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, Chad Schimmels, from the Eustis-Farnam FFA chapter, has established a program where less is more, teaching students that you don’t have to be great at everything, just work really hard at a few things
Inspired by the ways agriculture education changed his life, Mr. Schimmels wanted to do the same thing for his students. However, teaching wasn’t always Mr. Schimmels’ long-term goal. With the intention of teaching for a few years and then going into industry, he was surprised when he realized just how much he enjoyed being in the classroom. Throughout his 26 years at Eustis-Farnam, he has developed a program that fits his students and the community.
A college professor of Mr. Schimmels once told him, “Try to do one thing and do it really well, then expand.” Mr. Schimmels has definitely taken this advice to heart. Every year, Eustis-Farnam consistently ranks as one of the top teams in Nebraska in junior high quiz bowl, food science, meats, and agronomy contests. Throughout his career, he has coached many teams at the national level including one national champion team in the National FFA Food Science Career Development Event (CDE). Regardless of which contest students compete, Mr. Schimmels encourages them that they can compete with anyone. Even if they are not the best, other teams are going to have to earn a win against them.
One of Mr. Schimmels’ favorite things about being an ag teacher is watching students succeed. While students may remember the big moments like when they are receiving an award on stage, he remembers the small moments. Whether it is when a student finally understands a concept or gets a good score at practice, he is excited for them.
The impact Mr. Schimmels has made on students goes beyond his own program. The Frontier County Invite is a prime example of this. The CDE contest hosted by Eustis-Farnham, Medicine Valley, and Maywood FFA chapters provides over 400 students with opportunities to compete before their district contests. Students from Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado travel to Eustis every year to compete in agronomy, food science, meats, junior high quiz bowl, floriculture, agriscience, and vet science CDEs. The Frontier County Invite is helping raise the bar for Nebraska FFA members, pushing them to be more competitive at the state and national levels.
Over the years Mr. Schimmels has put in a lot of time on the state CDE Committee, establishing consistency for rules and contests for student success at the state level. Additionally, Mr. Schimmels and his wife serve as the state superintendents for the Louisiana FFA food science contest. These experiences have given him valuable insight to improve contest experiences for Nebraska FFA members.
Outside of the classroom, Mr. Schimmels spends his time supporting his two kids at their numerous activities, including coaching 4-H archery and raising calves. He also enjoys working in and around his church.
Mr. Schimmels credits a lot of the program’s success to his wife, Angie, who has helped with numerous events over the years including chaperoning for contests and coaching teams. He is also very grateful for the teachers that he has learned from in the past, and the younger teachers he will learn from in the future.
One nominee shared, “In all my encounters with Mr. Schimmels, he is about the students and what is being taught to them…He sets the bar as an educator for all of us, and I can speak personally that his efforts have helped shape me as an educator to push to do even better.” Mr. Schimmels has taught many that hard work can go a long way.
The Nebraska Golden Owl Award is sponsored by the Nebraska Agriculture Educators Association, the Nebraska FFA Foundation, and Nationwide.