By: River Ostrow, MAEE Treasurer and Award Ceremony Chair
November 3rd was MAEE’s annual awards social, this year held at McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center (thanks to the Jeffer’s Foundation for the use of this beautiful space!). As Geese flew over the lake behind us, we recognized 5 award winners.
Jahir Aquino Moran received our Student Environmental Stewardship Award for his work with aquaponics and environmental studies through the organization Spark Y. He accepted the award humbly and described his passion and excitement for all that he has learned and continues to do in this field. As his nominator, Carley Rice said, young people like him give us all hope for our future.
Jessie Loftus was recognized as Nonformal Educator of the Year for her work at Como Zoo. Her nominator, Alexa Swan described the many and varying ways Jessie works to ensure that Como is a welcoming, inclusive place for all families to visit. Jessie described her journey to Minnesota and Environmental Education and gave us a picture of her passion for the work she does.
This year, because of the volume of nominations that came in, MAEE recognized two Formal Environmental Educators of the year. Deb Schlueter, a middle and high school teacher at Pine River-Backus School, was not able to make it to the ceremony. Karen Harrison, her nominator, explained the work she has done with her students to give them ownership over the school forest through a multitude of student-led projects, including a buckthorn removal event. Jen Heyer received two separate nominations for the award. These fellow teachers spoke of her work to get her Kindergarten students outside through a program called “Wilderness Wednesdays.” Through this program, Jen’s students spend every Wednesday almost entirely outside. Jen and her colleagues spoke of the wonder, harmony, and increased learning they see in their students when they are outside. Jen has mentored other teachers to engage their students in similar ways and it was clear from hearing her speak how close the program is to her heart and how much passion she has for learning outdoors.
The final award recipient was the reason that this year’s ceremony was one of our best attended awards events ever. John Kohlstedt, a long time educator and education mentor at Wolf Ridge, drew a busload of people who wouldn’t miss the opportunity to celebrate with him. It was clear from Pete Smerud’s introduction of John that he made an impact on an immeasurable amount of students, both young and old, and that he shaped Wolf Ridge to be the place it is today. It was inspiring to hear John’s humble and delightfully humorous acceptance and to feel the sense of community he instilled in his many colleagues over the years.
MAEE is grateful to all those who nominated and we look forward to next year’s awards. Thank you to all the award winners for the wonderful work they are doing and for coming to our ceremony on Sunday!
Read more about our award winners here: https://minnesotaee.org/what-we-do/events/awards/past-awardees/2019-awardees/