BLOOMDALE – Elmwood High School’s agricultural educator — known for going above and beyond the call of duty — is a finalist for Ag Educator of the Year.
Krysteena Lawrence got a standing ovation from a gym full of students on Friday when they learned she was a finalist for a state award.
Lawrence is one of 10 finalists for the 2022-23 Ag Educator of the Year honor and the Golden Owl Award. In the fall, 521 nominations were received for 126 different teachers.
One of those nominators was Elmwood FFA Vice President Madison Feehan.
“She’s always gone above and beyond, spending hours over Christmas break with me working on my (supervised agricultural experience) and FFA projects. She’s always there for us whenever we’re having a bad day and is so supportive,” Feehan said. “It’s unreal that level she goes to to connect to each person.”
Lawrence said she doesn’t mind the extra hours.
“I enjoy developing a good rapport with my students and making them feel welcomed in my classroom at all times,” Lawrence said. “And that is before school, after school, during lunch even if they just want to come and talk about stuff that is going on in their personal life.
“I just want to be that person that’s there for them no matter what,” she said.
Elmwood FFA President Anthony Breyser said Lawrence was very deserving of the award because of the dedication she has given to the chapter, including the hours and hours she has not been compensated for while managing projects and the fruit sale.
“Just to make sure our chapter runs smoothly overall,” he said.
She also has the “overall understanding that each individual member has their own meaning to our chapter, and she helps to focus on each individual person,” he said.
When he lost his mother, Lawrence stepped into the role and helped him, Breyser said.
Lawrence said she works without compensation for the students to help them reach their goals.
“If the students are interested and they’re going to work hard toward their goals, I’m going to be there to help support them and push them,” she said.
On Friday, high school Principal Ty Traxler surprised Lawrence and the student body. He lured the students to the gym on a ploy that he needed to chat to them about their recent behavior in the hallways.
“She’s an amazing human being … always enthusiastic, energetic, positive. It’s awesome having her on staff,” said Traxler. “She’s definitely an outstanding ag educator and works hard at her job and it’s cool to see her get recognized like this.”
“She really deserves it,” said Lawrence’s father Mike Brown, who attended the ceremony with his wife, Tanya.
Lawrence is in her seventh year at Elmwood.
As the committee reviewed the nominations, there were many stories that stood out, said Steve Weihl with AgCredit.
Outstanding comments about Lawrence included how she encouraged the involvement of new FFA members and made sure they felt welcome. They also said Lawrence has made an impact on lives and that she isn’t only an ag teacher but an amazing person who is always there to help or to talk to at the end of the day.
“While all teachers are continually going above and beyond to ensure that each of you have a quality education, today we are recognizing one who works hard year-round to ensure that not only their classroom is engaging but also that their students have many opportunities outside the classroom,” said Tracy Dendinger, who is an educational professional for Southern Ohio Educational Service Center.
Whitney Short, with the Ohio Department of Education, said the nominations for Lawrence came from all kinds of people, including students, administrators, community members and co-workers.
“That is really neat because when you see that many nominations from that variety of people, you realize she is making an impact that is pretty significant,” Short said.
Lawrence said she was overwhelmed by the love and support of students and teachers.
As a finalist, Lawrence was presented with a plaque and will receive $500 to help support future educational efforts.
None of the other nine finalists was from Northwest Ohio, Short said.
Lawrence now has the chance to be crowned as Ohio’s Ag Educator of the Year in May during the 95th Ohio FFA Convention after going through an interview and application process.
The winner earns an additional $3,000 for her school’s agriculture program.
“Ohio is home to many outstanding ag teachers. We are so glad to highlight and recognize 10 honorees for their ongoing commitment to student success,” said Jessica Parrish, executive director of the Ohio FFA Foundation. “This award brings together statewide partners and the local school community to honor teachers for being a foundational part of the local FFA experience for students.”
The Golden Owl Award is the result of partnerships between Nationwide, Ohio FFA, Ohio Farm Bureau, Farm Credit Mid-America and AgCredit.