Johnnie Schroeder Retires After 46 Years With Blinn’s Agricultural Sciences Department
When Johnnie Schroeder came to Blinn College as an instructor in 1970, the building he worked from did not include a telephone and the department operated on a shoe-string budget.
Much has changed since then, but Schroeder’s commitment to student success has remained a constant presence in the Agricultural Sciences Department. After teaching engines, welding, engineering, and wood construction for 46 years, Schroeder announced his retirement from full-time work in December.
“Mentally, I want to keep going, but physically it is becoming too difficult for me,” Schroeder said. “The one thing about teaching is that the students keep you young.”
Schroeder began his dream job as an instructor for Agricultural Sciences and stayed in that position throughout his tenure as a full-time instructor. Originally, Schroeder wanted to work in a mechanic shop, but was urged by his mother to follow a teaching career.
The profession grew on him quickly. The Brenham native and Blinn alumnus first taught junior high school in Houston for four years, but was lured back to Blinn by his former instructor, B.C. Crawford.
Schroeder’s favorite memories of Blinn come when former students write him letters of appreciation or send pictures of engines that they have restored with the skills Schroeder taught them.
“I have never met anybody that has more of a passion for what he does than Johnnie,” said Doug Pierce, Agriculture Instructor. “To do it with the enthusiasm that he did it every day is amazing.”
Schroeder prefers a hands-on teaching style because he knows that many students don’t learn a subject merely through lectures.
“At the start of class I always try to figure out what makes a student excited about the subject and use that,” Schroeder said. “I ask students what they expect to learn from my class and then try to meet that expectation.”
The Agricultural Sciences Department has changed significantly during Schroeder’s tenure, particularly thanks to the state-of-the-art W.J. “Bill” Rankin Agricultural Complex that was built in 2011. The 20,200-square foot facility houses classrooms, laboratories, offices, an ag shop, and a livestock show arena. There also is a fully-automated greenhouse on the grounds. The Rankin Agricultural Complex was made possible through private donations, and was named after W.J. “Bill” Rankin, a lifelong resident of Washington County and the chief financial officer at Blue Bell Creameries.
Schroeder helped to put the Rankin Complex to excellent use, not only with his agricultural mechanics classes, but with the Blinn Agricultural Mechanics Show, which he established alongside Pierce. The Ag Mechanics Show continues to be one of the most popular in the state.
“One thing that makes the show so popular is our relationship with the agriculture teachers at high schools,” Schroeder said. “When the complex first opened here, we marveled at all the space we had. Now the Ag Mechanics Show fills up the parking lot.”
Many of Schroeder’s former students still keep in touch, and several former students have gone on to open their own business or even write books.
“You can see a real change in students during their time here,” Schroeder said. “Community college students come out of high school and they get slapped in the face with the real world. We give them two years to grow up, and you can see them mature right before your eyes.”
Schroeder will continue to teach part-time at Blinn, but will put more focus on home improvement projects at his house.