Five Educators Named 2013 National Project Learning Tree® Outstanding Educators

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Outstanding Educators Recognized for Their Ability to Use Environmental Education to Improve Student Learning

The 2013 National Project Learning Tree® Outstanding Educators

These five outstanding educators show how integrating environmental education and Project Learning Tree across the curriculum engages students in learning science and all core subjects, and inspires them to make a difference in their communities.

Five educators who use environmental education as a tool to improve student learning and foster environmental stewardship were named the 2013 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 PLT, and exceptional teaching skills.

The 2013 National PLT Outstanding Educators and their home states are:
         •Connecticut: Lynn Kochiss, Grade 3 Teacher, Woodside Elementary School, Cromwell
         •Maine: Cameron Kay Sutton, Grades 7–8 Science Teacher, Auburn Middle School, Auburn
         •Michigan: Maureen Stine, Conservation Educator, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Onaway
         •Ohio: Cheri Goggin, Grades 9–12 Physical and Environmental Science Teacher, Berkshire Junior/Senior High School, Burton
         •Virginia: Allison Hall Kiesler, a lifetime environmental educator in school and community settings in Richmond.

The 2013 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educators will be honored at PLT’s 27th International Coordinators’ Conference, April 29-May 2, in Point Clear, Alabama. Their diverse experiences illustrate how PLT can be used effectively on the ground with all age groups (both in the classroom or outdoors) and across the curriculum, especially in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math.)

In nominating the 2013 PLT Outstanding Educators, their colleagues pointed to their commitment, creativity, and energy in working with students of all ages and abilities. For example, when students asked questions about recycling, Lynn Kochiss helped them create and organize an after-school environmental club that is an active part of their Connecticut community. Similarly, Cheri Goggin empowered her high school students in Ohio to write grant proposals to fund school service projects, and Cameron Sutton is known for her ability to provide students in Maine with meaningful and relevant outdoor learning experiences. Maureen Stine is known throughout northern Michigan for connecting many different educational programs and opportunities to benefit children of all ages, as was Allison Kiesler in the Richmond, VA, area who provided access to green areas and outdoor experiences in an urban setting.

“Schools must prepare our next generation with the skills necessary to address complex environmental issues,” said Kathy McGlauflin, senior vice president for education at the American Forest Foundation. “These five outstanding educators show how integrating environmental education and PLT across the curriculum engages students in learning science and all core subjects, and inspires them to make a difference in their communities.”

Background about the 2013 Outstanding Educators:
Lynn Kochiss, a third-grade teacher at Woodside Intermediate School in Cromwell, CT, founded the school’s popular Earth Club for students in grades 3 through 5. Her students have successfully led a number of community and school service projects. She organizes workshops to show other educators how to get students outside, learning about nature and environmental issues while meeting state education standards. She also organizes family nature walks for the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, among many other efforts. She was her school’s Teacher of the Year in 2011-2012 and Connecticut Outdoor & Environmental Education Association’s Environmental Educator of the Year in 2010.

Cameron Kay Sutton, a science teacher in grades 7 and 8 at Auburn Middle School, in Auburn, ME, is known for her ability to work with a wide range of ages, and to adapt the teaching of science to meet students’ needs. She was an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Auburn Land Lab, an environmental education facility that serves the entire school district, and was a co-consulting teacher at the Land Lab before moving into the classroom. Throughout her career she has created high-quality K-6 science curriculum units that support Maine education standards and are full of active, engaging outdoor learning. She has served on the boards of the Maine Environmental Education Association and the Maine PLT Steering Committee.

Maureen Stine, a conservation educator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service in Onaway, MI, promotes quality forest management on private lands under a U.S. Farm bill program. She also volunteers for the USDA Earth Team to provide conservation education to children. She uses PLT activities and service-learning opportunities to provide meaningful experiences for students of all ages with an emphasis on trees, soils, and water quality issues. She is the Michigan Green Schools program liaison in three counties, co-chairs the Getting Kids Outdoors Northern Michigan Coalition advisory committee, and is on the Leadership Team of the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, among many other activities.

Cheri Goggin, a teacher of physical and environmental science to students in grades 9 to 12 at Berkshire High School in Burton, OH, is committed to finding ways for her students to take an active role in their education. She is known for her ability to make learning fun and involve her students in hands-on, meaningful experiences beyond the classroom. She helped them successfully write grants, including a PLT GreenWorks! grant, for a rain garden, outdoor learning stations, habitat for native plants and animals, and a bioswale. Through many other student-led projects, she connects students to the outdoors and encourages them to give back to the community. She was honored as the 2011 Ohio Conservation Teacher of the Year by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Allison Hall Kiesler, a former teacher and most recently children’s garden programmer at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, passed away in September 2012. Throughout her life, she shared her love of the environment with children, their families, and fellow educators. After running the nature center at Maymont Park in Richmond, she was an educational consultant and presenter, then became a science teacher at Orchard House School, a middle school for girls. She joined the staff of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden where she developed K-5 outdoor discovery programs, training and resources for teachers. Through her guidance and sharing of educational materials and strategies, she had a tremendous impact on how schools, parks, and other facilities draw on PLT and other programs to instill a love of nature in future generations.

About Project Learning Tree
Project Learning Tree® (PLT) uses trees and forests as windows on the world to increase students’ understanding of the environment and actions they can take to improve it. PLT provides educators with curriculum, professional development, and 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. PLT teaches students how to think, not what to think about complex environmental issues, and helps the next generation learn critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they need to make informed choices about the environment. Developed in 1976, PLT’s 50-state network includes more than 500,000 trained educators using PLT materials that cover the total environment and more than 2,000 PLT GreenSchools! PLT is a program of the American Forest Foundation. For more information, visit

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Vanessa Bullwinkle
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