CORNING – Southwest Valley High School agriculture instructor, Steve Sonntag, has been selected as a finalist for the inaugural Nationwide Golden Owl Award.
Nationwide Insurance, the largest farmland insurer in the United States, created the Golden Owl Award to recognize outstanding agriculture educators. For its inaugural year, the company partnered with Future Farmers of America in Iowa and Ohio and the Ohio Farm Bureau to recognize educators in in the two states. The company plans to expand the award to include other states in the future.
Educators are nominated by their students and community. Seven teachers from Iowa and 10 teachers from Ohio were selected as finalists, who each receive a $500 cash award and the opportunity for a chance to be named Ag Educator of the Year.
The announcement was made during a special assembly, which Sonntag said he had no idea he had been nominated, much less chosen as a finalist.
“Awards like this are personally very nice because you’re always putting in extra time and you always wonder if it’s paying off,” said Sonntag. “When you get an award like this, it sort of validates that the school, the students and the community see the importance and the value of the program also.”
According to a press release announcing Sonntag’s selection as a finalist, Sonntag was nominated by his students and colleagues because they felt like he genuinely cares about the future of agriculture and agricultural education. His students said he is willing to go the extra mile and give him credit for inspiring their current involvement in the agricultural field.
Sonntag has been an agriculture instructor at Southwest Valley High School for 21 years. When he’s not teaching ag to high school students, he’s operating a small cow/calf operation.
Nationwide created the award because the company believes agricultural education is increasing in popularity and there aren’t enough instructors to meet the demand. The company also recognizes the importance of agricultural education and contributions of those who teach it.
“We’re proud to recognize outstanding teachers for their dedication to agriculture education and their communities,” said Brad Liggett, president of agribusiness for Nationwide. “These talented individuals have dedicated their careers to helping the next generation of agriculture leaders.”
The winner will be announced in April at the state FFA convention and the educator chosen to receive the Golden Owl Award will receive a golden owl trophy, $3,000 cash and be named Ag Educator of the Year.