When Meridian High School agriculture teacher Steve Wilder announced his retirement, he didn’t realize the amount of support and attention he’d get from the community.
“It’s nuts,” he said. “When I said I’ve been blown away, I have.”
Wilder started teaching agriculture classes in 1979 at Marsing High School. He moved over to Meridian High School the following year. Wilder is also an advisor for the Meridian FFA Chapter and the department chair for the Meridian Professional-Technical Center, which he helped found during his time at the school.
Wilder, who is retiring at the end of this month, is being honored as this year’s Real Dairy Parade grand marshal during Meridian Dairy Days.
“He has influenced hundreds, maybe thousands of kids in the agriculture industry,” said Hans Bruijn, president of the Meridian Dairy Board.
The Meridian Dairy and Stock Shows Incorporated, governed by the dairy board, runs Meridian Dairy Days. One of the group’s objectives is to support the Meridian FFA chapter and the local 4-H programs.
“I don’t think we can touch what Steve has done,” Bruijn said. “His stamp on the FFA program is going to be remembered for a long time.”
Bruijn said Wilder has also “mentored lots of ag teachers coming out of the University of Idaho.”
That legacy wasn’t what Wilder had in mind when he started teaching — originally envisioning switching careers after three to five years. Wilder said after he started teaching, however, he realized the classroom was where he wanted to be.
“Seeing kids get it and raise the bar is a big deal for me,” he said, “whether it is academically, career based, or as a person.”
In FFA students can participate in a number of competitive programs. Wilder said he loves “the fact that kids have a chance to perform.”
Over his tenure, he has noticed that more students are coming from a “more urban, clueless background.”
“When I started 40 years ago there were a lot of small dairies,” he said. “Now there are two or three.”
Despite that, Wilder said, there are still a lot of students enrolling in agriculture classes. Idaho is a resource-based economy, which sets up a lot of career opportunities for students, he said.
“We live in a very agriculture business area,” he said. “Many of the largest ag businesses have headquarters here in the valley.”
After he retires at the end of June, Wilder plans to visit his children and spend time on his sheep ranch off of Chinden Boulevard.
“Steve is an incredible teacher and even a more awesome person,” said Don Nesbitt, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for West Ada, over email. “His influence on several generations of students is unmeasurable.”