From a record number of 463 nominations that were submitted statewide, seven finalists have been selected for the annual Golden Owl Award, which celebrates Iowa’s top agriculture educator of the year.

Sponsored by the Iowa FFA Foundation, Nationwide Insurance and other agricultural partners, the Golden Owl Award recognizes outstanding work in agriculture education and promotes the importance of the field. All finalists received an engraved plaque and $500 prize and are now in the running for the state’s 2022-23 award, which includes a grand prize of $3,000 and the Golden Owl trophy.

“Since we are an agriculture-focused state, agriculture programs are an important part of education in Iowa,” said Matt Eddy, agriculture, food and natural resources consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “The Golden Owl Award provides the opportunity to showcase the great work that is being done in agriculture education across the state.”

This year’s Golden Owl Award finalists are:

  • Debbie Barkela, Belmond-Klemme Community School District
  • Scott Smalley, Iowa State University
  • Emily Kruse, North Scott Community School District
  • Jim Russ, New Hampton Community School District
  • Matt Debrick, West Sioux Community School District
  • Kevin Blair, Orient-Macksburg Community School District
  • Rosa Sondag, Central Decatur Community School District

Iowa is one of nine states that honor top agriculture educators with the Golden Owl Award. Educators are nominated by students, teachers and other community members.

“It’s always awesome to see the excitement over who’s providing quality ag education experiences in Iowa,” Eddy said.

The 2022-23 Golden Owl Award grand prize winner will be named at the annual Iowa FFA Convention in April.