Being recognized as a National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator in 2012 has been the biggest honor I ever hoped to achieve. I have enjoyed being known as "the PLT teacher of the year" in our area and have had numerous opportunities to talk to groups about PLT.
With Recognition Comes Responsibility and Reward
Since receiving the award at the PLT conference in South Dakota last May, I have been asked to serve on several boards, including the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation supporting an endangered tree in our area, the Arkansas Science Teachers Association Board, and Arkansas PLT Steering Committee.
I have become a member of the Arkansas Forestry Association, and have been asked to speak or make presentations for many civic groups in Arkansas and the Arkansas Curriculum Conference.
The National PLT award and ensuing opportunities are contributing to me being recognized in other ways. I was named the 2012 Arkansas Rural Teacher of the Year by the Arkansas Rural Education Association, and have also been nominated for the 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. (As a side-note, my students were doing research for another teacher and typed in "Mena Arkansas" on a Google search--and my name came up as the PLT Educator of the Year!)
I have written and received several grants supporting outdoor education, including Project Learning Tree, for our school. This funding is helping me take a group of students to Sea Camp in Mississippi at the end of April, coordinate a Schoolyard Habitat, Jr. Master Gardeners, Arkansas Green Schools Challenge, Endangered Species program, and Tree Identification for the Smithsonian SHOUT program.
Students and Adults Alike Love Learning with PLT!
As a facilitator for Project Learning Tree, it is always uplifting to hear so many favorable comments about PLT from other educators. They, too, are seeing the value and benefit for both teachers and students who use PLT materials. Conducting these workshops are so much fun!
PLT is such a wonderful program that has actually been "common core" and "next generation" for years!
My students love our Wild Wednesdays and project-based curriculum. They are learning to appreciate our environment and become better stewards of our planet because it becomes real for them.
Have Fun in Alabama
While I was hoping to attend and present at this year's PLT Conference to be held in Alabama, I am unable to since I will be with my students in Mississippi that week! Next year I will make plans to attend the conference.
Have fun in Alabama, PLT! I will be thinking about you all ... and especially this year's National PLT Outstanding Educators!
Editor's Note: Kathy Rusert is science and reading teacher for Acorn Schools in Mena, Arkansas and a 2012 National PLT Outstanding Educator. PLT Outstanding Educators are selected for their commitment to environmental education, exemplary use of PLT, and exceptional teaching skills. We will shortly be announcing the 2013 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educators who will be honored at PLT’s 27th International Coordinators’ Conference, April 29-May 2, in Point Clear, Alabama.