Local middle school teacher Sally High has received an award from the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recognizing her as a Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) winner for 2011-2012.
Two teachers from each of EPA’s 10 regional offices were selected to receive the award, with High chosen from EPA Region 8.
As a PIAEE winner, High will receive a commemorative plaque and an award of $2,000 to be used to further her professional development in environmental education. Additionally, the Pagosa Springs Middle School will receive an award of $2,000 to fund environmental educational activities and programs.
“I’m very surprised and very honored,” High said.
High said that the money for the school will be used to buy gardening supplies and renovate the middle school’s greenhouse (housed in the junior high building), hopefully expanding its term of use while doubling its space for growing.
“We currently can only use it one quarter of the school year but, with some renovations, it can be used for all four quarters,” High said, adding, “which is the only geothermally-heated greenhouse in town.”
According to the EPA’s website, the contest was developed, “(I)n order to make environmental stewardship and conservation relevant to young Americans, environmental and place-based, experiential learning must be integrated into school curricula and school facility management across the country. This program recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students.”
With over 20 years as a social studies teacher, High has spent most of that time integrating clean energy, sustainability and greenhouse gardening into her curriculum.
High pointed to that curriculum, as well as her participation on the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership board, as part of the reason for winning the PIAEE award.
“We have great things going on around us and Sally’s award is just one more example of that,” said Mark DeVoti, superintendent for Archuleta School District 50 Joint. “One thing that is satisfying with what Sally has done is that it really exemplifies the community partnership Sally is trying to build as far as developing renewable and clean energy sources. She really has put her students out in front of that.”