PLT Celebrates Five Outstanding Educators for 2016

April 18, 2016

PLT in a Spanish immersion program, or as a way to meet state standards, or to explain climate change to diverse audiences. These are some of the ways that Project Learning Tree’s 2016 National Outstanding Educators have drawn from PLT, and environmental education more broadly, to meet the needs of learners of all ages and abilities. 

outstanding educators

PLT is proud to recognize these outstanding educators this week, as we celebrate National Environmental Education Week, Earth Day, and National Arbor Day!  We will honor the award recipients at PLT’s upcoming 30th International Coordinators’ Conference, May 23-26, in Salt Lake City. They are also invited to attend the World Forestry Center’s International Educators Institute, July 10-16, in Portland, Oregon.

Who Is Nominated?

State PLT programs can nominate educators from their states. The 2016 National PLT Outstanding Educators hail from Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, and Virginia. Nominees are judged based on their commitment to environmental education and PLT. The program has recognized more than 300 educators since its creation in 1994.

And the 2016 Winners Are…

(from left to right pictured above)

Anne Mannarino, Project SWIRL, Virginia Beach, VA
Anna directs SWIRL (Standards within Real World Learning), based at Regent University. This position caps a distinguished career with the Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement as a teacher, principal, and science specialist. Throughout her career, she has worked to connect students with nature to enhance their learning. She has been active in helping pre-service teachers understand how to use PLT, and correlated PLT’s secondary modules with the Virginia Standards of Learning.

Karen Johnson Folsom, Lead Teacher and Acting Site Administrator, Nature’s Classroom Environmental Education Center, Thonotosassa, FL
Each year, Karen strengthens programs for more than 15,000 Hillsborough County 6th-graders, the primary audience for Nature’s Classroom. She also uses the site to reach new audiences of all ages. She is an active PLT volunteer in Florida, offering teacher workshops for early childhood teachers and others throughout the state, serving as a mentor, and in many other roles. 

Dave Shafer, Teacher, Skiles Test Elementary School for STEM, Indianapolis, IN
An educator for 25 years, Dave is dedicated to getting kids outdoors to learn, whether at Skiles, or, earlier in his career, at a Spanish immersion school, or an environmental studies magnet school. At Skiles, he is responsible for 10 acres of outdoor space and works with children in grades 1 to 6. He helped guide Skiles to successfully become a PLT GreenSchool. In 2006, he received a fellowship to spend a semester in Costa Rica, where he used PLT to help teachers strengthen their skills in hands-on teaching. 

Jennifer Hubbard-Sánchez, State Specialist for Sustainable Programs, College of Agriculture, Food Science, and Sustainable Systems at Kentucky State University, Frankfort, KY
Jennifer connects with Kentuckians of all ages, in English and Spanish, with a special interest in teaching about climate change. Among other PLT activities, she developed state-relevant supplements to PLT’s new module Southeastern Forests and Climate Change, and uses PLT with members of Kentucky State’s chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences. She is an active PLT facilitator and mainstay of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education.

Susan Snyder, Teacher-Naturalist, Ogden Nature Center, Ogden, UT 
Susan Snyder conducts programs throughout the year at the Nature Center. She helps coordinate PLT training for early childhood educators and worked with the Utah State Office of Childcare to provide Career-Ladder credit to participants. Her passion is to help people find their connections to nature to help them create balanced, sustainable, and rewarding lives and communities. A certified Utah environmental educator, she often presents about PLT at regional and state conferences. 

From Them to Everyone

“These five outstanding educators show how environmental education can inspire students to succeed,” said Kathy McGlauflin, executive director of Project Learning Tree and senior vice president for education at the American Forest Foundation, in announcing the awards. “They have created extraordinary results–and the best news is that their techniques can apply to kids nationwide.”

Vanessa Bullwinkle

Vanessa Bullwinkle

Vanessa Bullwinkle is Director of Communications & Marketing for Project Learning Tree.