SHANDON — Educators devote countless time, and often their own resources, to help students pursue their passions. The California FFA, California Farm Bureau and Nationwide identified Deanna Morton, an agricultural teacher at Shandon High School, as a finalist for the 2023-2024 Ag Educator of the Year honor through Nationwide’s Golden Owl Award. 

From Sept. 1 through Jan. 16, nominations were collected statewide for top agricultural teachers from local students, parents, fellow teachers and community members across California. 

Highlighting the profound influence of the FFA, California Farm Bureau President and FFA alumna Shannon Douglass emphasized the significant impact it has on shaping leaders in agriculture. 

“Farm Bureau sees firsthand the tremendous impact that FFA makes, as many of our current leaders across agriculture have roots in FFA,” reflected Douglass. “We are so appreciative of the hard-working ag teachers who provide a great foundation for FFA members that in turn benefits all of agriculture.”

Morton will be presented with a plaque and a $500 check in front of fellow teachers, students, and supporters at the 2024 State FFA Leadership Conference, March 21-24 in Sacramento. All six finalists will be considered for California’s Ag Educator of the Year Award, earning an additional $3,000 and the coveted Golden Owl Award trophy. The winner will be announced on stage at the conference.

“California FFA is thrilled to collaborate with Nationwide and the California Farm Bureau in honoring exceptional agricultural educators and FFA advisors,” stated Charles Parker, State FFA advisor. “The six state finalists showcase extraordinary commitment to equipping students with foundational skills, leadership qualities, and essential knowledge for the future. These educators extend beyond traditional classroom instruction, ensuring students are thoroughly prepared for success.”

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 eleven 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 contributing $5,000 to the California FFA Foundation, enhancing support for the personal and professional development of both students and advisors.