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.
Nancy J. Loewenstein, Extension Specialist, Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn, Alabama
Nancy designs and conducts Extension programs throughout Alabama. She is a long-time PLT supporter and is now a trained PLT facilitator and member of the state steering committee. She helped move Alabama PLT’s summer teacher institute to the Auburn campus, raising its credibility and exposing teachers to career options in the natural resources for their students. She also provides an avenue for Auburn undergraduates to receive PLT training. She is active in the Alabama Invasive Plant Council, Environmental Education in Alabama, and many other organizations.
“Nancy is a strong leader and instrumental in taking information developed by researchers and using it in such a manner that audiences walk away more informed, make better land management decisions, and understand complex concepts on conservation and the environment.”
Scott Enebak, Associate Dean Academic Affairs, Auburn University
Nancy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2017.
Anne Mannarino directs Project SWIRL (Standards Within Real World Learning), based at Regent University, which helps K-12 teachers improve their science teaching. She is a former teacher, principal, and science coordinator with the Virginia City Public Schools. Through Project SWIRL, she works with one of her former students, Jenny Sue Flanagan, now a professor at Regent.
Anne holds a B.S. in Environmental Biology from London University, M.A. in Secondary Education/Biology from the College of William and Mary, and Doctorate of Education from George Washington University. Among her many honors, she was named Virginia PLT Outstanding Educator of the Year in 2015. In her spare time, Anne is a member of the Virginia Beach Clean Community Commission and volunteers for many other environmental activities in the community.
“She is awesome and passionate about her work and remains dedicated to making sure environmental literacy is available to all.”
– Jenny Sue Flanagan, Professor, Regent University, Providence Forge, Virginia
Anne was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2016.
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.
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.
John Hunt, Professor, Mississippi College, Clinton, Mississippi
John Hunt has been committed to environmental education and to PLT over the course of his science education career. As a professor in the Teacher Education & Leadership program at Mississippi College, he helped launch and co-directs the STEM Institute. He involves students and families in creating books, DVDs, and other materials. He has developed innovative ways to introduce pre-service teachers to PLT and facilitate their use of PLT materials in the classroom. As a member of the Mississippi PLT Advisory Board, he also works with K-8 teachers, students, and families during many weekends.
“When he is not in the classroom or supervising teacher candidates in the field, you can find him working in the local schools, teaching science lessons, or training teachers and administrators. To say he is novel, energetic, and excited about science is quite the understatement.”
– Cindy Melton, Associate Professor, Mississippi College, Clinton, Mississippi
John was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2012 and again 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.
Cindi Smith-Walters is a professor of biology at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and co-director of the MTSU Center for Environmental Education in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She has been a dedicated leader in environmental education in the state for several decades, personally training thousands of educators to use PLT to improve student learning and promote stewardship.
Cindi helped make PLT and environmental education an important component of Tennessee’s overall education curriculum while working at the Tennessee Department of Education. Over the years she has been selected to serve on multiple state and national committees and helps school principals, superintendents, curriculum supervisors, and teachers throughout the state implement PLT and other environmental education curricula. Since coming to MTSU in 1993, she has won numerous university faculty awards.
“In our state, when the subject of environmental education comes up, the first name mentioned is Cindi Smith-Walters…She has influenced so many youth but also so many adults in Tennessee through her passion and her dedication to PLT and environmental education.”
– Candace Dinwiddie, Executive Director, Tennessee Forestry Association
Cindi was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2012.
As the faculty leader for science education in Marymount University’s Teacher Education Program in Arlington, Virginia, Usha Rajdev works with future teachers to prepare them to teach science and math to K-12 students.
PLT training is part of her syllabus requirement, and she encourages her students to use PLT when they become teachers by preparing “ready-to-go activities” that the students share with each other. She also finds innovative ways to adapt PLT to different teaching environments and cultures.
In addition to preparing her students to teach in U.S. schools, she has led two groups to Porbandar, India, where they modeled hands-on PLT activities for their Indian counterparts, as well as children in India. She ensures that future teachers have tools, critical thinking skills, and experiences so that they, in turn, can instill a sense of stewardship in the students they teach.
“We talk about the flexibility of the PLT curriculum. Usha has given us additional proof of its adaptability to different teaching environments and cultures.”
– Elizabeth Burke, Mud Pie Planet
Usha was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2012.
Karen Mack, Co-Director, Aleph Academy, and University of Nevada Extension Instructor, Reno, Nevada
Karen Mack wears two hats that support environmental education and PLT, especially for the preschool audience. She became a PLT facilitator in 2010, and Aleph Academy was one of the first schools in the state to adopt PLT’s Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood program. At Aleph, children spend large blocks of time outside in the school’s natural playscape, and Karen has involved parents and community members in adding features to the area that will enhance student learning. As an instructor with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, she has trained thousands of early childhood educators since 2004. Her emphasis on increasing children’s connections with nature has led to further involvement with PLT. In 2011, she received the Nevada PLT Outstanding Educator Award.
“Karen Mack’s commitment to environmental education is exemplary…To her, it is all about using learning to instill a love for nature in children.”
– Sarah Cunin, Educational Director, Aleph Academy
Karen was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2012.
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.
Cynthia Gardner, Assistant Professor and Elementary Education Coordinator, Lander University, Greenwood, South Carolina
Cynthia Gardner has been involved with PLT for two decades and has become one of the most active facilitators in South Carolina. She incorporates PLT into her pedagogy classes at Lander University, motivating pre-service educators to use PLT. Before joining the Lander faculty, Cynthia was a long-time classroom teacher and used PLT in her everyday lesson plans. She recognizes PLT’s value in service-learning, and her pre-service students have introduced PLT to the community, in addition to the classrooms where they do their student teaching. Among many other awards for environmental education, Cynthia received the 2010 South Carolina PLT Outstanding Educator of the Year award.
“Dr. Gardner’s dedication to her students, her love for environmental education, her infusion of Project Learning Tree materials into her programs, and her dedication to the PLT program make her the epitome of what this award represents.”
– Jerry Shrum, South Carolina PLT Coordinator
Cynthia was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2012.
Joan Chadde, Education Program Coordinator, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan
Joan Chadde has served on the board of the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education since 2006, including a term as president in 2008-2009. In addition, she has taught a course called Communicating Science at Michigan Tech every semester since 1998. As part of the course, university students organize, plan, and conduct Family Forest Nights at 19 elementary schools in five counties. Joan initiated Outdoor Science Investigations field trips for grades 1 to 6, which now involve 3,000 students annually. Joan is also the co-coordinator of the Environmental Education (EE) & Urban Schools Teacher Training Initiative, which teaches urban educators how to incorporate the surrounding environment into their lessons. She regularly conducts PLT workshops and summer institutes.
Joan was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2011.
Reeda Hart has worked at the Center for Integrative Natural Science and Mathematics at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in Highland Heights for the past seven years. Before that, she was an elementary school teacher for 27 years.
In her current role as science outreach specialist with NKU, Reeda takes PLT into classrooms in six school systems, integrating the environment into academic lessons and modeling teaching practices for teachers. She has created units on topics ranging from water to energy to life cycles, using PLT as a foundation to provide interactive content that supplements the teaching of core subjects, methods for elaboration, and assessment tools. Over a three-year period during which she worked with six schools, the schools’ Academic Index scores rose significantly. Reeda also helps the schools design and develop outdoor classrooms, emphasizing PLT training for teachers to ensure the spaces are used as effective teaching tools.
Reeda notes, “if we multiply the number of teachers by the number of students they reach each year, times the number of years they teach, it tells us how powerful it is to be a facilitator.”
Reeda also helped develop PLT’s new Early Childhood program, which was launched nationally this year. This curriculum resource, designed specifically for early childhood educators, uses developmentally appropriate techniques for connecting young students to nature. With Reeda’s assistance, NKU is beginning an Early Childhood Alliance to provide PLT training to local preschool teachers.
“Her enthusiasm and positive attitude toward science has spread to others. Students know she makes learning fun, and parents, the school nurse, janitors and other Grant County employees have been found ‘sneaking in’ to hear her lessons, too.”
– Teacher colleagues, Dry Ridge Elementary School, Dry Ridge, Kentucky
Reeda was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2010.
Growing up on a farm in Iowa led Kurtis Koll to develop a deep appreciation for nature and the importance of connecting with it. He is now a professor of physical sciences at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. While teaching a full courseload, Kurtis created a series of environmental education short courses for pre-service science teachers that he opens to other students as well. He takes students to state and national parks and wildlife management areas to investigate local environmental issues and blends this experience with discussions about local, national, and global current events. His courses are always full because word has spread about his enthusiasm and creativity as a teacher.
Kurtis also conducts workshops for teachers from local school districts and uses PLT’s hands-on activities with scout groups, home-schoolers, and adults at public outreach events. He directs two science camps each year for K-9 students to conduct science investigations as they explore their community.
Kurtis also conducts “natural experience” programs with youth in the Comanche Nation Youth Program and the Wichita-Caddo Tribal Youth Program. “Everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student. You never know the impact you can have,” says Kurtis.
“Kurtis has a deep understanding of the importance of teaching and experiencing nature, and he uses PLT’s hands-on, inquiry-based lessons as a springboard to engage adults and children alike in the outdoors, develop their critical thinking, and get them excited about science.”
– Christina Stallings Roberson, Oklahoma PLT State Coordinator
Kurtis was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2010.
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.
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.
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.
Tammy Brown, Environmental Educator, Casper College, Casper, Wyoming
Tammy Brown has been a driving force in Wyoming PLT since she was first trained in 1993 at the Alpine Environmental Education Conference. She offers PLT pre-service education courses and also conducts teacher and facilitator workshops. No education major leaves Casper College without some experience with PLT. She recently drafted the Wyoming PLT strategic plan and has trained every new facilitator in the state since 2002. She takes advantage of every workshop she conducts by offering update training to veterans. She has also worked with Casper Mountain Science School, an outdoor education program in its third year. Tammy even stepped up to serve as interim PLT coordinator in Wyoming, keeping PLT active in the state during a two-year gap.
Tammy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2010.
Katharine Fralick, Professor of Education, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, New Hampshire
Katharine (Katy) Fralick has taught at Plymouth State University for 20 years. All of her undergraduate education students receive PLT training to introduce them to various teaching strategies and to help them become comfortable with both the content and skills they will need to teach. Her students are required to apply what they learned in the PLT workshop in their field assignments in local public schools, as well as to demonstrate their PLT lessons to their classmates. As part of their course requirements, students in her methods classes design and teach an interdisciplinary unit on an environmental topic using PLT activities. Katy is leading the way to further embed PLT in Plymouth State University’s coursework and has encouraged fellow faculty to become trained PLT facilitators. Furthermore, Katy has been instrumental in helping the New Hampshire PLT staff develop an established, effective pre-service program.
Katy was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2007.
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.
Robin Nelson, Environmental Education Coordinator, Alabama Department of Education, Montgomery, Alabama
Robin Nelson has incorporated PLT into the Alabama Department of Education’s Math, Science, and Technology Initiative, which provides professional development, equipment and materials, and on-site support to 1,800 math and science teachers statewide. PLT is now required training for K-1 and seventh grade teachers. Robin’s career in education began with 12 years in the classroom as a science teacher for Enid Public Schools in Oklahoma. She moved to Alabama initially to develop a secondary curriculum, Water Sourcebook, for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Department of Education, Alabama Cooperative Extension, and Legacy, Partners in Environmental Education. Robin shares her passion for environmental education with others as a certified facilitator in PLT, GLOBE, Project WET, and Project WILD. She coordinates the various environmental education program activities conducted by the Alabama Forestry Association, Alabama Wildlife Federation, Alabama Power Company, Alabama’s Legacy program, and GLOBE. In addition, she regularly volunteers at numerous K-12 environmental fairs and programs.
Robin was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2006.
Barbara Patterson, Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resources Instructor, Front Range Community College, Fort Collins, Colorado
Barbara Patterson teaches forestry, wildlife, and natural resources to high school students from nine surrounding school districts and to Front Range Community College students in a two-year natural resources degree program. Barbara was first introduced to PLT in 1981; she became a PLT facilitator in 1984. For more than 20 years, Barbara has used PLT as a basis for her teaching and to get her students to plan and participate in community action projects, including maintaining wildlife habitat and planting trees, teaching in elementary schools, building trails, cutting Christmas trees for food banks, and receiving a GreenWorks! grant. At PLT facilitator workshops, she emphasizes mentoring and incorporating research into the curriculum, as well as strategies for teaching students in low-income and diverse populations.
Barbara was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2006.
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.
Micheline Hickenbotham, Assistant Professor of Education, Black Hills State University, Spearfish, South Dakota
Micheline Hickenbotham teaches pre-service K-8 educators Science and Math Methods. She is also a math elementary and middle school specialist for the Rapid City and Belle Fourche school districts, and a math consultant for K-8 schools on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation. Micheline trains around 80 pre-service teachers in PLT each year. She has written and received several grants to create an outdoor learning center, build a trail, and field-test an outdoor curriculum designed by her students on the Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. Last year, Micheline and her pre-service students showcased PLT and other environmental education programs during the South Dakota Science Teachers Association (SDSTA). This year, Micheline is president of SDSTA, and she led a PLT Energy & Society workshop at the conference in February that included a tour of an ethanol plant.
Micheline was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2006.