By Bethany Starlin, OCJ FFA reporter
“Although I’m excited and extremely thankful, it’s not great for me. It’s great for our school and it’s great for our community…”
After winning one of Ohio’s most prestigious awards in the realm of agricultural education, Barrett Zimmerman was quick to pass the excitement on to those around him. Those who are fortunate enough to know him would call that true Barrett Zimmerman fashion.
Chances are, anyone who has ever stepped into an agriculture classroom was impacted by their agricultural educator in some capacity. Whether it be pursuing a career in agriculture post-graduation, gaining professional skills or learning a valuable life lesson, the impact of educators lasts a lifetime. A group of professional agriculture organizations and businesses decided a few years ago that this impact deserved to be recognized in a big way.
Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, Nationwide, Ohio FFA, Ohio Farm Bureau, Farm Credit Mid-America and AgCredit annually recognize 10 agricultural educators across the state of Ohio as Golden Owl Award Honorees. Of those 10, one is then selected to be Ohio’s Golden Owl Award winner and earns the title of the Ohio Agricultural Educator of the Year.
This year’s Golden Owl Award winner was Barrett Zimmerman, the Agricultural Educator and FFA Advisor at Clyde High School.
Zimmerman has been in the classroom for over 28 years and there was nothing “spur of the moment” about his initial decision to become an agricultural educator.
“The reason I became an agricultural educator is 100% because of my father as he was an agricultural educator,” Zimmerman said. “Since I was in seventh grade I knew it’s what I wanted to do and it’s all I’ve ever done and it’s all I ever hope to do.”
Those who have had the privilege to work alongside and learn from Zimmerman were quick to note his sense of humor and the genuine joy he brings to the spaces he encompasses. He has an innate ability to meet each student where they are and help them reach their fullest potential in the blue jacket.
“There’s a whole pile of students out there that we touch every day that really need it. You may not see them on a stage, you may never see them on a state winning team, but I see them. I see them working at a job in my community or stopping in to tell me they just got married. I see the impact that blue jacket made and it’s a little different than what you might think, but that’s still a huge impact and that’s what the blue jacket means to me,” Zimmerman said.
His passion for education and impacting young people is inspiring and exactly what you hope to see in those who influence the next generation of leaders.
“There’s nothing about this job that I don’t look forward to. I get up at four in the morning and try to get to work as quickly as I can as soon as my chores are finished because I just love coming here, I really do,” Zimmerman said.
When asked about his teaching method, his answer was simple: always go back to the FFA Motto.
“Learning to do, that’s our job, teaching students how to do something. Doing to learn, give them an opportunity to have hands-on experience and truly attain the skill at hand. Earning to live, have them look at how they can use that skill to earn a living. Finally, always give them opportunities where they can give back to their community, living to serve,” Zimmerman said.
Despite his ability to creatively and effectively educate students on agricultural-related topics and fields, some of his favorite lessons are the ones he can teach by doing.
“Some of the greatest lessons you can teach students don’t come from a textbook and that’s one of my favorite things about being an educator. Somebody’s always watching so we always have to be teaching,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman recognizes that his success in the classroom would truly not be possible without supporters behind him. Former students, community members, Clyde High School and the Vanguard-Sentinel Career & Technology Centers have all helped make his achievements in the classroom possible.
The other nine honorees for this year’s award included Abby Campbell (Fort Frye), Eric Heeg (Blanchester Great Oaks), Sarah Heilers (Anna), Tim Kilpatrick (Coshocton County CC), Lowell Moodt (Grand Valley), Laura Ringler (Plymouth), Tricia Schoen (Genoa-Penta), Aaron Thompson (Upper Scioto Valley-OHP) and Jeff Tilley (Amanda-Clearcreek).
Each of those honorees earned their school’s agricultural education program $500 to be used towards classroom instruction and the Ohio Agricultural Educator of the Year earned $3,000.