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FFA Advisor, Abby Hitchler, One of Six Teachers Recognized as Finalists for Golden Owl Award

The Nebraska Golden Owl Award recognizes teachers with an outstanding commitment and impact on their students and dedication to agricultural education. Out of many nominations, six finalists were selected. Finalist, Abby Hitchler, from the Boone Central FFA chapter, works hard to help students find their place in agriculture and achieve success in various forms.

Mrs. Hitchler knew she wanted to be an educator by the end of her time in high school, however, she entered college studying music education. But, after her freshman year in college, inspired by her high school agriculture teacher and coming from a strong background in agriculture, Mrs. Hitchler switched her major to agricultural education and never looked back, as she has now taught ag for 15 years.

Boone Central FFA was in a rebuilding phase when Mrs. Hitchler took over the program, as the chapter had about half the members they do now. Over the years, with the help of many exceptional students, Mrs. Hitchler has built Boone Central into a very strong program, known statewide for its success in competitions. However, even though the chapter has built a reputation of being very successful in competitions, Mrs. Hitchler hangs her hat on the journey of preparing for contests more than the result, understanding that students gain more skills and lessons during the journey, not the destination. She tries to get students to see this perspective as well.

Another thing Mrs. Hitchler works to instill in students is a balance between school and their personal life. She tries to have most of the FFA events during the week and works to respect students’ weekends in the classrooms as well.

She draws inspiration from her passions for agriculture and helping students succeed. Agricultural education is a great way for her to combine those two passions in one career, as she helps students succeed and find a place in agriculture. “I think succeeding can be a lot of different things. For some students, it’s simply going to a contest or a chapter,” shared Hitchler. She also strongly enjoys the day-to-day variety of agricultural education and all of the innovations incorporated into it.

Some of her favorite memories include watching students compete at the National FFA Convention after working hard to get to the highest level and having two Nebraska FFA State Officers come from the Boone Central FFA chapter. But, what Mrs. Hitchler enjoys the most is observing all of the lightbulb moments that students experience in the classroom and in FFA. She said it’s remarkable to reflect on the growth of students from their first to final years in FFA.

Advice Mrs. Hitchler shared for future agriculture educators is to not try it all as a beginning teacher. She advised new teachers to find what they’re good at and build from there. Other advice she shared was to not be afraid to say no and to create a unique identity for your chapter - not to compare it with others constantly.

Outside the classroom, you can find Mrs. Hitchler chasing her kids with her husband, camping, starting 4-H projects with her oldest, riding horses, and gardening.

Mrs. Hitchler would like to thank her family, her students, and all of the other agriculture teachers in the state for their support. She would like to extend a special thank you to her high school ag teacher and FFA advisor, John Peters, for instilling in her a love of FFA and agricultural education.

The Nebraska Golden Owl Award is sponsored by the Nebraska Agriculture Educators Association, the Nebraska FFA Foundation, and Nationwide.