Dennis Tierce ends 39-year career
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Jul 25, 2013 | 1486 views |  0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When agriscience teacher Dennis Tierce began his career, he thought he’d teach 25 years, then retire. Twenty-five years came and went, then 26, then 27. Tierce couldn’t do it. He couldn’t leave something he loved so dearly.

Now, 39 years later, he’s finally ready.

Tierce’s first teaching job was at Paulding County High School in Dallas, Ga. He remembers the day he was hired -- July 1, 1974 -- almost to the day that he’ll retire. He calls his two years there “a challenge”, because he was only 21, just a few years older than many of his students.

The next seven years, he drove to Ragland High School from his home in Spring Garden every day to teach.

He’d been wanting to teach at his alma mater, Spring Garden High, all this time. That opportunity opened up for him in 1983.

Ecil Chandler was Tierce’s principal in high school, and it was Chandler who hired him.

“I call it divine intervention,” said Tierce. “The vo-ag teacher (A.C. Teague) at the time passed away and I got the opportunity to come back home. Mr. Teague was a well-liked man. I did my teacher observation with him in the ‘70s.”

Tierce’s vo-ag teacher and FFA adviser in grades 9-12 was John Sudduth, one of several mentors. Tierce was president and vice president of the Spring Garden chapter.

“I enjoyed the FFA organization in high school, and I focused on it a lot during my teaching career,” he said. “Students can get a lot of good things, especially good leadership ability, from it. In high school I was involved with livestock projects. I’d go to fairs and shows. That was right down my alley.”

Spring Garden’s principal for the past 15 years, Mike Welsh, is one of Tierce’s former students.

Tierce graduated from Auburn in 1974. No one else in his family had ever taught.

“I went into it because of the way that my ag teacher got across to me,” said Tierce. “I learned a lot from him, not just from him, but from all my teachers. I looked up to them and what they were doing and how they made me feel. They made me feel like I was able to achieve something. They motivated me and it made me want to motivate students.”

Tierce’s father worked on a local farm for many years, and his mother picked cotton and worked in the fields. Tierce also worked for local farmers and always had 4-H and FFA livestock projects. He can look across the field from his house now and see the homeplace of one of the farmers he worked for, Charles Naugher.

Tierce was so inspired by some of his teachers that he and his cousin, the late Steve Tierce, bought a tractor and farmed while they were still in high school. They farmed together for 14 years. Even after Tierce began teaching, he continued to farm to some degree.

Tierce said discipline is handled differently in schools today than it was when he was a student.

“I tell the seniors today that they get senioritis,” he said. “They already know everything. I’m still learning. Thirty-nine years ago discipline was handled differently. You can’t do things now that you could back then. It’s not permissible. I think sometimes we need to go back to the basics.”

Tierce has a lot of things planned for the next chapter of his life.

“It’s going to be different not getting up every morning and going to the schoolhouse,” he said. “Since I’ve decided to do it, it seems like every morning I get up earlier and earlier. I don’t know if it’s because the stress is gone or what. Really, I can’t say it was stressful because I enjoyed it.”

Tierce said he has plenty to keep him busy. He lives on a farm and intends to get back to his cattle business, fish, work in his yard and garden.

His main project though, what he calls his “immediate goal,” will be to help rebuild his church, Pilgrim’s Rest, between Rock Run and Forney. A tornado damaged the church in 2011. It had to be torn down, and members are in the process of rebuilding it. They’re currently in a mobile unit.

Tierce’s parents are the late Druey and Toni (Baswell) Tierce. His father was a Baptist minister. His sister is the late Carol Payne.

He and his wife, the former Mary Crane of Gaylesville, celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary July 15. They met at Demaris Baptist Church between Gayleville and Cedar Bluff and married before he graduated from Auburn.

The Tierces have no children of their own, but they say there are several hundred they call their own and they’ve become friends with them through the years.

Tierce is still in recovery mode after falling and breaking three ribs during spring break. He’s looking forward to a full recovery so that he can do the things on his retirement list. In the same sentence though, indicating he wants to enjoy retirement after spending two-thirds of his life in education, he smiled and said, “My goal is to dig at least one post hole a day.”

Contact Margaret at pollya922@gmail.com.
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Dennis Tierce ends 39-year career by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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