Gay Glidewell Barnes, a St. Clair 4-H alumna and Alabama Teacher of the Year, was inducted into the Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame March 19 at the Alabama 4-H and Youth Development Center in Columbiana. She was one of 24 inductees honored during special ceremonies at the Alabama 4-H Environmental Science Education Center. Barnes was nominated by Janet McCoy, 4-H development program coordinator.
The Alabama 4-H Wall of Fame recognizes individuals and organizations that have had a significant effect on the 4-H Youth Development program, its members and leaders. The Alabama 4-H Club Foundation, Inc., and Alabama 4-H honors, remembers and pays tribute to those who influenced the lives of Alabama youth by their commitment “To Make the Best Better.”
Gay Glidewell Barnes credits her foundation in Alabama 4-H as the reason she is a teacher. As Alabama’s Teacher of the Year for 2012 and one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year, Barnes experiences in 4-H—from competitions, meetings, traveling and being a camp counselor at 4-H Summer Camp—shaped her to be the educator she is today.
“When you are in 4-H, you never really think how you will use what you learn,” she says. “But now, as an adult, when I’m doing something, I realize I learned that because of 4-H.
“4-H is multifaceted and the whole promise of service to community is not something I truly understood the impact it made on me until I was an adult,” she says. Looking back, I see the impact 4-H made on my life; the choices I’ve made in my life were because of my 4-H experiences.
“The question I ask myself now, that I know is grounded in my 4-H experience, is ‘How is my presence going to make the work better?’” Barnes says. “As a youngster I’m not sure I completely understood the 4-H motto, but through my 4-H experience, and as an adult, I now know what the 4-H pledge means today.
“My experiences in 4-H play into my feelings as a classroom teacher because it is important for me to get it right every day for those children,” she adds. “Our actions impact not just our life, but the lives of the children we teach, and that is a huge responsibility and undertaking.
“I teach because I believe it is important that we have a population of children who will be able to think, and 4–H taught me to think beyond my community.”
Barnes says 4-H was a huge part of her childhood growing up in rural St. Clair County. “I can’t image what I would have done without it,” says Barnes, a 4-H’er from fifth grade until she turned 19 years old. “I had so many opportunities as a 4-H’er that my family could not afford,” she says.
Barnes currently teaches in the Madison City School System.