Environmental Education Specialist, Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District, Columbus, Ohio
As the Environmental Education Specialist for the Franklin County Soil & Water Conservation District in Ohio, Linda Pettit has been educating youth of all ages about natural resources for more than 25 years. She reaches around 12,000 youth every year through presentations to school classes, after-school, scout and summer camp groups, often using stories and children’s literature as a way to connect children to nature. A Project Learning Tree facilitator since 1996, Linda has led hundreds of PLT professional development workshops to introduce teachers to environmental education.
For the past 20 years, Linda has served as regional director of the Environmental Education Council of Ohio. In 1999, she founded and continues to lead T.R.E.E. (Terrific Resources for Environmental Education), a consortium of agencies and organizations that provide environmental education to audiences throughout central Ohio. She coordinates meetings, facilitates collaborative efforts and partnerships, and provides training.
Linda was a 2019 nominee for National PLT’s Leadership in Education Award.
Julie Gee, naturalist for Ohio State Parks
Julie has exemplified leadership in education throughout her career. As a naturalist for the Ohio State Parks, she consistently uses and integrates PLT in her work. Julie has also taught at Hocking College since 2011, where she specializes in environmental education techniques and field biology. With her background in education, she has provided programs for a wide age span, from preschoolers to senior citizens. Her expertise includes being a state-certified environmental educator, NAI-certified interpretive trainer and guide, education specialist for a regional science resource center, stormwater education coordinator, and natural history expert and presenter. Julie is an outstanding facilitator and strong advocate of environmental education, and is an inspiration to future interpreters.
Julie was named a National PLT Leadership in Education Award honoree in 2018.
Marne Titchenell, Extension Wildlife Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, Columbus, Ohio
Marne provides educational programs, workshops, conferences, and publications on a variety of natural resource topics through Ohio State Extension. She shares her appreciation of the natural world through PLT and other EE programs, such as in creating new materials for the state 4-H program. She is part of a team to create a Youth Scientist Curriculum for middle and high school students, as well as a program for pre-service teachers at Ohio State. She also co-directs and oversees the Ohio Forestry and Wildlife Conservation camp.
“Marne is always striving to make her interaction with her audience engaging and filled with knowledge. She is in high demand around the state. Her approach for each group creates a great atmosphere for learning.”
Kathy Smith, CF, Ohio State Extension Program Director-Forestry
Marne was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2017.
Michael (Mike) Sustin, an Ohio science teacher for 24 years, teaches environmental science and chemistry. He established and coaches the school’s Envirothon team and leads other extracurricular activities, such as summer ecology expeditions and an after-school Nature Club for fifth graders and their high school mentors. As a facilitator of PLT professional development workshops, he helps other educators integrate environmental education into various subject areas.
Through Mike, students are involved in innovative projects that extend beyond the classroom walls. They have planted trees, created rain gardens, and constructed an outdoor learning lab on school grounds. They lead recycling, composting, and energy-saving programs. They worked with the Ohio Division of Wildlife to develop a bobcat and black bear population study and were honored by the National Wildlife Federation for a wetlands project.
In 2012, Mike went to the Arctic Circle as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. In 2014, he traveled to Alaska after being selected by the National Park Service and No Barriers Youth as a teacher-leader for their inaugural Climate Change Academy. His passion for engaging students in learning about and developing an appreciation for the environment has resulted in numerous awards. In 2014, West Geauga High School was recognized as a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, and Mike received the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Education.
“Mike gives so much of his time and talents to his students. A leader of learners, he is a true explorer and a living legacy.”
– Katie Nainiger and Gail Prunty, Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District, Ohio
Mike was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2015, as well as National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2014.
Cheri Goggin is known for her ability to make learning fun for her students and involve them in hands-on, meaningful experiences beyond the classroom. “If it’s not fun, don’t do it!” is one of her favorite teaching mottos.
Her passion for the environment and commitment to positive change inspires her students. Through student-led projects, she connects youth to the outdoors and encourages them to give back to their communities. Cheri also works with other teachers, including art, photography, physical education, math, and language arts teachers, to integrate environmental education into their subject areas.
Cheri’s students use PLT’s GreenSchools Investigations to investigate problems on the school campus and then devise solutions. With Cheri’s assistance, students have written and received grants to provide funding for a rain garden, outdoor learning stations, and a native species habitat. They have installed bird stations on campus and regularly participate in FeederWatch and other backyard bird count programs. She also involves students, teachers, parents, and school administrators in making their school more green and healthy.
Cheri was one of the first educators in Ohio to be trained in PLT. Now a PLT facilitator, Cheri participates in many other environmental education programs and workshops, including programs with the Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District and Ohio Department of Natural Resources. She was honored as the 2011 Ohio Conservation Teacher of the Year by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
“Cheri is one of the most creative teachers I have known. She thinks ‘outside the box,’ which keeps her students interested and engaged, and encourages and empowers her students to be proactive problem solvers. Every year her students perform very well on state mandated tests.”
– Stephen Reedy, Principal, Berkshire Junior/Senior High School, Burton, Ohio
Cheri was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2013.
Ken Bowald, Associate Dean, Hocking College School of Natural Resources, Nelsonville, Ohio
Ken Bowald brought PLT to the School of Natural Resources at Hocking College in Ohio, which has the largest two-year forestry program in the nation. He first incorporated PLT into a class in Natural and Historical Interpretation Technology. Now actively involved in administration, he partners with others to ensure that PLT is an integral curriculum component for all Hocking students. Ken has also used PLT in his work with Rural Action, a southern Ohio grassroots program that focuses on sustainable development in the community. Ken has received multiple awards from the National Association of Interpreters, as well as earning the PLT-Ohio Outstanding Educator Award in 2011.
“Ken is and always has been passionate about instilling environmental education values in future generations and believes PLT can be used in this endeavor. Many of our graduates now carry out and integrate the lessons learned from PLT and Ken in their careers.”
– Larry M. Coon, Dean, School of Natural Resources, Hocking College
Ken was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2012.
Michael Stewart, Naturalist, Miami County Park District, Troy, Ohio
After a 30-year career as a classroom teacher, Michael Stewart continued to follow his love of the outdoors and environmental education by becoming a naturalist with the Miami County Park District in Troy, Ohio. (His nickname as a naturalist is M.J. BAT!) Michael has taken on several important and time-consuming PLT challenges in Ohio, including correlating PLT to the state’s science and social studies standards, helping to roll out PLT’s secondary module Global Connections: Forests of the World, and assisting with the development of PLT’s Early Childhood program. He uses PLT in his work with students of all ages and is an effective leader of both youth and teachers. A PLT facilitator, Michael has conducted more than 35 workshops and presentations to date, and he is well-known as a catalyst who inspires other educators to get children outside to learn.
Michael was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2011.
Gwynne Rife, Professor of Biology and Education, The University of Findlay, Findlay, Ohio
Gwynne Rife includes PLT activities in her nature interpretation, biology, and education courses and also facilitates many PLT teacher workshops. She immerses pre-service and in-service teachers in outdoor experiences to engage them in the natural world and enrich their learning. She piloted the biotechnology activities that supplement PLT’s secondary module Focus on Risk and provided input for another of PLT’s secondary curricula, Global Connections: Forests of the World. Gwynne consistently shows the effectiveness of using PLT with as many of her college students as she can through courses and workshops.
Gwynne was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2010.
Deborah Todd, Fifth Grade Language Arts and Science Teacher, Slate Hill Elementary School, Worthington, Ohio
Deborah (Deb) Todd teaches language arts and science at Slate Hill Elementary, where she created an outdoor learning lab that she and other teachers actively use with their students. Her students often make field trips to the lab to conduct water and wildlife monitoring, sharing what they learn with students at other schools or with younger students at their own school. Deb co-facilitates an online class through Miami University of Ohio that focuses on how the use of PLT affects students’ academic achievement. She also makes presentations and teaches how to use PLT in many other state and national settings. As a member of the Ohio PLT Board, Deb has developed new and improved evaluation tools for PLT workshops, strengthened facilitator mentoring, and created a facilitator blog.
Deb was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2009.
Julie McIntosh, Assistant Professor of Education, The University of Findlay, Findlay, Ohio
Ever since Julie McIntosh became a PLT facilitator in 2003, she has integrated PLT workshops into many of her early childhood and high school science pre-service methods courses, as well as the environmental studies class she also teaches. In 2006, for example, Julie introduced 124 University of Findlay students to PLT in eight of her courses. Julie herself taught high school science for 10 years and supervised student teachers. Now she offers college-credit environmental education workshops to in-service teachers in the community and to the Findlay City Schools Special Education faculty, guiding teachers to use the environment and PLT’s inquiry-based, hands-on methods in their own classrooms. Julie also makes numerous professional presentations that focus on hands-on science learning at a variety of conferences. Julie’s personal commitment to environmental education is exemplified by her participation over the years in a range of projects, including Envirothon, river cleanups, recycling initiatives, NASA’s Global Warming Project, and Adopt-A-Road.
Julie was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2007.
Barbara Cook has been a teacher for 29 years and has been involved in environmental education for over 20 years. She teaches science and reading to seventh grade students and computers to seventh and eighth graders at Greenfield Middle School in Greenfield, Ohio. During her career, Barb has held several educational leadership positions, both as a principal and as a superintendent of local school districts. Over the years, her classroom and administrative background have provided invaluable insight into administering PLT and other environmental education programs to formal educators.
Barb trained first as a facilitator for Project WILD, then Project Learning Tree, then Project WET, and most recently Food, Land & People. She has facilitated more than a hundred presentations or workshops, reaching over a thousand teachers. For 10 years, Barb has been a member of the Ohio PLT State Steering Committee, and currently she is an executive officer.
She has always played a lead role in aligning PLT and other curriculum to Ohio’s latest academic standards. In 2004, Barb participated in a collaborative project between PLT, Project WET, and Project WILD to write and update curriculum correlations that teachers can now easily access from an interactive database on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website. Barb was selected to help develop and write PLT’s PreK-8 Energy & Society kit. She is working on integrating PLT workshops into classes for pre-service educators at Wilmington College and is assisting the Ohio PLT Coordinator in developing a PLT facilitator mentoring program.
Throughout her career as a teacher and administrator, Barb has been a staunch supporter of environmental education in school programming. She is just as at home sitting in a group of preschool children as she is making a professional presentation or talking with the School Board. Barb is known as both a tremendous leader and inspirational teacher.
Barb was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2006.