Mark Hager, the new ag teacher at Centre High School, is a latecomer to the academic field. He fulfilled his dream of becoming a teacher six years ago at the age of 34.
Hager replaces longtime teacher Cary Granzow, who retired last spring.
Hager was born in Eureka, where his father was an ag teacher. He graduated from Gerard High School and spent two years at Fort Scott Community College, where he was on the livestock judging team.
Hager spent six years in the Army and was a mechanic with the Army in the Middle East during Desert Storm.
He was working in a Caterpillar company in Oklahoma when the company went out of business. That is when Hager decided to pursue his dream to become a math or ag instructor.
When he went to check out Oklahoma Panhandle State University, the ag professor persuaded him to join that program. He graduated in 2005.
His first teaching job was at Buffalo, Okla., where he rebuilt the FFA program. He taught at Wakita, Okla., near Enid, for three years. The school closed last spring.
Hager said he wanted to come back to Kansas to teach and found many positions available. He chose to apply for three, including Centre.
Having been involved in FFA for many years, Hager was familiar with the Centre FFA program and the job Granzow had done to build its reputation at all levels. When he was offered the job, he took it.
“It’s a good district with a strong ag program, and it is financially stable,” Hager said. “It’s a pleasure to have been chosen to follow Mr. Granzow. I am a firm believer in FFA. It is the best organization in the world.”
Hager will be teaching ag business, ag mechanics, architecture, and ag power and electricity, and will have five shop classes.
Hager and his wife, Katrina, have lived in Herington since July 7. Hager assisted students showing livestock at the Tri-County Fair and Marion County Fair.
He has experience in raising sheep and hopes to buy a country home with enough acreage to maintain a flock. He helps an uncle at Stafford with his cattle operation.
The couple are active members of the First Baptist Church in Herington. Katrina works at Barnes IGA.
Hager has a 22-year-old son who is a linguist in the U.S. Air Force. A niece, Brandie Deyo, lives with the Hagers and is a senior at Centre.
The 40-year-old teacher plans to be around for a while.
“I wanted to come to a school where I could retire,” he said.