Teachers Sow “Green” Career Seeds

By Megan Gavin

I was fortunate enough to be part on the review panel for the Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation. While I didn’t know who Richard Bartlett was, I did know that the award is given to a teacher who successfully integrates environmental education into their curriculum and engages students in interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges. The application requires a letter from the nominee’s students. Here are some things students said about their teachers: ‘[our teacher is] a very passionate person about helping the environment’; ‘learning various science facts has become so fun thanks to my teacher’; ‘[our teacher] is every school’s dream science teacher’; ‘[our] classroom mimics a university lab, filled with stuffed specimens, pictures of local insects and high grade microscopes’; and lastly, ‘lessons in the environmental learning center were always my favorite’.

John Schmeid, a 7th grade science teacher from Bothell, Washington, is this year’s Bartlett winner. He frequently collaborates with math, art, literacy, social studies and history teachers to integrate their programming into environmental learning. As part of his class, each student develops her/his own action project to improve the environment; it’s called ‘my present to the environment’.

Dozens of John Schmeid’s students have gone on to pursue science and engineering degrees citing his class as the spark. I tried to recall what impact a teacher had on my career. While I got a taste of environmental studies in my high school chemistry class, I didn’t take an environmental science class until I was in college. But, because of that course and the teacher, I decided I wanted to go into the environmental field. And that led me to EPA. Now, I wonder how many of John Schmeid’s students will end up working at EPA?

About the author: Megan Gavin currently works as the environmental education coordinator in the Chicago office of EPA.

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