The Nebraska Golden Owl Award recognizes teachers with an outstanding commitment and impact on their students and dedication to agriculture education. Out of many nominations, six finalists were selected. Finalist, Brent Nollette, from the Valentine FFA chapter, strives to provide students with as many hands-on opportunities as possible. During his eight years at Valentine, Mr. Nollette has made this component a priority in the classroom.
Inspired by his own agricultural education teacher, his dad, Mr. Nollete found himself in the same profession. Following in his dad’s footsteps he dove head first into a career that allowed him to be around young people while being actively involved in production agriculture. Mr. Nollette and his dad aren’t the only ag teachers in the family, though. His uncle was one too. These individuals served as an excellent resource for Mr. Nollette when he began his teaching career fifteen years ago.
In addition to the flexibility that allows him to be involved in his family’s ranch and vineyard, Mr. Nollette’s favorite part about being an agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor is getting to know students outside the classroom setting. “Outside of the classroom you really get to experience students’ personalities as they come out of their shell,” shared Nollette.
Some of his favorite memories include taking students to National FFA Convention. During this time, students get the opportunity to see different parts of agriculture. For many students, this is their first time seeing a bigger city outside of Nebraska or flying on a plane. Mr. Nollette really enjoys sharing these new experiences with them. Experiences like these are really important, and that’s why Mr. Nollette tries to get as many of his students to qualify for state FFA convention as possible. Traveling to Lincoln also offers a new experience for many students that will prepare them for life after high school.
In addition to providing opportunities through FFA, Mr. Nollette strives to create hands-on components in all of his classes. Valentine FFA has a food lab, greenhouse, welding shop, and an animal lab. Students in all classes engage with these hands-on components whether it’s the food science students working in the lab or the ag business students marketing the chapter’s beef. Providing these opportunities is not a one-person job. Mr. Nollette credits a lot of effort and thanks to the two other Valentine FFA advisors, Shawna Houdek and Kasy Epke, as well as their supportive administration and school board.
Outside the classroom, Mr. Nollette spends time with his wife and three kids. He also enjoys working on his family’s ranch where they raise registered Angus and Balancer cattle. His family also owns Niobrara Valley Vineyards. You can often find him working at the winery or for their catering business. In the fall, he even invites students to help harvest grapes. His experiences outside of the classroom help him relate content to students and explain why it’s important.
Teachers are in the people business, so building relationships is vital to success. One nominator shared, “Every student who goes through his classroom seemingly develops a strong and stable relationship with him. His support stretches far and wide - from school to FFA to even future careers.”
Mr. Nollette continues to share his experiences with students while focusing on providing them with opportunities. From real-world experiences in the classroom to traveling for FFA, he finds a way to ensure that students are supported in their learning and personal development.
The Nebraska Golden Owl Award is sponsored by the Nebraska Agriculture Educators Association, the Nebraska FFA Foundation, and Nationwide.