Published December 21, 2023

Local Educators Honored with 2022 Outstanding Teacher Award

Five Rivers MetroParks has named the winners of its seventh annual OUTstanding Teacher Award, created to honor Dayton-area teachers who engage students with the outdoors.  

Rising Star (less than 10 years): Katie Guirnalda, Primary Village North

As the Nature Specialist at Primary Village North, Katie Guirnalda brings outdoor learning experiences to around 600 kindergarten and first grade students each week. Guirnalda infuses nature in lessons based on state standards for science that incorporate reading, math, physical activity and art. Outside of her class time, she works with her fellow teachers to expand opportunities for students to learn outdoors. 

Her classroom is equipped with outdoor gear for her students, so they can get outside no matter what weather Mother Nature brings. Through a collaboration with the Centerville-Washington Park District, Guirnalda has made Village South Park her main classroom where students peek under logs, investigate mud puddles and search for wildlife.  

Leader (10 to 20 years): Casey Potts, Piqua High School

As a Spanish teacher, Señor Casey Potts identifies cultural connections to nature to engage his students in outdoor learning. His “mariposa” (meaning “butterfly” in English) project at Piqua High School centers on monarch butterflies and their cultural significance to the indigenous cultures of Mexico. Potts developed an experiential curriculum around the annual monarch butterfly migration to Mexico. Through this curriculum, butterflies hand-crafted by his students are mailed in a symbolic “migration” to other students across North America, inspiring them to get outside to appreciate butterflies, their natural habitats and their cultural importance. 

When the pandemic began, Potts also worked with Piqua High School students and volunteers to design and plant a Monarch Watch Butterfly Waystation at the school. The Waystation has become an outdoor classroom for identifying colors, objects and natural wonders in Spanish.  

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Lifetime Achievement (more than 20 years): Steve Huff, Stingley Elementary School

When Stingley staff need to locate Steve Huff’s class, the first place they look is outside. As a fourth-grade teacher of mathematics, Huff naturally integrates math skills such as mapping, plotting and measuring into outdoor experiences for his students. 

Recently, Huff led the development of a new meadow space on the school grounds with input and support from students and community partners. As a member of Stingley’s Nature Team, Huff supports his fellow teachers in using this special habitat for outdoor learning. His work to promote outdoor education also extends well beyond Stingley. From 2000 to 2013, Huff served as an outdoor educator for a Centerville City Schools nature program that he created with the Centerville-Washington Park District.  

Winning teachers received an award package containing: 

  • Outdoor educational materials to assist in connecting students to the environment 
  • Plant kit with plants selected for the winning teacher’s school 
  • EECO (Environmental Education Council of Ohio) membership and money to use toward the 101 Conference at Camp Kern, held annually the first weekend of October 
  • A one-year membership to the James M. Cox, Jr. Arboretum Foundation and transportation for their class for a field trip to Cox Arboretum MetroPark (or an alternative experience if an in-person field trip is not an option) 

The OUTstanding Teacher Award honors teachers who provide students with outdoor, environmental experiences that inspire interest in and build positive attitudes about nature. Applications for next year’s awards are due by Jan. 31, 2024. Learn more about applying for an OUTstanding Teacher Award here.  

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