Robin Will is supervisory ranger at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northern Florida, near the Gulf of Mexico. The Refuge is known for its wildlife and migrating birds and Robin knows the Refuge is a powerful learning tool. PLT is incorporated throughout its environmental education program and Robin rains all Refuge staff in PLT—including the law enforcement officers.
Robin has been a Florida PLT leader since 1989, helping form its initial steering committee and serving in many other roles since then. She coordinates the PLT Schools program in Wakulla County, in which all public preschools and elementary schools involve their students in hands-on environmental education. She has facilitated more than 130 workshops for educators, who then teach environmental education to students of all ages. She has also mentored countless facilitators who go on to conduct their own PLT workshops.
Robin received National PLT’s Leadership in Education Award in 2018.
Lori came to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida in 2005 and became its first Environmental Education Specialist.
She works with groups of all ages—from preschoolers to senior citizens—to provide high-quality, hands-on programs. She has cultivated partnerships throughout the community, including with schools, youth groups, and public agencies. She manages the refuge’s Nature’s Classroom and coordinates its large wildlife festivals, incorporating PLT into her many EE programs.
She is active in the League of Environmental Educators of Florida and Florida Literacy Plan Committees.
“Lori has been an outstanding representative of the Refuge by providing high-quality activities for students, training for teachers, and presentations to community members. Lori is a respected, proficient, and valuable asset to PLT in our state.”
– Vicki Crisp, Northeast Florida Educational Consortium and Florida Department of Education
Lori was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2017.
Karen Johnson Folsom is lead teacher at Nature’s Classroom, part of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, which provides environmental education for about 15,000 sixth graders throughout the county each year. She has developed innovative programs, trained teachers in how they can use environmental education with their students, and set up camps and community events for people of all ages.
Her responsibilities as acting site administrator range from creating partnerships to overseeing a safe and healthy environment for the animals on site. Karen has developed programming to extend the site from its primary focus on sixth graders to students in other grades and the greater public. She has provided hundreds of hours of professional development to fellow formal and informal educators throughout Florida.
As an active PLT volunteer, she mentors facilitators, leads workshops, and now serves on the Florida PLT Steering Committee. Her passion is in reconnecting learners of all ages to the natural systems that we live in. Karen holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida and a Master’s in Education from Argosy University. She was honored as Florida PLT Facilitator of the Year in 2015 for her expertise in creating and conducting workshops for fellow educators.
“I truly feel that the Tampa Bay area has the best trained teachers in the state in environmental education. This is due to the efforts of Karen Johnson Folsom.”
– William Munsey, Educator, Hillsborough County Public Schools, Florida
Karen was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2016.
Annie Oxarart, Environmental Education Program Coordinator, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Annie Oxarart works with students and teachers at all levels to support environmental education. She led Florida’s GreenSchools pilot testing program. She currently coordinates a unique multi-state project called PINEMAP, which integrates research, extension, and education to work with landowners in the Southeast. Her role included development of the new PLT secondary module Southeastern Forests and Climate Change. She also provides support to the Florida PLT program as a facilitator and volunteer.
“Annie is a dynamic educator. I learn from her every time we conduct a workshop or do a project together…To this day, I continue to bounce off ideas and brainstorm with her about the PLT program.”
– Nancy Peterson, Florida PLT State Coordinator
Annie was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2015.
Robert Raze has been active in environmental education for the past 35 years and is a respected leader in the field. Since 2004, he has taught at St. Petersburg College, preparing pre-service teachers for successful careers. He also conducts PLT workshops for students at Florida State, Florida A&M, and University of South Florida. In addition, Robert designs, plans, and conducts a week-long Teacher Training Summer Camp that provides teachers with new knowledge and skills to share with their students, and suitable activities to supplement their lesson plans.
Robert has served on the Florida PLT Steering Committee for two separate stretches, from 2006 to the present. He also serves on the Florida STEM Advisory Committee for the Florida Department of Education and is a former member of the board of the North American Association for Environmental Education. He has made presentations at many state, national, and international conferences on PLT. He received the Florida PLT Facilitator of the Year Award in 2000 and in 2013.
“You see a list of impressive achievements, but not listed are the heart, compassion, and commitment he shows his students and the teachers he reaches. He inspires all of us who are lucky enough to work with him.”
– Nancy Peterson, Florida PLT State Coordinator
Robert was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2014.
Rebecca Wolfson, Music Teacher, Florida Virtual School, Orlando, Florida
Rebecca Wolfson taught grades 1, 2, and 4 at Lake Butler Elementary School from 2002-2012, where she participated in the pilot for the national PLT GreenSchools program. With her assistance, the school took the lead in establishing Union County’s first recycling program. Earlier in her career, she was an elementary music teacher, and in 2012 she returned to teaching music, specifically guitar to high school students, through the Florida Virtual School. She remains active in PLT and draws from the PLT Early Childhood curriculum to explore the connections between the environment and music. She has participated in and facilitated environment-related summer camps and field trips and has been active with Union County 4-H.
“What a pleasure to work and be associated with Rebecca Wolfson as a co-worker and valued friend…She is highly qualified, eager to work and excel, always providing a positive learning experience for everyone she interacts with.”
– Colan Coody, Union County 4-H Assistant, Florida
Rebecca was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2013.
Brooke Mohr has taught for more than 25 years in almost every elementary grade, as well as gifted instruction and early intervention for at-risk students. She now teaches at Medart Elementary School in Crawfordville, Florida.
Each year, she involves local organizations and parents in a “PLT Week” during which each class participates in various activities surrounding a central theme to grow environmental awareness and stewardship in both her students and the entire school community.
She has taken a leading role to promote environmental education throughout Wakulla County, the first in the state to have all its elementary schools designated as Florida PLT Schools. Her teaching philosophy is based on her belief that teaching students to care about the environment creates positive change in schools, at home, and in the community. She became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2006 and was named Florida PLT Educator of the Year in 2011.
“Mrs. Mohr exemplifies an outstanding educator with her dedication, creativity, student and partner engagement plans, and commitment to caring for the environment.”
– Robin Will, ranger at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Brooke was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2012.
Linda Jordan, Fourth Grade Teacher, Indian Rocks Christian School, Seminole, Florida
An elementary school teacher for 25 years, Linda Jordan has been at Indian Rocks Christian School in Seminole, Florida, for the past six years, where she expanded the school’s math and science curriculum by introducing teachers to PLT. She uses the outdoors as an important component to learning; for example, yields from the students’ herb garden help pay for field trips. Linda has been trained in PLT’s Early Childhood, PreK-8, and High School curricula and she works with teachers in those grades to incorporate PLT. Linda first developed and now continues to facilitate a popular Summer Science Camp and has obtained grants for other special programs, such as the school’s Weather Bug Center and an “agriculture quilt” project that received awards at the Florida State Fair.
Linda was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2011.
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.
Summer Zephyr, Media Specialist, A.D. Harris High School, Panama City, Florida
A.D. Harris High School is a dropout prevention school for at-risk youth. As a media specialist at the school, Summer Zephyr uses PLT to help students build their knowledge base through experience, exploring varying viewpoints, ideas, and values. For the past two years, Summer has sponsored a project entitled “Go Native…Plants” that incorporates service-learning and takes students outside using PLT activities. Through this project, students created a school garden that identified 15 threatened native species. Another aspect of the project, All Natural Makeover, involved students in incorporating native species into the landscape of two model homes. Finally, students worked with a landscape architect to design and plant native vegetation donated by community members for another demonstration house. This year, Summer will work with her students to restore a wetlands area near the school. She has recruited other schools to join the project and incorporate PLT into their lessons.
Summer was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2008.
Michelle Hunter teaches all subjects to fourth graders at Shadeville Elementary School in Crawfordville, Florida. The school has been certified as a Florida PLT School since 2000, and Michelle has been the school’s PLT Coordinator for the past three years.
For the school to maintain its designation as a PLT School, at least 80% of the faculty members are required to attend a PLT workshop, and of these 80%, at least 50% are required to participate in an annual PLT week. Michelle organizes this school-wide, week-long environmental education unit that incorporates multiple, grade-level-appropriate PLT activities for each student, a science and literary fair, and community guest speaker presentations around a particular theme. Over 650 youth, 50 faculty members, and hundreds of parent volunteers participate. This year, the week-long event “Wakulla Water Wonders” held in April combined PLT activities and guest speakers from St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and Wakulla Springs State Park.
A trained PLT facilitator, Michelle leads in-service PLT professional development workshops to help her fellow colleagues incorporate the PLT curriculum methods and techniques into their own classrooms throughout the year. To further help teachers provide experiential experiences that enhance student learning, Michelle works with a local nursery to maintain the school’s butterfly garden and outdoor classroom. Here, students learn about native plants, bird identification, and animal habitats through hands-on, outdoor investigations.
Michelle also organizes school environmental field trips for several classes and encourages other teachers to take part. This year, students visited Marianna Caverns, Gulf World, Bear Creek, and Gulf Specimen Marine Lab. Michelle’s own annual class trip to St. Marks Wildlife Refuge gives students the opportunity not only to experience Florida’s wiregrass ecosystem, but also to help restore it by planting wiregrass plugs.
Michelle was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2007.
Florie Babcock, Professor of Early Childhood Education, Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida
Florie Babcock introduces her undergraduate pre-service early childhood teachers to PLT through PreK-8 and Energy & Society workshops. Every semester, her students adapt a different PLT activity to the abilities of three- to six-year-olds. They create a full PreK-2 lesson based on a PLT activity, include hands-on exploratory field exercises, add songs and storytelling, and create a booklet of resources. They pilot-test their materials at Lakeland Christian School, as well as at the preschool on Florida Southern College’s campus. They then present them at state conferences and facilitator workshops so other teachers can use these early childhood activity adaptations in their own classrooms and nature centers across Florida. Florie is now planning a PLT educator workshop focused on early childhood.
Florie was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2006.