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Ag educators in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois nominated for Goldenen Owl Award
By Doug Graves
Ohio Correspondent

WALTON, Ind. – Agricultural educators play a crucial role in their communities, dedicating countless hours and often their own resources in preparing students for successful careers and helping them follow their interests.
To shed light on the contributions of these agricultural teachers, supporters in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, California, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, New York and South Dakota nominate their favorite agricultural teachers and summarize what makes him or her the best in their state. The Golden Owl Award is used to recognize the top educators in each of these nine states for their efforts during the 2022-2023 school year.
Current and former students, the general public, fellow educators, parents, administrators and community members were encouraged to submit nominations. Each submission had to include a 250-word or less essay describing the nominee’s dedication to agriculture education and his or her impact on the students.
The grand prize winner in each state will receive the coveted Golden Owl Award and $3,000 to help fund future educational efforts. The remaining finalists will each receive an individualized plaque and $500.
In Indiana, eight ag educators have been announced as finalists for the Golden Owl Award. Those finalists are Mike Appleton (Lewis Cass High School, Walton), Myia Bromm (South Knox High School, Vincennes), Leah Henderson (DeKalb High School, Waterloo), Duane Huge (Danville High School, Danville), Mike A. Jones (Adams Central High School, Monroe), Adam Miller (Fountain Central High School, Veedersburg), Mike Shirey (Heritage High School, Lincoln City) and McCord Snider (East Central Middle School, Brookville).
Appleton has been an ag teacher at Lewis Cass for 26 years.
“Past students probably nominated me, which feels good as a person just to think you had an impact on somebody,” Appleton said. “The same students who probably nominated me are the ones who made the program what it is when they were in school.”
Heather Smith, a fellow agriculture teacher, said, “Working with Mr. Appleton on a daily basis is always an adventure. He always puts other people first and helps whenever he can. I would consider him one of my greatest mentors. I wouldn’t want to share this program with anyone else. Lewis Cass and the surrounding community is very lucky to have someone so knowledgeable about agriculture and the FFA.”
Indiana’s Gold Owl Award winner will be announced at the 94th Indiana FFA State Convention at Purdue University in June.
In Ohio, 10 ag educators have been announced as finalists for the Golden Owl Award. Those finalists are Donald Barnhart (Leipsic High School, Leipsic), Judd Baker (Fairfield Union High School, Lancaster), Krysteena Lawrence (Elmwood High School, Bloomdale), Jeffrey Karcher (Bellevue High School, Bellevue), Heather Tegtmeier (Northwestern High School, Springfield), Erynn Hayes (Trotwood-Madison High School, Trotwood), Jeffrey Stimmell (Big Walnut High School, Sunbury), Kayla Richter (Monroe Central High School, Woodsfield), Kelly Rickabaugh (Green County Career Center, Xenia) and Katherine Dickson (Gallia Academy High School, Gallipolis).
Barnhart was a member of the Continental FFA while he was in high school. During his tenure at Leipsic High School, he advised two FFA state officers and one national officer.
“Don has dedicated his life to education and has persevered to make sure his students will be successful in whatever they do,” said Leipsic Principal Brian Bennett. “He has truly been a gift for our schools to have all these years.”
A humble man, Barnhart is not used to being the center of attention. “I don’t strive for awards. I just do what I do because it’s all for the kids,” he said.
Ross Schroeder, from Ohio Farm Bureau, was one of Barnhart’s former students. He disclosed the Golden Owl Award Committee had received 521 nominations for 126 different teachers across Ohio.
Ohio’s Gold Owl Award winner will be announced at the 95th Ohio FFA State Convention in May.
In Illinois, the Golden Owl Award was first narrowed to 25 sectional finalists, then that number was trimmed to five district finalists. Those five finalists are Riley Hintzsche (Streator FFA, Streator), Trent Tabor (Cambridge FFA, Cambridge), Jody Heavner (Pittsfield FFA, Pittsfield), Cassie Crouch (Maroa-Forsyth FFA, Maroa) and Tamra Gertstenecker (Carlyle FFA, Carlyle).
The Golden Owl Award for Illinois will be presented during the upcoming Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers (IAVAT) 101st Anniversary Conference.