SUFFOLK, Va. — An agriculture teacher in Suffolk retired Friday after 40 years in the district, but not before first finding a suitable replacement. 

Ron Daughtrey has been an agriculture teacher in his hometown of Suffolk for the past four decades. He's spent the last 29 years at Lakeland High School. 

Daughtrey -- or "Mr. D" as his students affectionately call him -- was born and raised on his family's Suffolk farm. Agriculture is what he lives and breathes and it's what he's taught to generations of students.

“A lot of people look at agriculture and think farming, but there’s about 200 other careers other than just farming," Daughtrey said. "We’re sort of the jack-of-all-trades in the shop. We do woodworking, welding, electrical wiring, small engine, tool fitting.”

Daughtrey wanted to reach 40 years before retiring on his own terms and to help find someone to take over his shop and all he's built. 

“When I walk out the door, one of my fears was that they wouldn’t find an ag teacher, that they’d have to shut the door," Daughtrey said. "And you’d be looking at 40 years of your life all of a sudden, all that work ended.”

Daughtrey's search began by reaching out to one of his former students, Sahmod Earls.

“He shot me a text message and he said, 'Hey when are you graduating?' I said May 2019. He said, 'We need to talk,'" Earls said.

Earls, who graduated from Lakeland High School in 2014, applied for the job and was hired. 

"He was an excellent student but he was an even better young man," Daughtrey said. "And to me, that’s important to have that come in the door, someone who’s able to set an example for the next generation.”

Daughtrey said the greatest joy of teaching is seeing a student walk out the door and come back later as a successful young man or woman. And that's exactly what's happening with Sahmod. 

“That’s one of the biggest honors, to have a former student come back and take your place," he said. “So it’s a really good feeling knowing that not only will the program continue, but there’s a very capable person who will run it.”

Daughtrey retires at ease knowing his life's work is in good hands. In the meantime, he plans to spend more time with his wife, kids, and grandchildren, while staying busy with some part-time handy work.