NEWS: Five Teachers Receive National Outstanding Educator Award

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Five Teachers Honored as 2015 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educators

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These five outstanding educators show how integrating environmental education and PLT across the curriculum prepares students to meet environmental, economic, and social challenges.

Five educators who use environmental education to improve student learning and foster environmental stewardship were named the 2015 National Outstanding Educators by Project Learning Tree® (PLT), the environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation. Since 1994, PLT’s Outstanding Educators have been selected for their commitment to environmental education, exemplary use of Project Learning Tree’s award-winning educational materials, and exceptional teaching skills.

The 2015 National PLT Outstanding Educators and their home states are--

  • Idaho: Deanna Kinziger, Lewiston High School, Lewiston
  • Indiana: Dawn Hammon, Center for Inquiry School #84, Indianapolis
  • Ohio: Michael Sustin, West Geauga High School, Chesterland
  • Texas: Alan Sowards, Ed.D., Stephen F. Austin University, Nacogdoches
  • Utah: Will Bollwerk, Salt Lake CAP Head Start, Salt Lake City

These Outstanding Educators were selected from nominees across the U.S. Their diverse experiences illustrate how PLT can be used effectively with all age groups, both in the classroom or outdoors, with pre-schoolers through university students.

“The next generation will be confronted with many environmental, economic, and social challenges,” said Kathy McGlauflin, senior vice president for education at the American Forest Foundation, in announcing the award. “These five outstanding educators show how integrating environmental education and PLT across the curriculum prepares students to meet those challenges.”

They will be honored at PLT’s 29th International Coordinators’ Conference, June 8–11, in Saratoga Springs, New York. They are also invited to attend the World Forestry Center’s International Educators Institute, July 12-18, in Portland, Oregon.

Background about the five PLT Outstanding Educators:

  • Deanna Kinziger, Lewiston, ID teaches ecology, environmental science, and geology at Lewiston High School. As a PLT facilitator for 12 years, she has led workshops and helped design the training around PLT’s high school materials. Through her efforts, her students are outdoors and active in the community, working with the City Forest, Master Water Steward Program and other efforts.
  • Dawn Hammon, Indianapolis, IN, came to the Center for Inquiry in 2014, having taught kindergarten and other early grades at several Indianapolis Public schools. She is also the lead science trainer for kindergarten teachers throughout her school district. She uses PLT to teach young urban students about nature, helps them start school gardens and composting projects, and even plant native vegetation to contain surface runoff from a parking lot. She involves parents in learning about the environment with their children, and has started a junior naturalist club.
  • Michael Sustin, Chesterland, OH, teaches environmental science and chemistry at West Geauga High School. He engages students in forest and wildlife management studies, wetlands restoration projects, recycling, and energy-saving programs. He has received the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Education, traveled to the Arctic as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, and was instrumental in West Geauga’s recognition as a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Alan Sowards, Ed.D., Nacogdoches, TX, is a professor in the Department of Elementary Education at Stephen F. Austin State University. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses to help prepare new teachers for the classroom. He shows students how to incorporate environmental education and developed the program Bugs, Bees, Butterflies, and Blossoms to give SFASU students practice teaching science in an outdoor setting with thousands of elementary students, their teachers and parents.
  • Will Bollwerk, Salt Lake City, UT, is a Head Start Program master teacher. He helped create a partnership between PLT and Salt Lake CAP Head Start to introduce environmental education to 84 classrooms of pre-schoolers from low-income families. He teaches at-risk children at a supportive housing development that helps people in Salt Lake City overcome homelessness, and converted its unused outdoor area into a working garden to introduce children to nature and create a new excitement for learning.

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About Project Learning Tree

Project Learning Tree® (PLT) uses trees and forests as windows on the world to increase students’ understanding of the environment. PLT provides educators with supplementary curriculum materials, professional development, and other resources to integrate environmental education into lesson plans for all grades and subject areas, and to use the outdoors to engage students in learning about the world around them. Developed in 1976, PLT’s 50-state network includes more than 650,000 trained educators using PLT materials and 4,000 PLT GreenSchools! PLT is a program of the American Forest Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.plt.org.

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