By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Stephanie Conway spent a good deal of her childhood in the Bowling Green FFA classroom taught by her dad, Mike Shertzer.
Now Conway has been recognized for being like a second mom to her 120 students in the classroom once occupied by her dad.
Conway, BGHS FFA teacher for seven years, was recently recognized during a surprise ceremony for being one of 10 finalists in Ohio for the Golden Owl Award. The award points out the contributions of teachers in Ohio and Iowa in preparing the next generation of young people for successful careers in agriculture.
In her classroom, Conway helps students realize there is still a future in farming.
The Golden Owl Award was created because of recent trends show a declining number of students who are studying agriculture. In Iowa alone, the presence of agriculture teachers has decreased by 20 percent during the last five years.
To shed light on this trend, Nationwide, the top farm insurer in the U.S., established the award to recognize the work of agriculture teachers and the importance of ag education.
Conway was selected for making a difference in her students’ lives. She has helped many graduates find careers in the agricultural industry. She often stays after school to take students to contests, make sure they are confident in their work, and allow students to participate in community events.
“We’re blessed to have her teach our students,” Bowling Green High School Principal Jeff Dever said.
Conway’s efforts have paid off in her students’ success. The BG FFA chapter has earned 12 FFA awards for Wood County, nine awards out of a 24-chapter district and nine state awards in a 341-chapter region. The BG chapter is also a National Three Star Award recipient with four American FFA degrees.
The FFA students, who gathered for the surprise recognition, said Conway is dedicated to forming lasting relationships with students and their families, and helping them find jobs in agricultural careers.
“She’s always going above and beyond,” including keeping track of graduates in college, said student Jackie Steel.
“She’s always pushing us to do better than we are,” student Cassidy Hendricks said.
Conway said her father set a good example for her in the classroom.
“Just watching him while I was growing up, and what he did,” she said. “I spent a lot of time in the ag room.”
Conway wanted to recreate that certain type of atmosphere in her classroom.
“It’s like a big family,” she said.
Conway was not expecting to get the award, nor to see her family and students all gathered in her honor.
“It was pretty humbling to see all my students here, and my family here,” she said. “It was definitely humbling to know people care that much.”
Conway was one of 10 finalists in Ohio and seven finalists in Iowa to be presented with a $500 cash prize to use for her class.
In April 2019, one finalist from each state will be chosen as a grand-prize winner based on additional review by a selection committee. Each grand-prize winner will receive a Golden Owl Award trophy, the designation of Ag Educator of the Year and a $3,000 Nationwide-funded cash award designed to help support continued education efforts.