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Brown's last first day

By Johnny Jackson

Every year, this time, David Brown has a nightmare and wakes up with chills and anxieties.

"The nightmare involves losing control of the classroom," Brown said. "This year, I've already had my nightmare."

This is Brown's 30th and final year teaching horticulture at Jonesboro High School - he is retiring.

Brown started his first day of school with an hour workout at the gym, about 5:15 in the morning, he said. Later, he found himself greeting anxious students entering the school, some for the first time.

"I feel good," he said. "But it's my last year, and I'm kind of scared thinking about retiring. One reason I'm retiring is because of the stress level."

His day typically begins in the gym and ends with dinner with his wife, maybe catching an episode of 'Antiques Road Show' or 'Everybody Loves Raymond' afterward.

In between, Brown teaches interested students about plant life, while he gets to know them.

Monday, he introduced himself to a small class of nine underclassmen - "smaller classes are much better" - and spoke with a former student. "How's this year going to be for you?" he said. "You've got your head on straight?

"I will miss seeing the students," he said. "They keep you young. I'll miss the cafeteria staff and the teachers I've made friends with over the years."

Brown's office is a greenhouse and annex neatly tucked in the recesses of Jonesboro High School; it is a potential garden oasis with small blooms already thriving about the entrance.

His green thumb extends into his home garden and lawn. Indeed, the 51-year-old dually relieves his stress with weekday exercise at the gym and weekend landscaping at his home.

Brown has no favorite big band or quartet. Although a pianist by hobby, he said he still loves the big band, classic jazz sound; "easy listening," he said. "I'm a very easy-going person.

"I suppose I am too kind-hearted, I put a lot of emphasis on trusting my students. And I get disappointed when students break that trust. I would like to see parents take a more active part in disciplining their children," Brown said, speaking from experience. "I've raised my children. And I've had students that meant a tremendous amount to me. But when I'm here, I'm dealing with 100 different students from 100 different home lives. I know kids; kids are still kids. Most just need the little bit of attention."

Next summer, the veteran teacher will retire where he first started, doing what he loves.

"This is the first place I've ever taught," he said. "I came here straight from college (Purdue University). I love plants. I've known since I was a sophomore in high school."

Brown claims to be a simply stated person.

"I wish I had some lofty goal," he said. "This year, one of my goals is to have the biggest plant sale we've ever had."

Brown, a father of two, said he would love to travel more with his wife Melba and continue working in horticulture when he's retired. Until then, the antiques collector wants to have a prosperous year in extra-curricular, health and academics.

"I'll probably sleep," he said, imagining his first day of retirement. "Actually, I'll be a little relieved."

So starts a new chapter for Brown; closing an era in teaching horticulture, Brown may sleep well next summer.