Nationwide honors late River Ridge High School teacher as Illinois’ Ag Educator of the Year

Golden Owl Award recognizes top ag teachers across 5 states

DES MOINES, Iowa – Educators devote countless time, and often their own resources, to help students pursue their passions.

As the number one insurer of farms and ranches in the United States, Nationwide recently recognized five Illinois teachers as finalists for their 2019-2020 Golden Owl Award.

In partnership with the Illinois FFA, the insurer recognized Ed Curry, agriculture teacher at River Ridge High School, who passed away in July 2019, as Illinois’ first Ag Educator of the Year.

“Agriculture teachers play such a critical role in preparing the next generation of industry leaders,” said Brad Liggett, Nationwide’s president of Agribusiness. “Nationwide has deep roots in agriculture and we’re honored to be able to recognize the above and beyond efforts of teachers across the country.”

Curry was formally recognized as the Golden Owl Award grand prize winner during the virtually held IAVAT Conference on June 18. As Illinois’ Ag Educator of the Year, Curry’s family will receive the coveted Golden Owl Award trophy and $3,000 in funding.

“As an agriculture education teacher and FFA advisor, Ed’s passion was to make a difference for the students and the community in which he served providing a compelling link for career opportunities and goals,” Curry’s family shared. “We were deeply honored to be presented with the 2019-2020 Illinois Ag Teacher of the Year Golden Owl Award posthumously for Ed.”

After accepting nominations in late 2019 and early 2020, Nationwide and partners announced 31 finalists across five states for the 2019-2020 Golden Owl Award in April.

Each finalist was recognized and presented with $500 to support their programs, before being entered into a final selection stage for the chance to be crowned as their state’s Ag Educator of the Year.

Nationwide initiated the Golden Owl Award in 2018 and recognized the contributions of 17 Iowa and Ohio agricultural teachers.

As a result of the positive response from the communities in which Golden Owl Award nominees make a difference, the 2019-2020 Golden Owl Award was expanded from two states to five: California, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“We’re excited by the growth we’ve seen in participation and nominations since beginning the program in 2018,” said Liggett. “We hope to be able to continue expanding our efforts to recognize the work of teachers in every state.”

Nationwide supports the future of the ag community through meaningful sponsorships of national and local organizations. In conjunction with the Golden Owl Award, Nationwide is donating $5,000 to each participating state’s FFA, including the Illinois FFA, to further support the personal and professional growth of students, teachers and advisors alike.  

The Golden Owl Award is the result of a partnership between Nationwide, the California FFA, California Farm Bureau, Illinois FFA, Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers, Farm Credit Illinois, the Iowa FFA Foundation, Ohio FFA, Ohio Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania FFA, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and Compeer Financial.

For more information or to learn more about the Illinois Golden Owl Awards, visit