CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Three educators will be recognized this month as West Virginia Environmental Teachers of the Year by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP).
Awards will be handed out on the elementary, middle and high school levels to Tiffany Pace of Cross Lanes Elementary; Amelia “Amie” Mullens of Barrackville Middle and Renee Haines of Martinsburg High.
The teachers are being honored for going above and beyond in promoting environmental awareness and stewardship in their classrooms and communities. Each teacher will receive a $500 personal award and a $1,000 check to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education at their schools.
Pace will be recognized at noon on May 15 at Cross Lanes Elementary. Mullens will be honored at 12:45 p.m. on May 12 at Barrackville Middle. And Haines will receive her award at 2:45 p.m. on May 9 at Martinsburg High.
“These educators are making a difference in their schools, communities and the state by equipping students with real-world knowledge and the resources to put their ideas into action. They are building future West Virginians who understand the importance of a healthy environment,” said Annette Hoskins, director of the WVDEP’s Youth Environmental Program and the coordinator for the agency’s Teacher of the Year awards.
Pace, who has been recognized nationally for her education initiatives at Cross Lanes, teaches environmental science in the school’s new STEM lab and uses a global-local approach in her lessons, focusing on how students’ choices at the local level impact others on a global scale. Pace, for example, is helping her students understand the global waste crisis and to explore ways to tackle the problem both on a local and global level.
Mullens teaches science to seventh- and eighth-graders at Barrackville and regularly incorporates environmental topics and activities into her lessons. She also started a schoolwide recycling program and leads the STEM afterschool program. Its students not only deliver the school’s recyclables to the nearby Marion County Solid Waste Authority but also developed recycling education materials to help grade-schoolers understand proper recycling habits.
Haines has been the Ecology Club advisor at Martinsburg High School for 14 years and has grown the organization from five members at its outset to 30 today. The club collects recycling at the school; is developing a nature trail on campus; challenges the school’s student body to participate in activities that reduce its carbon footprint; is constructing an Eco-brick bench, stuffing plastic bottles with plastic bags to create “bricks” that won’t break down; and participates in litter cleanups at a local park.
One of her students, James Estranas, said Haines “possesses what I consider the most important qualities of a teacher dedicated to environmentalism: compassion and dedication to empowering and educating the youth.”