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Ag teacher returns to teach after surviving half-a-ton of sheet metal fracturing his pelvis and legs

CTV Staff

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Sounds of welding and sawing echoed throughout the metal building. With the San Antonio Ag Mechanics Show a week away, agricultural science teacher Shannon Layman bustled around the shop helping students put the finishing touches on their projects. Layman, who constantly implemented safety procedures, reached for a sheet of metal, thinking it was safely secured. Moments later, he found himself pinned to the ground with half a ton of steel on his legs.  

After initially being told he would be out for six to eight weeks, Mr. Layman managed to convince doctors to allow him to attend the San Antonio Ag Mechanics Show and return to work with strict limitations after a week on bed rest.  

“The doctor told me ‘You’re out for a while because there’s no way you can work in the shop in a wheelchair,” Mr. Layman said. “I looked at him and I said ‘Sir, one of my dear friends is an ag teacher at Plano, he’s paralyzed from the waist down. If he can do it, I can do it.”

Despite being in great discomfort after the incident, Mr. Layman did not immediately go to the hospital.

“I tried to put it off as much as I could,” Mr. Layman said. “I stayed laying flat on the ground with my back on the ground and had them elevate my feet for a few minutes so that I didn’t go into shock.”

Parent Robert Butler, junior Sarah Peacock, and daughter Elyse Layman lifted the steel off his body and transported him to a hospital.  

“My initial thought was ‘How are we gonna get this off,’ but we all kept our cool,’” Elyse said. “We didn’t want to freak him out by rushing, but if Mr. Butler wasn’t there, I don’t know what we would have done.”

After getting the green light from his doctor, Mr. Layman returned to school and resumed teaching.  

“I’m having to step back a little bit and take a supervisory role [instead of] getting right in there with [students],” Mr. Layman said. “I have to show them what to do and I have to tell them how to do it, so in reality, it’s just making me get better at describing how to do things.”

During his brief absence, Mr. Layman’s responsibilities fell to agricultural sciences teacher Trey Schares, who helped the students progress on their projects to the best of his abilities.  

“The students couldn’t do as much work or couldn’t move forward on some of their projects because they had worked with Mr. Layman on the design and had questions for him specifically,” Schares said. “I helped them with some of the basic stuff and could keep them going except for the design aspects that Mr. Layman specifically knew. It kind of slowed it all down.”

Schares broke the news of Mr. Layman’s injury to his classes a few days after it happened.

“The students’ reaction was kind of the same as my initial reaction,” Schares said.  “They were worried about him, about how he was doing, that he’d been going through a lot this year.”

Layman’s wife Rebecca Layman, who serves as an English teacher, set up an appointment with Mr. Layman’s doctor the Monday after spring break.  

“He was really concerned about getting back to school,” Mrs. Layman said. “He wanted to be with the kids and doing his job.”

In the future, Mr. Layman made it a goal to not get lulled into repetitiveness and forget the dangers of working in the shop.  

“Just like I tell my students, working in the ag shop, working on all this equipment, is kind of like scuba diving,” Layman said. “You don’t ever want to do it alone because you never know when something is going to happen.”

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