Cynthia Lawhon, Discoveries Teacher, Claiborne Fundamental Elementary School, Shreveport, Louisiana
Cynthia Lawhon develops activities and programs to accelerate learning for students in grades 2 through 5 at her magnet elementary school. Her goal is to offer enrichment that reaches across the curriculum and goes above and beyond what is offered in the classroom. Since her earliest days as a teacher, more than 40 years ago, she has instilled a commitment to the environment in her students. After she successfully wrote a grant for a new playground and outdoor learning area, she led the way to make the school a PLT certified school, helping to train faculty in PLT, develop ways to use the outdoors for learning, and take the lead in other environmental activities.
“Teachers like Cynthia encourage us, challenge us, and substantiate to each of us in education that we are making a positive difference in the lives of the students with whom we work.”
– Monica Howell, Counselor, Claiborne Fundamental Elementary School, Shreveport, Louisiana
Cynthia was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2014.
Cindy Kilpatrick has been a leader in incorporating environmental lessons into every classroom at Oil City Magnet School in Oil City, Louisiana. As the Environmental Science Facilitator, she coordinated more than 100 field trips in 2009-2010 alone, helping students learn about connections to the environment at a grocery store, a landfill, a hospital, and a power plant.
Using PLT to anchor the environmental education program, Oil City has become the highest performing Title I school in the state. Cindy was inspired by PLT to help students create a nature trail, garden, and bird feeding and watching stations, among other projects. Cindy and her students use the school greenhouse to hold a “plant camp” each year where community residents can store their houseplants for the winter. The students use the fees they collect to purchase gardening supplies.
A teacher for more than 34 years, Cindy led the initiative to make Oil City a PLT-certified school, and Oil City is now part of PLT’s GreenSchools pilot program with a Learn and Serve grant. She also teaches pre-service teachers at Louisiana State University in Shreveport to use PLT. Cindy has spoken at numerous state and national conferences, and she regularly hosts visitors from other schools to learn from Oil City Magnet School’s successful model.
“Through Mrs. Kilpatrick’s guidance, Oil City School has received national recognition as a leader in environmental science education. Her use of PLT activities encourages student participation and resulted in students achieving academic success.”
– Mike Irvin, Oil City Magnet School Principal
Cindy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2011.
Robin McCartney, Associate Professor, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana
Robin McCartney teaches science methods classes to pre-service teachers, as well as to current PreK-3 teachers and those seeking master’s degrees. She first began using PLT with students as a classroom teacher at Grolee Elementary School in Opelousas, Louisiana. She has also worked closely with Chitimacha School in Clarenton, which involved helping the community re-discover the language of this Native American people. Robin has published articles and made presentations on how she has used PLT in many different settings.
Robin was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2010.
Sheryl Crain Holliday, Sixth-Eighth Grade Science and Technology Teacher, Franklinton Vocational Education Center, Franklinton, Louisiana
Sheryl Crain Holliday describes herself as a “science teacher at heart and always will be.” Involved with environmental education for many years, she found PLT to be a natural fit after participating in her first workshop in 2003, through the Louisiana Forestry Tour for Teachers. The next year, she was back as a volunteer, and she has returned on her own accord ever since. She also trains teachers at her own school and elsewhere in the district. Sheryl is an expert at using PLT activities that encourage participation and result in students experiencing academic success. She has adapted several PLT activities to use with GPS receivers, thus strengthening students’ use of this technology. Her colleagues note that her enthusiasm and creativity turn students on to math and science.
Sheryl was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2009.
Larry Raymond, Director of Parks and Recreation, Caddo Parish Commission, Shreveport, Louisiana
Larry Raymond is responsible for the forestry and wildlife management activities on the parish lands he oversees. He also supervises numerous environmental field days, school trips, and other educational events that incorporate PLT activities for several thousand children and adult visitors each year. Larry makes park facilities available for workshops, including outdoor activity areas and camps. He has been conducting PLT educator and facilitator workshops himself ever since he became a PLT facilitator in 1986, when the program was first introduced to Louisiana. He has made pre-service PLT workshops for education majors a regular component of the curriculum at Louisiana State University-Shreveport, and each year he teaches an environmental education class in the university’s Biological Sciences department using PLT activities. Larry introduced the Caddo Parish School Board to PLT, with outstanding results for the schools in the area, like Oil City Elementary Magnet School.
Larry was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2007.
Brenda Smith teaches fourth grade math, science, and environmental science at Oil City Elementary Magnet School in Oil City, Louisiana. Five years ago, Oil City Elementary faced dropping enrollment numbers and low performance measures. To address this situation, staff and faculty dedicated their educational focus to an environmental science theme. The entire faculty was trained in PLT. Brenda was instrumental in implementing this plan and organizing staff professional development. New and refresher PLT workshops have been held every year since to follow up on activity use, introduce new materials, and train new faculty. Consequently, the school is one of four PLT-certified schools in Louisiana.
The results speak for themselves. In 2001, before Brenda began using PLT, 38% of her fourth grade students scored in the basic to proficient level on the science portion of the state and national standardized tests, and 62% fell in the unsatisfactory category. In 2005, 4% had reached the advanced level, 63% were considered basic to proficient, and just 33% remained in the unsatisfactory category.
Brenda has taken her PLT training a step further and written and received several grants for her students to participate in a variety of educational and community service projects at the school, local hospital, downtown, and throughout the community. The school grounds now sport three outdoor classrooms, a nature trail, and a Louisiana native tree arboretum. Brenda secured a grant for a pavilion on the shores of Lake Caddo and helped her students design educational kiosks that describe the lake’s history and its value to the environment and community. The pavilion is used by the public, area schools, and her school’s students as a base for conducting water quality tests and other science experiments.
Oil City Elementary School has received several awards in recognition of its improvement, and much of this is due to Brenda and PLT! Most recently the school was one of six to receive New York Fordham University’s “National School Change” award.
Brenda was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2006.