During the past few years of testing and controversy surrounding the use of student achievement results for the evaluation of teachers, people naturally often think of the academic subject area teachers in the schools. This same emphasis has meant, in some cases, fewer vocational programs which had made it possible for students to develop a broader range of abilities, combining the purely academic with the vocational and necessary social/ personal skills to help students demonstrate positive job-related behaviors. The vocational/technical programs in high schools allowed interested students to use a variety of skills in participating in contests such as Public Speaking, Parliamentary Procedure, Land Judging, Animal Judging, and many others.
Students at Marianna High School during the years of 1967 to 1990 have no problem at all remembering one very capable, outstanding man who helped students parlay their interests into success in the Vocational Agriculture program. While so involved, the kids often swept the local, district and state contests. In spite of the sometimes prevailing attitude that FFA and Vocational Ag were strictly applied skills classes, Leon Nobles recognized the fallacy of that school of thought. He knew that his program had much to offer to even the brightest academic students; thus, he actively recruited them for his organization and his classes. His personality coupled with the challenge of competition created a Vocational Agriculture program full of students who could handle any academic challenge and did so regularly in their classes. In addition to that, many applied themselves to learning just what was expected in order to win the contests and then acquiring that knowledge to a state of near perfection.
Leon Nobles was a man with a constant sense of humor and a wealth of knowledge about all things agricultural. As a leader of the local FFA, Mr. Nobles spent hours working with students and their animals, drilling his team members on the nuances of Parliamentary Procedure, and keeping up the relationships with adolescents which helped make his program so successful. Kids could not resist the draw of what he had to offer them in the classroom, the shop, and at organized contests.
In addition to his students at school, Leon fathered two children of his own, Gene, who is now an engineer with David Melvin Engineering, and Brad, an administrator with local nursing homes. Both boys recall following around with their granddaddy, their daddy, and numerous FFA students during the years they were growing up. They, too, became students of their dad in the formal sense in high school but they had been learning from him and his real cowboy dad for their entire lives. Trips to check on student projects and animals were part of the daily routine.
Unfortunately, Leon passed away as a young man, one week before Brad’s 16th birthday. Brad shares lots of memories of his dad, “He was so big into ag, we hung right along with him. We went everywhere with him. He would go check on his students’ cow and pigs and we were right there with him. He was big into hunting and fishing, a little cattle here and there. He was of course a big ‘Gator’ fan and we didn’t have but three channels back then so most of the time the Florida games weren’t on t.v. so we would listen to the games on the radio.” Brad knows his dad would be instrumental in helping him raise his three children, Trenton, Hannah, and Halli. Brad is married to Katrina Nobles.
Leon’s oldest son, Gene Nobles, also has some awesome memories of his dad when they were growing up, “Our lives were full of outdoor life, mostly from working cows to raising animals. We had quail, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. We fished and hunted pretty much all the time. Life was definitely an adventure. We learned a lot on the farm from working cows from my dad and my granddad. One thing stands out, we worked field trials and we would run fox trials. We were taught and judged field trials from horseback. Those were things that we just learned from being around him.” Gene was 20 years old when his father passed away. He and his wife Kimberly have three children, Len (that comes from Leon Eugene Nobles), Sydnee, and Cole.
One of his very successful students was Tommy Lassman. Lassman has fond memories of Nobles, “He was an FFA sponsor. It was as active a club as there was at school. We competed in several things, like livestock judging, and we had a Parliamentary Procedure team of six. While he (Leon Nobles) was there, we had a run of 12 years in a row where the MHS team won the district championship and we would make it to state and get to compete at state competition. I remember during our ad class and in practice for Parliamentary Procedure after school, we would practice Roberts Rules of Order book. That was the book you used to follow and that everybody utilized that book. We would drill and drill, and it gave lots and lots of information about planning, and the order of running a business meeting and this is one thing that always stuck in my mind. We would be cutting up because we had done this so much, and Leon would come in there and he would get so frustrated with us, he would say, ‘How you practice is how you are going to perform.’” What he was trying to get across to us was if you are not serious now, then you are not going to do well when you perform. That has always stuck with me. I use it today when I coach little league. I tell my players that.”
No matter who you ask, everyone has fond memories of Leon Nobles, both in the classroom and out. He was most definitely the teacher who made a difference.