Tracy native Mike Ellington credits his experience as an ag student at Tracy High with starting him on his way to being named a California Agricultural Teacher of Excellence.
He was one of 10 agriculture teachers from throughout the state receiving the Teacher of Excellence award at the annual meeting of the California Agricultural Teachers Association in San Luis Obispo.
For the past 24 years, Ellington has been an ag teacher at Hughson High School in Stanislaus County, where he has taught all aspects of agriculture.
“It was so special receiving the award, and it all goes back to Tracy High, where I first became involved with agriculture,” he said. “I wasn’t really that interested in many academic classes in school, but when I started ag classes, that really changed my life.”
Ellington, son of George and June Ellington, didn’t grow up on a farm — his father was a railroad engineer — but the Tracy High ag program’s emphasis on hands-on instruction in learning about raising crops and operating and maintaining farm machinery made education meaningful for him. He especially enjoyed the landscaping classes.
“Tracy High ag instructors Kip Proctor, Bud West and Dale Backman set an example of what kind of an impact ag teachers can have on their students,” he said.
After graduating from Tracy High in 1980, Ellington enrolled in the San Joaquin Delta College ag program. This led to Fresno State, where he was involved in animal science, ag mechanics, horticulture and ag business. He worked in the machinery center and then operated the college’s swine unit.
He began student teaching at Ripon High in 1987 and then stayed on as a teacher for at-risk students before moving to Hughson High as an agriculture teacher.
His years as an ag teacher reinforced his appreciation of the special nature of the job.
“Ag teachers love to see students grow and take real-life skills into the real world,” he said. “With those skills, you will never be out of a job.”
Ellington and his wife, Denise, live on a small ranch in LaGrange in the Sierra foothills, where they raise sheep.