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Nationwide Names 51 Extraordinary Teachers as Golden Owl Award® Finalists

Agricultural teachers play an essential and selfless role in the communities they serve. As they prepare future generations for successful careers, many also devote countless hours and often their own resources to make a difference.

Nationwide, the No. 1 insurer of farms and ranches in the U.S.1, partnered with state FFA organizations to create the Golden Owl Award in 2018 to highlight the growing importance of educators and recognize the services of many of the country’s leading agricultural teachers. The program also supplies additional resources to help boost the teachers’ programs and provide students with optimal learning experiences.

In coordination with partners in California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Nationwide collected nearly 1,700 nominations from students, parents, community members and fellow teachers to identify educators who go above-and-beyond in helping their students pursue their passions.

The 2020-2021 Golden Owl Award finalists are:


  • Carrie Phillips – Bret Harte High School, Angels Camp, CA
  • Sandy Lovfald – Eureka High School, Eureka, CA
  • Julie Luxon – Madera South High School, Madera, CA
  • Luis Guerra – Santa Maria High School, Santa Maria, CA
  • Brenda Davis-Landini – El Capitan High School, Lakeside, CA
  • Tim Brown – Tulelake High School, Tulelake, CA


  • Kindra Callahan – Kewanee High School, Kewanee, IL
  • Kyle Miller – Prairie Central High School, Fairbury, IL
  • Corinne Briswell – West Prairie High School, Sciota, IL
  • Sue Schafer – Taylorville High School, Taylorville, IL
  • Joshua Berg – Okawville High School, Okawville, IL


  • Amy Beer – NorthWood High School, Nappanee, IN
  • Dale Griffin – Rossville High School, Rossville, IN
  • Mike A. Jones – Adams Central High School, Monroe, IN
  • Tori McCreary – Mooresville High School, Mooresville, IN
  • Gabe Nobbe – Connersville High School, Connersville, IN
  • Erin Padgett – South Ripley High School, Versailles, IN
  • Travis Scherer – Tri-County High School, Wolcott, IN
  • Haley Verhaeghe – Tri-County High School, Wolcott, IN


  • Dr. Michael Retallick – Iowa State University, Ames, IA
  • Wyatt ForsythWapsie Valley High School, Fairbank, IA
  • Elisa Russ-Poggemiller – Clear Lake High School, Clear Lake, IA
  • Kylie Nettinga – Western Christian High School, Hull, IA
  • Marcia Kilgard – Iowa Valley High School, Marengo, IA
  • Monty Collins – Pleasantville High School, Pleasantville, IA
  • Brittany Elmquist – Audubon High School, Audubon, IA

New York:

  • Patrycja Zbrzezny – John Bowne High School, Flushing, NY
  • Anne Allen – Sharon Springs Central School, Sharon Springs, NY
  • Elizabeth Foote – Greenwich Junior-Senior High School, Greenwich, NY
  • Renee Johnson – Oxford Academy High School, Oxford, NY
  • Mandi Millen – Cazenovia High School, Cazenovia, NY
  • Nichole Hirt – Indian River High School, Philadelphia, NY
  • Leann Jordan – Tully Junior-Senior High School, Tully, NY
  • Mary Coolbaugh – Marcus Whitman High School, Rushville, NY
  • Todd Eick – Medina High School, Medina, NY
  • Patricia Walker – Randolph Central School, Randolph, NY
  • Jeff Perry – Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ithaca, NY


  • Don Hammersmith – Ayersville High School, Defiance, OH
  • Mike Hoffman – Wynford High School, Bucyrus, OH
  • Shari Anderson – Marysville High School, Marysville, OH
  • Kari Roberts – Talawanda-Butler Tech High School, Oxford, OH
  • Andrew DeLong – Chief Logan High School, Logan, OH
  • Ryan Sell – Archbold High School, Archbold, OH
  • Ryan Rosselot – Western Brown High School, Mount Orab, OH
  • Abbey VanTyne – Norwayne High School, Creston, OH
  • Pamela Schultz – Fayette High School, Fayette, OH
  • Mark Hoffman – Hillsdale High School, Jeromesville, OH


  • Katherine Ranck – Garden Spot High School, New Holland, PA
  • Thomas Hojnowski – Canton High School, Canton, PA
  • Sherisa Nailor – Big Spring High School, Newville, PA
  • Laura Palmer – Conneaut Area Senior High School, Linesville, PA

Each finalist will receive an individualized plaque and $500 to help fund future educational efforts and will be entered into a final selection stage for the chance to be crowned as their state’s Ag Educator of the Year. In addition to the Ag Educator of the Year designation, the winning teacher in each state will also receive the coveted Golden Owl Award trophy and a $3,000 Nationwide-funded check to help bring new educational opportunities to their programs and its students.*

“Nationwide created the Golden Owl Award in 2018 to honor the contributions of teachers, highlight the growing need for their services and supply additional resources to help enhance their programs,” said Brad Liggett, president of Agribusiness at Nationwide. “We’re proud to recognize these hardworking teachers for their dedication to preparing future generations of agricultural leaders.”

Nationwide recognized the efforts of 31 agricultural teachers in 2020 across California, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania. As a result of the positive response from the communities that Golden Owl Award nominees make a difference in, Nationwide expanded the 2020-2021 Golden Owl Award to include Indiana and New York.

The company is also investing $5,000 in each participating state’s FFA organization to further support aspiring agriculture professionals.

The Golden Owl Award is the result of partnerships between Nationwide, the California FFA, California Farm Bureau, Illinois FFA, Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers, Farm Credit Illinois, Indiana FFA, Farm Credit Mid-America, the Iowa FFA Foundation, New York FFA, New York Farm Bureau, Ohio FFA, Ohio Farm Bureau, AgCredit, Pennsylvania FFA, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Compeer Financial.


1 Source: A.M. Best Market Share Report 2019

*In Ohio, all Golden Owl Award funding is contributed directly to the school to benefit the agriculture programs.