Nationwide recognizes top agriculture educators through inaugural Golden Owl Award

Understanding the importance of agriculture education and the significant impact teachers make, Nationwide, in partnership with Iowa FFA Foundation, Ohio Farm Bureau® and Ohio FFA, created the Golden Owl AwardSM. The award is an opportunity to honor the dedication instilled in teachers to provide the next generation with the tools they need to carry out successful careers in agriculture or farming.

From August 1, 2018 through November 16, 2018, students, fellow teachers and other supporters nominated their favorite agriculture teacher and summarized what makes him or her the best in their state. After evaluation of the nominations received, Nationwide is proud to announce the finalists of the 2018-2019 Golden Owl Award.

Each honoree listed below received a $500 cash prize and entry into the final selection phase for the chance to win the distinction of their state’s Agriculture Educator of the Year, a Golden Owl Award trophy and $3,000 from Nationwide to help fund future education efforts.

Iowa Honorees:

  • Matthew Eddy, Southeast Polk High School in Pleasant Hill, Iowa
  • Melissa Hageman, South Winneshiek High School in Calmar, Iowa
  • Jacob Hunter, North Scott High School in Eldridge, Iowa
  • Randy Kroksh, Akron-Westfield High School in Akron, Iowa
  • Dr. Robert A. Martin, Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa
  • Steve Sonntag, Southwest Valley High School in Corning, Iowa
  • Brad Taylor, Roland-Story High School in Story City, Iowa

Ohio Honorees:

  • Stephanie Conway, Bowling Green High School in Bowling Green, Ohio
  • Randy Eisenhauer, Shelby High School in Shelby, Ohio
  • Shelby Faulkner, Ridgemont High School in Mt. Victory, Ohio
  • Tom Holton, East Knox Jr./High School in Howard, Ohio
  • Holly Jennings, Felicity-Franklin High School in Felicity, Ohio
  • John Poulson, Pettisville High School in Fulton County, Ohio
  • Michael Spahr, Greene County Career Center in Xenia, Ohio
  • Dave Stiles, Indian Valley High School in Gnadenhutten, Ohio
  • Katrina Swinehart, Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio
  • Erin Wollett, Cardington-Lincoln High School in Cardington, Ohio

“We created this award to bring attention to the growing need for agricultural teachers in this country,” said Brad Liggett, president of Agribusiness. “Providing teachers with these additional resources will help develop their programs and provide their students with an optimal learning experience. Our goal is to spread this award to more states in the coming years to highlight all the talented agriculture teachers across the country.”

Nationwide encouraged students, fellow teachers and other supporters to nominate their favorite teacher and summarize what makes them the best in their state. With years of experience in the field, these teachers have been passionate about making sure their students are prepared for the real world. Whether it’s taking the time to individually work with each student or making it a priority to create a better community, all the educators have made a positive impact in the lives around them.

“We’re proud to recognize these incredible teachers as Golden Owl Award honorees for their dedication to agriculture and farming in their communities,” said Liggett. “These talented individuals have dedicated their careers to passing along knowledge and building skills to enable successful farmers who are responsible for providing food to communities across the country, creating jobs for skilled workers and sustaining viable farmland across the country. The nominations highlight the tremendous efforts these teachers provide to agricultural education and the inspiration they give to their students.”

One honoree from Iowa and one from Ohio will be chosen for the grand prize. Grand-prize winners are announced this spring.