In his 20 years teaching at Merced College, Darol Fishman said he’s never missed one of the California Agriculture Teachers Association’s annual conferences.

The Ag community is a small, tight-knit group and the conference affords Fishman the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. As special as the event has been to Fishman, the 2017 version promises to be one he’ll never forget.

Fishman, who teaches mechanized agriculture, diesel technology and welding technology at Merced College, received the Don Wilson Memorial award as the state’s Outstanding Ag Teacher. The award is presented annually to outstanding agricultural education teachers with at least 20 years of experience for their participation and leadership in civic, community, agriculture/agribusiness and professional activities.

“If you look at the list of people presented this award over the years, it’s very humbling,” Fishman said. “They hold it at our annual Ag Teachers Conference in San Luis Obispo. I was up on the stage and they were talking about their usual mumbo jumbo and I received a standing ovation. I was deeply touched. It brought tears to my eyes.”

Fishman was accompanied by his wife, Teresa, and sons, Daniel and David, as well as the entire Merced College Agriculture Department. He just completed his 34th year of teaching and 20th at the College.

While being singled out by his peers was special enough, Fishman’s tie to the award’s namesake made it even more sentimental.

“It’s named the Don Wilson award, because he was a very instrumental person in our profession,” Fishman said. “What’s really kind of cool about that, is I do what I do because of my high school Ag teacher (Bill King). Well, Don Wilson was my Ag teacher’s Ag teacher out at Petaluma High School. So things have kind of come full circle.”

It’s a big month for Fishman, who is about to participate in Iron Man Santa Rosa at the end of July.

“I have a great gig,” Fishman said. “Students pay money to come here learn some fun things and the school pays me to go out and play with big Tonka toys while teaching them. I’m so thankful in 1997 that I made the choice to come here.”