The Interview: Julian Stewart

Since 1999, some students at Alma Bryant High School in south Mobile County have learned hands on the science and business of Aquaculture. Julian Stewart, a career Marine Biologist teaches Aquaculture, which is the growing and harvesting of animals and plants that live in water. For his work, Stewart was recognized as the 2014 Mobile County’s Secondary Teacher of the Year. He recently shared about the program and when he developed his passion for his two professions.

“It was called Middle Deer River, I was using a cane pole and we were using live shrimp. My dad and I hadn’t been there five minutes and I hooked a Bass. I’m five years old and I couldn’t pull him in. So I remember, I put the pole on my shoulder turned around and just walked up the bank, drugged him out.   And I’ve been hooked for life ever since,” Stewart stated.

Julian Stewart is Mobile County Public Schools Secondary Teacher of the Year. His love for fishing, the water and the outdoors eventually led the Marine Biologist to Bryant High School 15 years ago to teach Aquaculture to future generations.   Stewart’s father exposed him to what became a passion.

“If I was awake and I wasn’t in school I was in the woods or on the water. I can’t imagine how kids grow up without having that kind of exposure,” Stewart reflected.

He also developed an early love of learning. Stewart credits his mom and dad for a head start.

“I kind of had an unfair advantage my mom Mildred was the Librarian at Arlington Elementary where I went to school. I could read before I started the first grade. My father Julian, Sr. had already taught me how to multiply, so I just kind of had a head start,” Stewart remembered.

Stewart’s head start propelled him to success in the classroom. In high school at B.C. Rain in Mobile, he also took college level classes.

“The University of Mobile, it was Mobile College in those days, had what was called an accelerated program. High school juniors could go to Mobile College and you could take two classes during the summer. There were also some problems in the school system with teacher shortages and so I inquired can I just stay in college. And they said you can, so it worked out well. I went on and went year around,” Stewart said.

His older sister Carolyn’s husband introduced him to Marine Biology.

“Dr. John Lee Borom also kind of took me under his wing. He took me hunting and fishing and he was a Marine Biologist. So I was sold then, that’s what I wanted to be was a marine biologist. In fact he ( Dr. Borom) wound up being one of my professors during my undergraduate studies at the University of Mobile. Dauphin Island Sea Lab also offered courses in Marine Biology.   Mobile College students could go take courses down there during the summer.   After I did that I knew beyond all doubt what I wanted to do. You go to class, you go out on a boat, you go out in the gulf, you go to the beach and it was on Dauphin Island what better place could you be going to school,” Stewart stated.

Stewart worked hard to earn his first degree.

“I didn’t have any scholarships. I paid my way through college by working at Delchamps Grocery store at night. I would get off work at 7 o’clock in the morning and race to Mobile College at 8 o’clock in the morning in time for class. I got to talk to some of the professors down there at the Sea Lab. I was inquiring about future positions, a professor said there’s always room for the best. So he said, just be the best you can and don’t worry about it, so that’s what I tried to do. I went to work for one of my professors down there who started essentially his own company doing the monitoring work for the first oil and gas rigs out there for Mobil Oil.   And so I worked with him for almost 20 years,” Stewart reflected.

He started teaching night classes, which in 1999 led to an opportunity at Alma Bryant High School.

“I got the opportunity to teach part time night classes and this was at the college level and I found out I kind of enjoyed it. Just talking and sharing,” Stewart said.

“I heard a long time ago if you enjoy what you’re doing you’ll never have to work a day in your life. So I found my passion and that’s Aquaculture, so it was just kind of a natural fit. I kind of took the love I had for fishing and the part about gardening which I probably inherited that from my Dad. So I decided I wanted to garden-fish, that’s what Aquaculture essentially is farming the waters,” Stewart stated.

Stewart is the founder of Bryant’s Aquaculture program. He teaches students the science and business of raising Crawfish.

“It was the age group. I know I couldn’t be an elementary teacher and that’s what I like about teaching here. I teach juniors and seniors. They’re almost adults, but they’re still young at heart. And, I think that’s one of the things that kind of helps keep me young,” Stewart said.

“I had some people who gave me good advice along the way and when they’re a senior about to make their career decisions, I try to help them with that. One of the main things I tell them is figure out what your passion is. What do you really enjoy doing, if you could get up in the morning and do anything you wanted to do and money was no object what would you do, and then find a way to earn a living doing that,” Stewart stated.

Stewart’s passion for, as he says, “staying wet and muddy everyday” in aquaculture is so contagious, his wife Lynn earned her second degree in Marine Biology. She also teaches with her husband in Bryant’s Aquaculture program. And, now their son Eric, a Bryant graduate and aquaculture student, is working on his Master’s in Fisheries and Aquaculture at Auburn University. Julian Stewart’s grant writing efforts have also benefited Bryant students and the Aquaculture program generating more than 400-thousand dollars in grants.

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