FFA adviser’s impact on students sets him apart

FFA adviser Dave Stiles
Helping honor Indian Valley FFA Adviser Dave Stiles (center) at a recent surprise presentation were (from left) Shawnda Vega with Nationwide; FFA member Clayton Sprowl; Michele Specht, local Ohio Farm Bureau organization director; Principal Rob Clarke; Nationwide Agent Don Kemp; and Alyssa Bregel, Ohio FFA Association. Stiles is one of 10 finalists for the Golden Owl Award.

By Taylor Banbury | Contributing Writer

GNADENHUTTEN, Ohio — After nearly 38 years of teaching agricultural education, Dave Stiles is in contention to be Ohio’s first Golden Owl recipient.

Stiles, an alumnus of the Ohio State University, is a 33-year educator at Indian Valley High School in Tuscarawas County. 

He believes that agricultural education is extremely important to youth — regardless of what field they enter in the future. Helping implement these life skills is what Stiles considers his greatest accomplishment and most profound way to impact his students. 

He appreciates the opportunity to watch “former students, as well as each of my three children, use the life skills they acquired through the FFA program to help them become successful in their own chosen careers,” Stiles said. 

With nearly 100 students, more than 20 percent of the student body, passing through his program each year, Stiles knows the impact that teachers can have on their students. And he advises the next generation of educators to work hard to make an impression on these students. 

“I always tell new and beginning teachers that I meet that ‘students do not care what you know until they know that you care.’ Unfortunately, there is no ‘state test’ that is capable of determining that, to be evaluated as a ‘good teacher’,” Stiles said. 

In his 33 years at Indian Valley, he said he’s “been blessed with a multitude of outstanding students and rewarding experiences. I have been extremely fortunate to have a tremendous number of students that have always made me look good.” 

While Stiles’ students may help make him look good, his efforts to make an impact on them have earned him numerous awards and recognition throughout his tenure as an educator, including being the Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau Association Outstanding Member 2018, the Ohio ACTE and Region I ACTE (National Finalist) Outstanding Teacher in Community Service Award (2006), receiving Honorary State and American Degrees, Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator Award, SWCD Conservation Teacher of the Year, as well as state and national awards from the Ohio and national associations of agricultural educators, and the state and national chapters of the Association for Career & Technical Education.

But the Golden Owl award is the one Stiles considers to be the most prestigious. Stiles was nominated by his local Farm Bureau leadership, which considered him a top-notch example of an educator making an impact that exceeds the classroom. 

In addition to his role at Indian Valley, Stiles takes on a variety of volunteer and leadership roles, including the Tuscarawas County Market Livestock Committee, the Tuscarawas 4-H/FFA, the Tuscarawas County Quality Assurance Programs, the American Red Cross / LifeShare Community Blood Drives School Liaison. 

About the Golden Owl

Read our profile on another top 10 finalist, Tom Holton

The new Golden Owl award recognizes outstanding educators in the agriculture field and is sponsored by Nationwide Insurance, The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the Ohio FFA Organization. This is its inaugural year in Ohio and Iowa and the hope for the program is continued growth nationwide, including an additional three states in 2020.

According to Shawnda Vega, Nationwide Insurance’s sponsor relations account executive in Ohio and West Virginia, the company received nearly 430 nominations from across Ohio.

From the hundreds of nominees submitted, the final field includes 10 finalists, who each received a $500 prize.

The 2019 Golden Owl recipient will receive $3,000 to enhance his or her school’s program. The teacher who is recognized will also gain the title of the ‘Ohio Ag Educator of the Year.’ The top award will be announced in April and the overall winner will be recognized in May during the 91st Ohio FFA Convention.

The 10 Ohio finalists for the award include:

  • Stephanie Conway, Bowling Green High School
  • Randy Eisenhauer, Shelby High School
  • Shelby Faulkner, Ridgemont High School
  • Tom Holton, East Knox Junior-Senior High School
  • Holly Jennings, Felicity-Franklin High School
  • John Poulson, Pettisville High School
  • Michael Spahr, Greene County Career Center
  • Dave Stiles, Indian Valley High School
  • Katrina Swinehart, Central State University
  • Erin Wollett, Cardington-Lincoln High School


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