For the past 39 years the same passionate and caring man has been the face of Sweetwater FFA. Kenneth Dudensing has impacted a countless number of Sweetwater Independent School District students starting in the eighth grade and continuing with them all the way through the 12th grade. He has finally decided to hang up his welding helmet, frock and clippers. After almost four decades with Sweetwater Independent School District, Kenneth will be retiring.
For those of you that haven’t had the opportunity to know this Agriculture Science teacher, here is a glimpse of what he has provided Sweetwater students within his tenure.
Former Sweetwater Ag teacher Eddie Puckett hired Kenneth in 1973 straight out of Texas Tech University and they worked side by side for over 30 years.
To teach that long in the same school district with the same person speaks volumes about Kenneth’s abilities, both as a teacher and as a person. These two men were very hard working and equally dedicated to helping students. When Puckett retired Kenneth kept that fire burning and continued sharing his passion to teach students with five more teaching partners.
"I can personally say that the three years I was able to teach along side Kenneth were the most memorable and rewarding years of my teaching career," said Jurahee Silvers. "He will always be my mentor and guiding light when I question something. It was an honor and pleasure to work with him and even more importantly to learn from him."
Kenneth’s career has had him moving at a fast pace for the past 39 years. There are very seldom times of the year that are slow for an Ag Teacher.
There are three areas in which Kenneth has excelled. The first being the classroom, the second being extracurricular FFA contests and the third being livestock shows.
He has taught everything from welding in shop class, to hunter safety in wildlife management class, to animal protein requirements in advanced animal science class. He has even been a math tutor for students that have struggled with their math TAKS tests. His desire to help students learn is one that is unprecedented. Mr. Puckett’s summation says it best, “Kenneth is by far one of the best classroom teachers I have ever seen.”
Classroom activities are only one component of Kenneth’s dynamic career. The second of the three components are LDE (Leadership Development Events) and CDE (Career Development Events) better known as judging contests.
He coaches teams that compete in all different areas from parliamentary procedure to speaking contests to judging everything from cotton to meat, and his teams win repeatedly, going to state every year in multiple events.
In 2012 he took teams to state in cotton, home-site evaluation, poultry and meat judging. His cotton judging teams have won state four times in the last seven years, winning the State Championship three years straight (2011, 2010, 2009).
In 1989 his land judging team won the national contest in Oklahoma City, while his poultry judging team was runner-up at the national convention that same year.
There is a great rich history of competition in Mr. Dudensing’s classroom and he has created quite a legacy over the past nearly four decades. His classroom walls are lined with photo after photo of teams that have placed in the top ten of their respective contest. It is something to see, along with the many banners, plaques and trophies that are also displayed.
One of the most arduous, yet sometimes rewarding responsibilities of an Ag teacher is to take students to stock shows. Livestock shows are the third component to Mr. Dudensing’s career. Kenneth usually attends at least seven shows each spring: Odessa, Nolan County, Fort Worth, San Antonio, San Angelo, Houston and Austin. It is a physically exhausting task to assist students as they prepare their animals for the shows; however; by his own admission it is on of the most rewarding, especially when he sees his students hard work pay off when their animal project places high enough to sell in the premium sales.
Dudensing’s seven-day-a week, year round commitment to all three of these compenets for 39 years has not gone unnoticed. In 2004, the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association chose Kenneth Dudensing as the Outstanding Ag Science Yeacher of the Year, and in 2005 the Nolan County Livestock Show dedicated the entire show to him.
Kenneth Dudensing has been an institution for Sweetwater ISD, Sweetwater FFA, the Lone Wolf District, Area II, Texas FFA and the VATAT, for which countless students, former students, parents and community members are appreciative.
"Thank you Kenneth for your many years of service, hard work and dedication to give Sweetwater something to be proud of, you will be greatly missed and your shoes will be hard to keep up with. Happy retirement!"
The public is invited to a retirement reception for Kenneth Dudensing at the Nolan County Coliseum Annex from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 3. It will be a come and go. No gifts, just come by and wish Mr. Dudensing well on his retirement.