J.T. Payne is a 2016 graduate of Henderson County High School. He graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor’s in Agricultural Science from Murray State University where he was elected Student Regent and Student Government President. During this time he also served as chairman of the Kentucky Board of Student Body Presidents and was the spring 2019 Outstanding Senior Man. Mr. Payne is currently an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Henderson County High School and is enrolled in the teacher leader master’s program at Murray State.
Tell us about your public school journey.
I am a product of public schools from start to finish. I have attended what I believe are some of the greatest public schools that our state has to offer: Spottsville Elementary School, Henderson North Middle School, Henderson County High School and Murray State University. Currently, I work at my alma mater as a high school agriculture instructor and FFA advisor.
What aspects of your public education helped mold you into the person you are today?
One thing that stood out to me throughout my public school journey is the limitless and boundless opportunities that were afforded to me. My teachers from elementary school to college would go to great lengths to open the door of success for me. I felt the genuineness of their care and still experience that today through regular contact with many of those same educators.
When you think back on your experience in public school, are there specific instances or relationships that stand out to you as having had a significant impact on your success since graduating?
Though I am hesitant to mention any specific names since there have been so many educators to make a significant impact on my life, none can match the positive influence of my high school agriculture teacher, Mrs. Kristy Lancaster. Mrs. Lancaster transformed me from a reserved middle schooler to an ambitious “go-getter.” She pushed me to be the best I could be through leadership positions and FFA competitions, she lobbied on my behalf for scholarships and collegiate opportunities and she even encouraged me to enter the profession of teaching. Now, I teach next door to Mrs. Lancaster and we are co-teachers in the agriculture program and co-advisors to the FFA organization, which is an honor every day. She still pushes me just as hard today as she did my freshman year at HCHS.
As a product of public education, what advice would you give to a parent who was choosing an education path for their child.
Public school educators are the most selfless group of people you will ever meet. They devote their life to public service by investing in the future of our community with limited pay and recognition. If you never want to question the intent and devotion of those educating your children, then public education is the perfect place for them. Public schools also have a history of shaping future community leaders and exhibit a proven record of advising students towards a path of lifelong success and fulfillment, which every parent should desire for their children.
As a product of public schools what drives you to give back to your local school and/or district?As cliche as it may be, education truly is the foundation of society. I had what I consider to be the perfect school experience: academic honors, leadership positions, scholarships and overall happiness with my schools, classmates and teachers. However, I am fully aware that not all students have the same outlook, which motivates my primary goal as an educator. When students enroll in the agriculture program at Henderson County High School, I want them to know that they have the opportunity to network, earn college credit, access scholarships, serve the community, gain hands-on experience and so much more no matter their financial, cultural or behavioral backgrounds. After public education provided so much to me, how could I not re-invest in that same great system?