Jonathan Juravich may not be the National Teacher of the Year, but that won't stop him from advocating on a national stage.

The Liberty Tree Elementary School art teacher was among just four finalists across the United States to be considered for the honor from the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Mandy Manning, an English teacher and intervention specialist at Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, received the honor.

Juravich, 35, was named the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year by the Ohio Department of Education in September.

At both the state and national level, Teacher of the Year awards are more than just a certificate and a pat on the back; finalists receive opportunities to advocate for their profession and learn from one another.

As part of the process, Juravich flew to Washington, D.C., to be interviewed by a selection committee. While there, he also met with staffers from the office of U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R- Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Juravich will travel to the Capitol again this month to meet with Brown's education staff.

"I'm still in the classroom and I'm still teaching, but I'm also speaking to future teachers and meeting with representatives at the Statehouse," he said. "I've been able to speak on the floor of the (Ohio) House about the importance of art education. It's advocating for the incredible educators that I get to work with every day."

Juravich also coaches cross country at Hyatts Middle School and is an adjunct professor at Otterbein University, his alma mater.

Juravich credits his wife, Amy, and the "wildly supportive" staff and students at Liberty Tree with helping him juggle what he admitted has been a busy few months.

"The whole experience has been very humbling," Juravich said. "They, in so many ways, believe in you. And when I'm not here, the students are so excited to hear about where I was and what I was doing, because they are a part of this journey."

Juravich takes reminders of his students with him wherever he goes in the form of hundreds of different buttons they made for him.

"I switch them out every day. They are a great conversation piece," Juravich said.

Whether helping fourth-grade artists cover giant papier-mache deer in polka dots, or guiding his fifth-graders through self-portraits in the style of Kehinde Wiley, who recently painted the official portrait of former President Barack Obama, there is no such thing as a typical day.

"That's not normal, but it's part of what makes my job so fun and like a wild adventure every day," Juravich said. "It's an opportunity to open their eyes to the possibilities. Visual art connects all of us. Being in Washington for the interviews, and being among those monuments really illustrate how it's art that connects us to our past."

Juravich said he and the three other finalists formed a friendship.

"I am talking and texting every day with teachers from across the country that I didn't even know," Juravich said. "I can't believe how much I have grown professionally, just over the course of the last few months. I have been pushed and encouraged in ways that I wasn't even sure were possible."

The nonprofit Council of Chief State School Officers has given out the award since 1952.

For more information on the award, visit ccsso.org/national-teacher-of-the-year.

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