A-W ag educator is state award finalist

Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:00 am

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By Julie Ann Madden

“Have a passion in what you do in life. Don’t settle for any old job. Go into a job that you enjoy doing and make it your life. Don’t make it your job. Make it your life.”

That’s just one of the gifts A-W Ag Educator Randy Kroksh is passing on to his 72 students as he teaches Animal Science, Plant & Soil Science, Applied Ag Science (Ag I), Biotechnology, Ag Business Management, Horticulture, Food Science, Middle School Ag Exploratory, and Ag Independent Study. He also is advisor to 45 FFA members.

“Mr. Kroksh goes above and beyond in and outside the classroom to ensure that students have the most advanced, hands-on learning opportunities available,” read Nationwide® Senior Consultant of Business Development – Agribusiness Sales Ida Wood from Kroksh’s nominations. “His students and colleagues view him as kind, caring and open-minded and feel that he tries to find a niche for every student who enters his classroom.”

“Mr. Kroksh teaches his students the importance of service,” she continued, “and they see from him that he practices what he preaches.”

“Together they have made meals for the hungry, sponsored pedal tractor pulls for the youth, worked with the Lions Club on recycling papers and put on an Ag Olympics at the high school during Homecoming week,” read Wood. “Through a variety of avenues, Mr. Kroksh has impacted Akron-Westfield’s students. He provides multiple opportunities for students to engage in leadership opportunities and scholarship. He also can relate his content back to each student’s life to show them how agriculture impacts their everyday life.”

On Sunday evening Kroksh was surprised with the announcement that he was one of seven state finalists for the Golden Owl Award, created by the Iowa FFA Foundation and Nationwide® Insurance Company to honor ag educators.

During this award’s inaugural year, Nationwide partnered with the Iowa FFA, Ohio FFA, and Ohio Farm Bureau® to introduce the accolade in Ohio and Iowa.

“We created this award to bring attention to the growing need for agricultural teachers in this country,” said Brad Liggett, president of Agribusiness for Nationwide. “Providing teachers with these additional resources will help develop their programs and provide their students with an optimal learning experience. Our goal is to spread this award to more states in the coming years to highlight all the talented agriculture teachers across the country.”

“It is truly exciting to be here,” said Iowa FFA Foundation Executive Director Joshua Remington, noting ag educators are a special group of individuals. They are extremely hardworking. It’s amazing how many hours they put in outside the classroom…and they don’t get recognized as much as they should. “They make a true impact for our students and all the lives they touch are changed in a very profound way.”

There were 369 nominations made in Iowa for this brandnew award, said Remington. Ten of those were for Kroksh alone, making him the Northwest Iowa FFA District finalist.

Seven teachers from Iowa and 10 teachers from Ohio were selected as honorees, receiving a $500 prize and entrance into the final selection stage. One honoree from each state will be chosen for the grand prize, winning the coveted Golden Owl Award and a $3,000 prize. All donations are designed to reward the educator for their dedication, and support their continued educational efforts.

I’m really overwhelmed,” said Kroksh after being named a Golden Owl Award finalist.

“This is just a complete shock for me,” he told the media. “I’m a person who usually doesn’t apply for awards because that’s not what I’m here for — I’m here to educate our students and be a part of their lives. I’m in total awe right now.”

Kroksh thought the FFA students and alumni meeting that evening were just the usual meetings where students plan activities and community service events and alumni plan fundraising and mentoring opportunities that benefit the FFA students.

That was his thought until he was ushered into the school auditorium after a potluck meal and saw his parents there.

Kroksh is an Akron-Westfield Class of 1984 alum, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ag Education from South Dakota State University in 1988.

“I never planned on teaching,” said Kroksh. “My folks told me to get an education because of the 1980s’ Farm Crisis. I went to school, never intended to teach. Came back home and started farming.”

His high school ag teacher, the late John Ziniel, steered him into Agriculture Education field so Kroksh could substitute teach for him.

Kroksh did substitute but his Ag Education career didn’t begin until Ziniel retired. Kroksh was asked to fill in the Fall Semester 1998 until newly-hired Ag instructor Craig Winquist could start the position.

“That’s when I fell in love with teaching because it’s a lot different than substituting,” said Kroksh. “Substituting just feels like you’re a babysitter. The kids don’t respect you as much.”

Teaching full-time you bond with the students, he said, admitting he had a hard time when Winquist took over the ag classroom.

Kroksh stepped into the position again when Winquist left to pursue a music career in Tennessee in 2003. Since then, Kroksh has been teaching at Akron-Westfield except for the 2014-2015 school year.

“I couldn’t give up my farming because that’s kind of my first love,” said Kroksh. “I’ve been kind of torn between the two for many years. I’ve left this program…but it just keeps pulling me back in because I missed it.”

Kroksh is in his 17th year of teaching at Akron-Westfield. On the farm, he produces corn and soybeans and has a cow-calf operation. He and his son, Brendan, are also restarting their swine operation.

Kroksh, and his wife, Debbie who is the Akron Children’s Center director, have four children: Brittany who is in heaven; Melissa of Waukon, who’s for Four Seasons as a fundraising district rep; Adam, of Chicago, Ill., who is pursuing an acting career; and Brendan, who is an A-W senior and serves as the FFA chapter president.

“When I was in Randy’s classes, I was the class clown,” said FFA Alumni Association President Kyle Hoffman. “Most of you know that Randy has more patience than probably any teacher at Akron-Westfield. He’ll give you as much guidance now as he will to someone who’s 40.”

“We’re very privileged to have him here in our community,” said Hoffman. “He teaches his students to be good citizens who care for and support their community. He works right along with his students which instills in his students pride in our community and shows good citizenship doesn’t end at graduation….it never ends, we have to keep it going.”

“You’re pretty special and we really appreciate it,” Hoffman told Kroksh.

“I didn’t know how big the award was,” said Brendan, “and hearing it tonight it’s kind of cool that my dad, my (FFA) advsior, got this award. He definitely deserved it and it’s pretty cool.

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