• Outstanding Educator
    Jana Willis

    Jana Willis, Ph.D., Professor and Department Chair, College of Education, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, Texas

    Jana researches, teaches, publishes, and presents on the integration of technology and environmental education to improve teaching skills. She incorporated PLT into a Survey of Instructional Technologies course that all education majors at UHCL are required to take, which exposes them to EE as they launch their teaching careers.

    She has served on national PLT committees dealing with urban and community forestry and with preservice teaching. She now serves on the Texas PLT Steering Committee and was a board member of the Texas Association of Environmental Education.

    “Shortly after becoming a PLT facilitator and integrating PLT into the Instructional Technology courses at UHCL, Jana became active at the national level, seeking to improve the PLT curriculum by adding technology tools to the activities. She has made exceptional contributions to PLT.”

    – Misty Bowie, Texas PLT Co-Coordinator

    Jana was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2017.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Alan Sowards

    Alan Sowards Outstanding Educator
    Alan Sowards, Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas

    Alan Sowards develops and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses to help prepare new teachers for the classroom. He uses PLT’s teaching methods and materials to introduce environmental education into lesson plans.

    Earlier in his career, he was a high school science teacher, science coordinator for Plano ISD, and vice-president for education at the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (now Texas Oil & Gas Association). Alan developed a program called “Bugs, Bees, Butterflies and Blossoms” to give students at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) practice teaching science in outdoor settings using PLT’s hands-on activities. Over the years, it has grown to 3,500 student participants each year, ranging from kindergarten through Grade 3.

    In evaluating his class, one student wrote, “Now I have experienced how engaged and excited students get when I use the hands-on activities; science and the environment will be what I use to get my students excited about learning.” Alan has also developed online PLT instruction for teachers, conducted research on the impact of PLT on teaching science, and incorporated PLT into the curriculum of several school districts.

    “Alan’s drive to excel creates a lasting impression. Often, when I am talking with classroom teachers who graduated from SFASU, they say one of their fondest and most lasting memories is Dr. Sowards’ class.”

    – John Boyette, Texas PLT State Coordinator, Forester with Texas A&M Forest Service

    Alan was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2015.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Augustine Frkuska

    Augustine Frkuska, Teacher, Crestview Elementary, Live Oak, Texas

    Augustine (Augie) Frkuska teaches at a bilingual school in the Judson Independent School District. There, he works with every teacher to integrate PLT activities into the curriculum. He contributes to the annual “Science in the Park” event, which exposes students to environmental education at a nearby city park, and he has been instrumental in helping classes take advantage of a new outdoor learning center on the campus. Augie is involved with the Mentoring Science Teachers program through Our Lady of the Lake University and has been formally recognized for his talent as a mentor. He also helped to initiate the Area-Alamo Children Organized to Replace Natives (ACORN) project, which involves students from seven schools.

    “In all of his many endeavors, he always brings the PLT perspective as an organizing structure. It is one of the many distinguished characteristics he is known for.”

    – Kent Page, Science Academic Support Teacher, Peggy Carnahan Elementary School, San Antonio, Texas

    Augustine was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2014.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Doug Chapman

    Doug Chapman, Fifth Grade Science Teacher, Wolford Elementary School, McKinney, Texas

    Doug Chapman came to Wolford Elementary School in 2007, after teaching in Texas and California. He has established a reputation as a teacher of excellence with a strong commitment to environmental education. He founded an environmental club for students in grades 4 and 5, with the ultimate goal of helping Wolford Elementary become a PLT GreenSchool. With PTA support and a student-led Green Team, the effort has already resulted in measurable improvements in energy usage, waste reduction, and cost savings. Doug is involved in the Texas Conservation Institute and many other environmental programs in the McKinney community.

    “Students have participated in various community service projects at school and in our community due to his efforts…He continually raises their awareness of environmental concerns.”

    – Fern Gratt, Principal, Wolford Elementary School

    Doug was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2012.


  • Outstanding Educator
    Susan Campbell

    Susan Campbell, Education Coordinator, City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Natural Areas, San Antonio, Texas

    Susan Campbell, Education Coordinator with the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Natural Areas, is recognized for her enthusiasm and creativity in educating Texans of all ages about the environment.

    Among her many initiatives, she developed URock! Get Outdoors, a one-week camp for middle school students from the South Side of San Antonio. She leads field tours along the Medina River for thousands of students and adults each year. She has also created programs for home-schooled students, senior adults, and students at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) who are learning to become classroom teachers.

    Susan serves on the advisory board of the City of San Antonio’s SAVE (Strengthening Awareness and Valuing the Environment) Program, which provides environmental education training to more than 500 teachers every year. She is the South Texas representative on the board of the Texas Association for Environmental Education and is a member of the Pre-Service Teacher Advisory Board at UTSA.

    “Susan is a leader in the state for environmental education. She uses PLT in her work with children, college students, and adults locally in Bexar County and regionally across central and south Texas.”

    – Christine Moseley, Professor at UTSA

    Susan was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2011.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Michael Murphrey

    Michael Murphrey, Staff Forester, Texas Forest Service, Lufkin, Texas

    As a forester, Michael Murphrey is involved with a range of forest management and ecology issues, as well as working to educate students, educators, and landowners. His current work involves increasing public awareness about southern pine beetle and invasive species, as well as conservation education. He has hosted workshops to train Citizen Scientists to identify and report invasive plants. He has made numerous contributions to PLT as a facilitator and fundraiser (for example, auctioning a specially cooked salmon dinner). He is considered one of the state’s top facilitators and has participated in at least 65 PLT events to date. He developed a program called Erosion in Motion to teach fourth and fifth graders about soil erosion prevention. He also has organized day-long forest awareness programs and community tree-planting events.

    Michael was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2010.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Beatrice Long

    Beatrice Long, Eighth Grade Science Teacher, Seabrook Intermediate School, Seabrook, Texas

    Beatrice (Bea) Long teaches eighth grade science at Seabrook Intermediate, where her classroom is filled with books, posters, and resources that make nature come alive for students. A fellow teacher notes, “If you are lucky, you will go into her classroom and see a chrysalis hatching, or the release of a butterfly.” Bea’s philosophy is to bring students outside, but when that is not possible, she brings the outdoors in.

    At the same time, Bea knows that concrete learning results from these experiences. At her previous school, she helped integrate PLT in all grades, which led to significantly increased test scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). At Seabrook last year, the eighth graders achieved a 93% passing rate on the TAKS, and for the first time, the school received an exemplary score. Bea and her colleagues credit success to the fact that all teachers are PLT trained and use PLT in their daily lessons.

    Bea is also part of the Environmental Institute of Houston (EIH)/University of Houston-Clear Lake collaborative, where she serves as a Science Teacher Mentor, Cadre Member, and Instructional Team Leader. She participates in an EIH School Habitat Demonstration Lab that was funded in part by a PLT GreenWorks! grant. She has volunteered countless hours planting and maintaining the habitat and shows colleagues how to use the lab as a teaching tool. As an adjunct professor at the University of Houston, she teaches a Science Methods class to pre-service teachers, presenting ways to incorporate PLT and other environmental education activities into teaching. These new teachers leave the course with a PLT Energy & Society Kit and the knowledge and comfort to be able to use it with their students.

    “Bea demonstrates the qualities of an outstanding environmental educator. She is the type of facilitator that leads participants to awareness, provides opportunities to gain knowledge, explores different viewpoints, and encourages participants to design action projects.”

    – Brenda Weiser, EIH Director of Environmental Education

    Bea was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2009.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Ginger Boswell

    Ginger Boswell, Substitute Teacher and Family Forest Landowner, Magnolia, Texas

    When Ginger Boswell and her husband first purchased forestland in 1993, they began inviting students from the local school to their property.  A district state forester would accompany the students, conduct a forestry presentation, and do PLT activities with the youth. Ginger was so inspired with the PLT program that in 1999 she attended the Texas Forestry Association’s Teachers’ Conservation Institute and a year later became trained as a PLT facilitator. Every year, she leads PLT activities for the Texas Forest Service’s annual Houston’s Backyard program and helps with the “Walk in the Forest” PLT workshop for pre-service educators from Sam Houston State University. Whether she’s leading a workshop or simply conducting a PLT activity, Ginger introduces teachers and students to the first-hand perspectives of a land steward.

    Ginger was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2008.

  • Outstanding Educator
    Melanie Cornelius

    Melanie Cornelius, Elementary Science Instruction Specialist, Frisco Independent School District, Frisco, Texas

    Melanie Cornelius oversees the elementary science curriculum of Frisco Independent School District in Frisco, Texas, teaching resources, and professional development. Two days a week, she teaches bilingual science at one of Frisco’s elementary schools.

    Melanie joined Frisco Independent School District in 2001. She helps elementary teachers in 22 schools deliver science education to approximately 8,000 elementary-aged students speaking 35 different languages in this booming suburb north of Dallas. When her school district’s science curriculum was rewritten in 2003, Melanie was instrumental in making PLT activities a requirement for specific units in grades two, four, and five.

    Melanie holds PLT professional development workshops several times a year for those grade-level teachers with science responsibilities. For the past three years, Melanie has acquired U.S. Department of Education grants to implement these trainings. Last year, she expanded the experience to a weekend on Lake Texoma where teachers not only received training in the PLT activities required by the curriculum but also advanced training in differentiated instruction for English Language Learners (ELLs). Melanie has found PLT to be very effective with students from all backgrounds. She believes her school district’s ELLs have improved performance on benchmarks for state-mandated science tests due in large part to PLT activities that are conducted in English and Spanish.

    Melanie’s career in education began in Oklahoma in 1989 as a fifth grade classroom teacher. Then Melanie taught third and fourth grade in an international school in Saudi Arabia for seven years before moving to Texas in 1998, where she taught for one year in a private school. In her present position as an elementary science instruction specialist, Melanie has created a Science Resource Center for teachers in her district to purchase supplies and requisition equipment that helps them conduct hands-on science lessons and experiments.

    Melanie was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2007.


  • Outstanding Educator
    Auburn Carpenter

    Auburn Carpenter, Education Projects Manager, Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi, Texas

    PLT is one of several education programs that Auburn Carpenter uses in the aquarium’s outreach programs and its Aquavision videoconferencing series. In her first year on the job since completing her Masters in Education for Secondary Science from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2004, she reached 5,200 students from new and diverse audiences through this innovative teaching method. Also in that same year, she became a facilitator for PLT; Project WILD; Project Aquatic Wild; Food, Land, and People; and Flying Wild, and conducted 30 teacher workshops for 430 teachers to rave reviews. Auburn has presented at various conferences on how to incorporate distance learning into environmental education programs. Her goal is to conduct a PLT workshop using videoconferencing!

    Auburn was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2006.