Brookings educator Josh Johnson finalist for Golden Owl Award

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BATH — Educators devote limitless time, and often their own resources, to helping students pursue their passions. To recognize the contributions of South Dakota’s leading agricultural teachers, the South Dakota FFA Foundation and Nationwide are honoring eight exceptional teachers as finalists for the Golden Owl Award.

From October through December of last year, nominations were collected for the state’s top agricultural teachers from local students, parents, fellow teachers and community members across South Dakota.

South Dakota’s 2023-24 Golden Owl Award finalists are:

  • District 1: Fred Zenk, Webster
  • District 2: Josh Johnson, Brookings
  • District 3: Clayton Sorum, Tea Area
  • District 4: Terry Rieckman, McCook Central
  • District 5: Austin Bishop, Belle Fourche
  • District 6: Brady Duxbury, Wessington Springs
  • District 7: Tara Fastert, Harrisburg
  • District 8: Renae Gebhart, Lemmon

Each finalist was presented with an individualized plaque in front of fellow teachers and students and received a $500 check to support future educational efforts. Next, they’ll be entered into a final selection stage for the chance to be crowned as South Dakota’s Ag Educator of the Year, earning an additional $3,000 Nationwide-funded check and the coveted Golden Owl Award trophy.

“Our teachers are the foundation of the FFA. They inspire our members every day, providing them encouragement and motivation to try new things. They coordinate early morning practices, dedicate weekends to FFA events, model a passion for serving others, and endlessly help students grow their passion for agriculture. We are so thankful Nationwide recognizes the valuable work our teachers do and provides this award,” Sandy Osterday, South Dakota FFA Foundation board president, said.

Nationwide established the Golden Owl Award to honor the contributions of teachers and support their programs with additional resources to assist their continued educational efforts. This year, the award program honors outstanding ag educators in 11 states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

“As the need grows for more ag educators across the nation, we are proud to thank and honor these hardworking agricultural teachers for their dedication,” said Brad Liggett, president of agribusiness at Nationwide. “These educators play a crucial role in preparing students for successful careers in the industry.”

In conjunction with the Golden Owl Award, Nationwide is also donating $5,000 to the South Dakota FFA Foundation to further support the personal and professional growth of students, teachers and advisors alike.