Shelley Flanary, Park Interpreter, Cossatot River State Park, Wickes, Arkansas
Shelley Flanary uses PLT as a primary resource to work with both children and adults. Whether visiting classrooms with age-appropriate lessons or conducting programs at Cossatot River State Park in southwest Arkansas, Shelley transmits a sense of responsibility and stewardship to all she reaches. Starting as a behind-the-scenes program assistant, she rose through her agency and is a Certified Interpretative Guide through the National Association for Interpretation. She regularly conducts PLT workshops for teachers, pre-service teachers, youth group leaders, and others.
“Shelley is one of the most passionate, determined, caring interpreters I know. She applies the PLT curriculum in a way that works for people, that lights a spark of interest and provokes love for the outdoors.”
– Kelly Farrell, Chief of Interpretation & Program Services, Arkansas State Parks
Shelley was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2014.
Michelle Viney, Conservation Program Manager, Audubon Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Michelle Viney has been involved in environmental education in Arkansas for over 15 years. Trained as a PLT facilitator in 2007, she has conducted workshops, presentations, and field days, and she enjoys mentoring new PLT facilitators. After joining Audubon Arkansas in 2008, she worked to organize habitat restoration and conduct other conservation education activities. She developed a program called Volunteering Is for the Birds with a focus on habitat. Previously, she was a field instructor for an outdoor science school. As a college student, she became a charter member of the Arkansas Environmental Education Association and has since served multiple terms as board member and president. She also uses PLT activities at Master Gardener and Master Naturalist trainings and other community settings and events.
“With Michelle in the community, I feel great about our future leaders and the direction our state will take in shaping natural resource management and land stewardship.”
– Jay T. Schneider, Assistant Superintendent, Hobbs State Park, Rogers, Arkansas
Michelle was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2013.
Kathy Rusert teaches science in grades 7 and 8, science labs in grades 5 and 6, and remedial reading in the Acorn School District in Mena, Arkansas. On any given day, students may be dissecting rats, testing pH levels, or working in the outdoor classroom that she was instrumental in creating. She believes in hands-on, interdisciplinary education and uses PLT to make the learning fun and meaningful.
Kathy regularly partners with area businesses and nonprofits to further her students’ learning through field trips, research, and community service. She also teaches a Methods of Teaching Science for Southern Arkansas University that introduces future teachers to PLT. She has been a freelance writer for PBS Teaching Source, and her classes have been recognized in many magazines. Her awards include Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year in 2005 and Outstanding Arkansas PLT Teacher of the Year in 2011.
“Kathy has succeeded in making science fun for students, and by making science fun, they inevitably score better on standardized exams.”
– Daniel Caron, Teacher at Acorn High School
Kathy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2012.
Jennifer Richardson, Fifth Grade Science and Social Studies Teacher, Wooster Elementary School, Greenbrier, Arkansas
Jennifer Richardson is a champion of environmental education in Arkansas. She serves on the Arkansas Environmental Literacy Plan Committee, which is charged with developing a plan for the future of environmental education in the state. She uses PLT with her fifth graders and leads many school-wide greening efforts, including recycling, composting, and developing a nature trail. Students became so enthused about working on the trail during recess that recess-related discipline problems declined and standardized science test scores rose. Jennifer also coordinates school-wide programs such as National Green Week, Earth Day, and an Environmental Science club, as well as a community-wide EcoFest. Jennifer is a National Board Certified Teacher and was a finalist in the 2010 Presidential Award in Science for the State of Arkansas. She also coordinates a monthly publication called Wooster Wild in which teachers share instructional strategies and resources. When she participated in the George Washington Teacher Institute, she even developed a lesson plan on Washington’s life as a farmer and environmentalist that incorporates PLT information about conservation during the 18th century!
Jennifer was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2011 and 2010.
Jay Schneider, Interpreter, Lake Fort Smith State Park, Mountainburg, Arkansas
Jay Schneider has worked as either an educator or naturalist in four different state parks. In each, he has found that PLT aligns with state-specific standards and other educational frameworks. In addition, he says, PLT’s hands-on learning approach works well with people of all ages. Since 2005, Jay has facilitated an average of eight workshops a year. In 2008, he began planning and offering secondary module workshops for educators. A school district employee recently commented on how seamlessly Jay shares ways to utilize and integrate PLT with teachers at all grade levels and subject areas. Jay also supervises the seasonal park interpreters and uses PLT in training with them. As a result, PLT is now commonplace in Arkansas state park programming. He notes, “Being outside where the students and teachers can experience nature firsthand is the only way to teach about it. PLT is a great partner for this type of education.”
Jay was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2009.
Kathryn Roberts, Ninth-Twelfth Grade Science Teacher, Lakeside High School, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Kathryn Roberts has been actively involved in environmental education ever since she established Lakeside High School’s first outdoor classroom in 1977. In 1996, she introduced Environmental Science as an elective course. More recently, she received funding from the EPA to construct a greenhouse and aquaponics center, and she acquired funds from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for a schoolyard habitat and new outdoor classroom facility. Kathryn’s students have partnered with the school PTO, the Alumni Foundation, and a local Rotary Club to build and maintain their outdoor study area. Kathryn has received funding to host the first annual Dendrology Fest this fall, an event that will include activities on tree identification, dendrochronology, and leaf types for grades 5-7. Trained as a PLT facilitator in 2004, Kathryn has hosted advanced PLT/WILD/WET workshops that incorporate GIS/GPS programming and Nature Mapping.
Kathryn was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2008.
John Wainscott, Acting Area Manager and Mid-Rotation Forester, Weyerhaeuser Company, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Throughout his 33-year career with Weyerhaeuser Company, John Wainscott has taught all age groups about the environmental and economic issues related to forests, forest management, and the forest products industry through forest tours, classroom visits, and civic presentations. When the PLT program was introduced to Arkansas in 1988, John was one of the first foresters trained as a PLT facilitator, and in turn he has trained hundreds of educators around the state. Since 2002, he has made a special point of reaching out to urban educators, leading four to five PLT workshops every year in Arkansas’s major cities to provide teachers with the confidence and means to teach lessons outside. For years, he has worked in his local school district as a classroom mentor; he trained the entire faculty of Jessieville Schools in the use of PLT at one of their required in-service days. John is currently working with teachers and students at Jessieville High School to construct a school nature trail and teaching them to use stream monitoring equipment and technology such as GIS and GPS to plot the location of trees on the school campus. John is an active member of Arkansas’s PLT state steering committee.
John was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2007.
Heidi Campbell teaches science and Arkansas history to grades 6-8 at Mabelvale Magnet Middle School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Most of her students are from an urban area and have no experience being in a natural environment. Heidi, of course, makes a point to change all that! Heidi uses experiments, research projects, field trips, camping trips, and hands-on activities to transform her students’ attitudes and misconceptions and get them accustomed to working outdoors. PLT is an important tool in her bag of tricks.
As students progress, Heidi gives them more opportunities to get involved and take ownership in year-round campus projects. They learn to care for the classroom animals, plant trees, landscape the school grounds, keep up the greenhouse, and maintain the koi pond. Each year, Heidi takes her students on a four-day camping trip and helps advanced students design service-learning projects with an environmental emphasis.
Heidi trained to be a PLT facilitator in 2002 and averages six teacher-training workshops each year. She has developed new ways of presenting workshops so that teachers can meet the in-service requirements for Arkansas and for No Child Left Behind. She includes technology, literature, and writing skills, along with correlations to Arkansas academic standards so educators know how PLT fits with existing curriculum. To help recruit students to the environmental education strand at her school, each year Heidi organizes a Forest Awareness Day. Her seventh and eighth graders spend nine weeks studying Arkansas’ forests and forest management practices. Heidi’s commitment to her students is extraordinary. She has a real passion for the environment and PLT and it radiates throughout her school.
Heidi was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2006.