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, Randy Vlasin, from the Hayes Center FFA chapter, encourages students to try, even when they don’t believe it themselves.
Swayed by the land crisis of the 1980s and inspired by his teachers in college, Mr. Vlasin began his career as an agricultural educator 40 years ago. His journey started with a short period at Wilber-Clatonia, followed by 23 years at Imperial. After his time at Imperial, he spent time in the business world and then returned to teaching at Hayes Center for 9 years. With a 34-year teaching career, one could say that Mr. Vlasin knows a thing or two about agriculture education and FFA.
Success isn’t something achieved alone. During Mr. Vlasin’s student-teaching experience, his mentor lit the fire in him for a passion for teaching. He admired how his mentor effortlessly built relationships with students. Teaching, after all, is a relationship-driven business where connecting with students sets the tone for everything else. Mr. Vlasin’s success as a teacher was first inspired by his student-teaching mentor and continued with current ag teachers. Being associated with a family of ag teachers from across the state and learning from them made him want to be a part of it.
Hayes Center is one of the smallest chapters in the state, with 24 students currently in FFA. Coming from a small chapter with few resources it was sometimes discouraging to students when they had to compete against chapters with so much more. Mr. Vlasin was always quick to remind his students that, “It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight. It’s about the size of the fight in the dog. It’s about what you want to achieve.” Students lived out this analogy as competitors at state and national competitions, proving that they, too, can succeed despite their size. As great as it is to win contests, Mr. Vlasin shared with his students, “It’s not about the plaques and the awards. It’s about what you become in the process.”
One of Mr. Vlasin’s favorite things about being an ag teacher and FFA advisor has been watching students succeed, whether it is in the classroom or in a competition. Watching a student grow over their time in the program and become who they were meant to be has been very rewarding. As a teacher, his job has been to offer opportunities for students to create success for themselves.
Some of Mr. Vlasin’s most memorable moments have been competing against his son, the Imperial FFA advisor. Since they have been teaching, they have always agreed that they will never hold back from preparing a team to compete against each other. This has made the contests fun for them as they are both very competitive individuals. In the end, though, it is about the students, so preparing them well is the most important thing.
Outside of the classroom, Mr. Vlasin likes spending time outdoors with his family, especially his grandchildren. When he has the chance, he also enjoys traveling with his wife. Mr. Vlasin retired at the end of the 2023 school year and has re-entered the business world.
One nominator shared, “Mr. Vlasin continues to develop outstanding young men and women, not only through his classroom but through mentoring and leadership training.” Throughout his teaching career, Mr. Vlasin has inspired hundreds of students to believe in themselves.
The Nebraska Golden Owl Award is sponsored by the Nebraska Agriculture Educators Association, the Nebraska FFA Foundation, and Nationwide.