Debra (Deb) Wagner is recognized for her expertise and enthusiasm in bringing the study of the environment not only into her fourth grade classroom, but also throughout her entire school. A teacher for more than 28 years, she led the initiative to make St. Paul Lutheran School in Lakeland, Florida, a PLT-certified school. Thanks to her efforts, the school also became a Nationally Certified Schoolyard Habitat and is part of the national PLT GreenSchools program.
Deb also coordinates an annual “Celebrate Creation,” which involves the entire PreK-8 school in PLT activities that teach about the environment through hands-on learning. Deb has created an after-school science club that initiated school-wide recycling, hydroponics, and butterfly gardens. Her students raise milkweed seedlings for grade 1 students’ home butterfly garden projects; construct rain barrels for campus and home use; and make vegetables available to local families in need. Through a partnership with Polk County Cooperative Extension Service, Deb also helps teachers at other elementary schools and their students install rain barrels and construct gardens.
In addition to her work at St. Paul, Deb is an environmental education leader in Florida. For example, she serves as a mentor to PLT workshop facilitators and participates in initiatives at the University of Florida to use PLT to improve student literacy. Deb is a long-standing and active member of many organizations, including the League of Environmental Educators in Florida, the Audubon Society, and the Native Plant Society. She has received many grants for her projects and, in 2007, was the Florida Agriculture in the Classroom Elementary Teacher of the Year.
“Debra’s love of the land is contagious and her projects successfully involve students, their parents, and our community. She has touched the lives of many through her teaching of environmental and agricultural concepts.”
– Leo Raschke, Principal, St. Paul Lutheran School, Lakeland, Florida
Debra was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2010.