As Children’s Garden Educator at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Tarneshia plans and carries out nature activities for children and their families.
Previously she worked as a pre-K teacher at the Goddard School of Woodlake and instructional assistant at the Martin Luther King Preschool Center in Richmond.
She has been a leader in promoting environmental education to strengthen early childhood programs throughout Virginia and to help produce online training programs for the national PLT office.
“Tarneshia is truly a gem! She has been an excellent representative for PLT. She has provided engaging, investigation-based EE to thousands of families in our area.”
-Trish Reed, Ready to Learn Coordinator, WCVE Richmond PBS
Tarneshia was named National PLT Outstanding Educator 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.
Allison Hall Kiesler was most recently the Children’s Garden Programmer at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, where she developed K-5 outdoor discovery programs, training, and resources. Previously, she taught science to grades 5-8 at Orchard House School and ran an educational consulting firm called Earthwise Science Excursions in the Classroom.
She was known for her expertise in involving students in environmental and outdoor experiences, and providing access to green areas in urban settings. She developed other educational programs, interpretive exhibits, and self-guided trails for Maymont Nature Center, the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Mathematics and Science Center, that have been enjoyed by thousands of Richmond area families.
Allison, who was one of the first Virginia educators to participate in a PLT workshop more than 30 years ago, enjoyed sharing her knowledge and experience with other educators. She led numerous workshops and served as a mentor to many educators. Even when she had to resign from her position at the Botanical Garden due to health reasons, she continued to work on PLT and other environmental education activities. Generations of students and teachers recall the impact Allison had on their appreciation for the natural world and career decisions.
Her daughter, Sarah Kiesler, a first grade teacher at Mary Munford Elementary in Richmond who last summer attended a PLT workshop with her principal and colleagues, says, “My mom’s enthusiasm for environmental education spread to me and many others.”
“Allison was the consummate educator, bringing to every encounter with children and adults an uncanny ability to recognize the ‘teachable moments’ that offer memorable opportunities to connect humans with their natural surroundings and develop a sense of environmental stewardship.”
– Randee Humphrey, Director of Education, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, Virginia
Allison was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2013.
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.
Barbara Dunbar, 4-H Environmental Program Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Yorktown, Virginia
The first PLT workshop that Barbara Dunbar attended, in 2004, opened up a new world of learning to her. She realized that PLT could help her effectively teach environmental education without a scientific background, and PLT paved her way to becoming a Virginia Master Naturalist. As a volunteer, she works with many different schools on garden projects and other outdoor learning activities. She is also the coordinator for children’s programs at Williamsburg Botanical Gardens, where she also uses PLT. To promote recycling, Barbara received grants for an innovative program that involves not only students but also custodians in touring the local recycling facility. Barbara is known as a great “connector” between different people and organizations interested in the environment.
Barbara was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2011.
Amber Hodges, Project Associate, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Roanoke, Virginia
Amber Hodges provides classroom presentations, after-school programs, and interpretative programs, reaching about 1,800 K–12 students per year. As a result of her efforts, PLT was adopted by the new city-wide magnet school for environmental education. Amber conducts workshops in the Roanoke Valley area and at the annual meeting of the National Camping Institute. She helps other extension agents and PLT educators conduct workshops and promote PLT. Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell congratulated Amber on her PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree Award at a special ceremony during the Virginia Forestry Association’s Annual Convention.
Amber was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2010.
Elizabeth Burke, Parent Volunteer and Master Naturalist, Fairfax County, Virginia
Elizabeth Burke has been instrumental in enriching the learning environment at Wolftrap Elementary School by organizing HOWL—Helping Our World through Learning. She worked with Wolftrap administration and teachers to ensure that the enrichment program connects to state science standards. Using PLT, she trains parents to be classroom docents and conducts PLT workshops for local area teachers. She also involves Scout groups in service projects on school grounds. In her encounters with other schoolyard garden coordinators, she has advocated incorporating PLT into HOWL and Wolftrap’s gardening efforts. In addition to being a PLT facilitator, she is a Fairfax Master Naturalist and a certified Environmental Educator in North Carolina, where she serves on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina.
Elizabeth was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2009.
Brita Hampton was first trained in PLT in 2004 when she arranged a workshop for 25 teachers from six Catholic schools. Since then, she has organized numerous environmental education trainings for teachers at her school, Star of the Sea Regional Catholic School in Virginia Beach, and other area schools. As the school’s Science Coordinator, Brita engages teachers and students at all grade levels in PLT and other environmental education activities. She finds ways to involve her students in the community, such as asking them to present and display their work at local professional conferences. Brita also teaches science to grades 6-8.
In May 2006, over 30 of the school’s students from all nine grade levels presented at a general session during PLT’s International Coordinators’ Conference in Virginia Beach. The students shared their learning experiences from the six PLT activities they had completed that semester in their classrooms. They provided PLT state coordinators, facilitators, and educators from around the country with classroom-tested feedback on PLT’s revised PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide.
Last November, Brita organized a display of over two hundred pieces of student artwork produced by conducting seven different PLT activities. This artwork was on display for the 1,100 participants at the 2007 North American Association for Environmental Education Conference (NAAEE), also held in Virginia Beach. At the NAAEE Conference, Brita and her students taught PLT PreK-8 Guide’s Activity 51 “Make Your Own Paper.”
In 2006, Brita attended a week-long Forestry Camp sponsored by the Virginia Department of Forestry that included advanced training in PLT. When she returned, she implemented several activities in her Summer Science Program and facilitated a workshop for other teachers to share what she had learned. As a result, Brita and other Star of the Sea teachers regularly incorporate PLT activities, resources, and ideas into their classes and their students now spend more time learning outdoors.
Brita was named National PLT Outstanding Educator in 2008.
Kari Abbott volunteers two to three days a week in two public schools and one private school in Williamsburg and James City County, Virginia. She uses Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Junior Master Gardener Project, for which she is the volunteer chairperson, to teach an in-school science adjunct that infuses environmental education into the first and third grade courses of study. Seven first grade classes and eleven third grade classes, a total of 390 students, participate in year-long PLT-based programs developed by Kari that use experiential learning to teach important science facts and inspire children to care for the environment. W3 [Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife] and U for first grade students is woven around 18 PLT activities; the third grade program Cycling Through Third Grade uses an additional nine PLT activities. Kari leads each PLT activity in every teacher’s classroom, giving teachers and student teachers personal training in PLT without having them miss class time. She has received several grants to support these curriculum programs and fund environmental field trips, as well as literature donations to support PLT’s reading connections.
Kari was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2007.
Ellen Reynolds, Executive Director, Beagle Ridge Environmental Education Center, Wytheville, Virginia
Ellen Reynolds is a Master Gardener whose passions are plants, landscaping, and science. She established the non-profit Beagle Ridge Environmental Education Center on the 160-acre retreat and herb farm that she and her husband own in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ellen is also a part-time interpreter at Douthat State Park and Mountain Soil and Water Conservation District and provides educational programs correlated to Virginia’s Standards of Learning to Bath, Alleghany, and Highland County schools. A vermicomposting project using PLT activities on the combined campus of Mountain View Elementary School and Clifton Middle School evolved into an outdoor classroom. Ellen went on to design and build an outdoor classroom at Covington High School. She now has plans to develop three more at elementary schools, in combination with Junior Master Gardener programs, and has taken the lead on a statewide initiative that aims to establish outdoor classrooms in all of Virginia’s 2,000 schools by the year 2014. In every situation, Ellen uses PLT to strengthen her educational programs because, she says, the beauty of PLT activities is that they are so easily adapted into lessons and outreach programs.
Ellen was named National PLT Outstanding Educator Honoree in 2006.