Published November 27, 2023

Public invited to nominate educators for MetroParks’ OUTstanding Teacher Awards

Starting Dec. 1, Five Rivers MetroParks is accepting nominations for its eighth annual OUTStanding Teacher Award. Nominations are open to greater Dayton-area classroom educators who teach any subject from pre-K through high school. Nominations are due Jan 31, 2024.

A winner will be selected from each of the following categories:

  • Rising Star (less than 10 years of teaching experience)
  • Leader (10 to 20 years of teaching experience)
  • Lifetime Achievement (more than 20 years of teaching experience)

“Our OUTstanding Teacher award program shines a light on the important work area teachers are doing to connect their students to nature,” said Pam Lyons Gromen, Five Rivers MetroParks outdoor education coordinator. “Studies have shown that students who have the opportunity to learn outdoors benefit academically, socially, emotionally and physically, yet taking students outside to learn is not commonplace and often requires teachers to go above and beyond to make it happen.”

Awardees will be announced this spring. Winning teachers will also receive 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)

Funded through the James M. Cox Jr. Arboretum Foundation, the award is for teachers providing students with outdoor, environmental experiences that inspire an interest in and positive attitudes about nature.

Anyone can nominate a teacher by writing a short essay or producing a video (less than five minutes long) that answers the following:

  • Why do you feel this teacher is deserving of the OUTstanding Teacher Award?
  • In what ways does this teacher get students outside during the school day?
  • In what ways does this teacher weave nature into the curriculum?
  • Does this teacher get students outdoors after typical school hours? Please provide specifics about what the teacher does.
  • What are the most significant positive impacts the nominee has made on other teachers and the school community
  • How does your candidate go above and beyond leading his/her/their students in outdoor experiences? Please provide specific examples of what the teacher does.
  • How does this teacher utilize outdoor space at the school? Has he/she/them created or enhanced a green school yard?
  • Why are you nominating this person?
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Additionally, award submissions should include two photos of the teacher that capture the great work he/she is doing getting kids outside and bringing nature into the curriculum and classroom.

Teachers can self-nominate. Nominations can be submitted by completing an online form and either posting a video to YouTube or uploading the written essay. Information on judging criteria can be found online at metroparks.org/outstanding. Videos do not have to be professionally produced, as the content of the message is what will be judged. Please be as specific as possible in your nomination, so judges have a clear understanding of the amazing work and the impact of your award nominee.

Community volunteers with a background in outdoor education will judge the awards. Five Rivers MetroParks employees and board members of the James M. Cox Jr. Foundation, Wegerzyn Gardens Foundation and Five Rivers MetroParks Foundation and their immediate families are not eligible.

Last year’s award winners include Katie Guirnalda, Rising Star award recipient, from Primary Village North; Casey Potts, Leader award recipient, from Piqua High School; and Steve Huff, Lifetime Achievement award recipient, from Stingley Elementary School.

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