• Brian Plankis
    Outstanding Educator

    Environmental Education Consultant in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Research Fellow, NewKnowledge

    Brian Plankis is an environmental education consultant who works with under-served K-6 schools in Indianapolis to develop after-school science programs. He conducts Project Learning Tree workshops for the teachers, mentors them in using PLT activities to fit their specific situations and guides them on service-learning projects to improve the quality of their students’ environment. In the past seven years, over 250 students have created zero waste school cafeterias; established school gardens to alleviate food deserts that are prevalent in the students’ communities; removed invasive species; and planted pollinator gardens, native prairie grasses and trees. Some projects also include community awareness efforts to educate local residents about the importance of caring for the new habitat for wildlife.

    A former preservice professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Brian would introduce PLT’s curriculum and teaching methods to students training to become teachers. Currently on Indiana’s STEM Task Force, Brian champions environmental education and the inclusion of environmental science and natural resources as STEM careers.

    Brian was a 2019 nominee for National PLT’s Leadership in Education Award.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Dave Shafer

    Dave Shafer 2016 Outstanding Educator
    Dave Shafer, STEM Teacher, Skiles Test Elementary School for S.T.E.M., Indianapolis, Indiana

    During his 25 years as an educator, Dave Shafer has found creative and effective ways to get students outdoors to learn about the world around them. He attended his first PLT workshop in 1993 and has used PLT hands-on activities with his students ever since. At Skiles Test Elementary School, he teaches a range of STEM topics and is responsible for the school’s 10 acres of outdoor space. Dave holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Indiana. In 2006, through a Lilly Endowment Distinguished Fellowship Grant, he taught science in Costa Rica and showed teachers how to use hands-on lessons with their students.

    “His passion, creativity, and commitment to providing hands-on learning experiences to his students make him one of the most unique and innovative teachers I have ever met.”

    – Heather Maurer, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (working with Shafer to develop an Eco-Trail at Skiles)

    Dave was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2016.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Dawn Hammon

    Dawn Hammon Outstanding Educator
    Dawn Hammon, Kindergarten Teacher, Center for Inquiry School #84, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Dawn Hammon taught at several public schools in Indianapolis, most recently at Cold Spring Environmental Magnet School, before she joined the Center for Inquiry in 2014. She uses PLT activities to spark interest in the environment in young urban students through outdoor and classroom projects. Her students have started school gardens and composting projects, as well as planting native vegetation to contain surface runoff from a parking lot. Within weeks of starting her new position, she created a Junior Naturalist Club for students in kindergarten through Grade 2.

    Dawn works with community groups to organize outdoor science days for the entire school and develops programs to involve parents in learning about environmental topics with their children. Read her tips for involving parents in their children’s learning. 

    In addition to her classroom duties, Dawn is the lead science trainer to kindergarten teachers in the Indianapolis Public School System. Dawn received the 2015 Barbara Pitman Outstanding Educator Award recipient for her application of and enthusiasm for children’s literature within the field of environmental education.

    “Dawn spends evenings, weekends, and summers helping other teachers become comfortable with science and how to bring the environment into their classrooms.”

    – Amy Hach, Teacher, Cold Spring Environmental Magnet School, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Dawn was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2015.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Sue Keene

    Sue Keene, Teacher in Residence, University of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana

    Sue Keene is a National Board Certified Teacher who believes that learning improves when students explore the world around them. During her 22-year career as a fourth grade teacher, she was involved in many environmental education activities, from coordinating the school’s first garden to integrating technology in the classroom using PLT. She collaborated with other teachers to develop Goose Creek Academy, a three-week summer program that integrated academic skills with environmental education. Since leaving the classroom, she has been a PLT facilitator and teacher in residence at the University of Indianapolis. In her methods class, she introduces future teachers to PLT. She is helping to create a PLT technology correlations guide using national and state standards. A self-proclaimed technology geek, she understands the importance of technology trends in the revised PLT PreK-8 Guide.

    Sue was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2010.