing person with a huge love for his students. Clapper was more than a walking wisdom reciter he was a man who loves his old country music, a man who could talk about a certain topic for 30 minutes straight. Clapper was an amazing teacher but he’s an even better role model,” Porter added. 

“Mr. Clapper was my ag teacher for six years. During that time, I made many memorable memories, one of which took place during my eighth-grade year at the National FFA Convention. On the morning of my agriscience competition, Mr. Clapper and I were driving to downtown Indianapolis. As I looked over my notes, I heard some honking and then felt the SUV jostle around and my notes went flying. I looked back and realized Clapper drove over a round-a-bout during rush hour traffic,” a 2022 graduate and Southeast FFA Chapter member, Bree Coxbill said. “Being a silly middle schooler, I screamed ‘I saw the light’ at the top of my lungs as I grabbed the car door and saw drivers shaking their fists while they drove by. From that moment on to today, Mr. Clapper and I shared many similar memories from parliamentary pro and speaking contests, days in the classroom, or even running for state and national FFA offices. Looking back, I will forever be grateful for the ag teacher and the person Mr. Clapper is. I would not be the individual, friend, or leader I am today if it was not for his guidance and wisdom over the years,” Coxbill continued. 

“I was a parent volunteer for a few years for Jay when my son was in school. Then the Assistant FFA Advisor position became available in 2016. I’m so glad he chose me to be the Assistant FFA Advisor. I can truly say this is by far the best job and Jay has been the best boss I have ever had,” assistant Cheryl Alps said. “I’ve been his backup, his double checker (he checks me too), and his behind-the-scenes organizer. We work so well together. Jay has been great to work with. He will be truly missed at the school, but he will be a lifelong friend.

I’m so thankful for all the opportunities he has given me.”

“Jay was the type of teacher that a lot of kids needed in the agricultural classes. He gave those kids a chance to raise livestock, raise crops, and build things that they would never of had a chance to do. Everyone was considered equal in his classroom,” Lonny Luke, friend and FFA supporter said. “He helped kids go to college with his money-making projects. Jay is a person that will always be a friend and lend a hand when it’s needed by everyone. He will be missed but not his sausage gravy,” Luke added.

“It’s hard to sum up six years’ worth of lessons, stories, and opportunities into one short article snippet. However, one of my favorite aspects of having Mr. Clapper as an FFA advisor and ag teacher was that he created an environment for his students where they could take advantage of any opportunity they wanted. Whether it was competing in a career and leadership development event, starting a new supervised agricultural experience, or attending FFA events around the state and even across the country. All we had to do was put in the work towards any opportunity that we wanted to take. We as students were able to get out of it what we put into it,” a 2016 SHS graduate and FFA member said. “Because of that, I took every opportunity I could through FFA. The opportunities I took and everything I learned through FFA set a solid foundation for me as I transitioned out of high school, and has helped me get to where I am now. I am beyond thankful for everything that Mr. Clapper has done for me over the years, and I wish him the best of luck in his next chapter in life,” he added.

“I just want to say anyone who got to have the pleasure of being taught by this book of knowledge of a man is truly lucky. He has taught me more than I could comprehend at the time and boy has it paid off. Mr. Clapper, I appreciate you for treating us like your own. We are all truly blessed we got to partake in driving you crazy, causing you to lose the hair you don’t have, teaching you how to use modern technology, helping you still not be able to understand a teenager, and, listening to your everyday advice even if we didn’t want to. We love Mr. Clapper and we thank him for putting up with us,” Stoddard added.  

Reflecting on the official FFA opening and closing ceremonies script, the chapter FFA advisor explains his role in the lives of present and past generations of agriculturists. A role filled by an exceptional educator who has undoubtedly been admired by many. During the roll-call ceremony when the advisor is called upon, he recites, “Here by the owl. The owl is a time-honored emblem of knowledge and wisdom. Being older than the rest of you, I am asked to advise you from time to time as the need arises. I hope that my advice will always be based on true knowledge and ripened with wisdom,” a statement reached by the lives of students, friends, and family who have been touched by the incredible knowledge delivered at the hands of Clapper.