Congratulations to our 2015 MAEE Award Recipients!
Non-formal Environmental Educator of the Year
With an interest in the outdoors and strong mentors, Jeff Ledermann began his career in environmental education as a science teacher. While working on his Master’s Degree at Hamline University, he was fortunate to be hired by the State of Minnesota in 1991 and created the SMART Shopping campaign to educate consumers to reduce packaging waste.For the past 24 years he has continued to create a rich career history steeped in environmental education, which has included winning three Minnesota “Environmental Oscars” from Environmental Initiative. Jeff has helped be the eyes and ears for environmental education advocacy for MAEE and for the State of Minnesota, including the project manager and author of the Second Edition of the GreenPrint, Minnesota’s State Plan for Environmental Education, and a recent project at the Minnesota Department of Education to help schools integrate environmental and outdoor education. He has had a major impact on educating the public about environmental issues, especially with his creation of the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair in 2006, which has become the largest environmental exhibit in the country with approximately three million visitors. He currently works for the Minnesota Department Natural Resources as the Supervisor of Angling Recruitment, Retention and Education.
Jeff’s contributions are also evident at a community level. He co-founded the Mahtomedi Area Green Initiative and St. Andrew’s Environmental Stewardship Team and worked as a parent and community member to bring a wind turbine, composting, native prairie sites, nature play and Eco-Clubs to schools. He also organized a Fishing Daughters Club that has been going strong for ten years, which was founded on the principle that the love of fishing shouldn’t be gender specific. Jeff’s commitment to environmental education is evident in his lasting programs and advocacy work.
Formal Environmental Educator of the Year
Elizabeth “Betsy” Bartel is a beloved teacher at Lakewood Elementary. She is committed to bringing quality environmental education to her students and school community. One of Betsy’s most prominent school-wide efforts began in 1994 when she worked to designate 7.5 wooded acres adjacent to the school as a Minnesota School Forestthrough the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Thanks to her efforts the Lakewood School Forest now has a trail system, outdoor classroom, bridges, signs, and trail markers. For over 20 years Betsy has worked extensively with the DNR and connected with individuals in her community to create a healthy and safe outdoor classroom for Lakewood.Betsy has worked to develop many partnerships that help maintain the sustainability of environmental education within the school . She worked with families and faculty to have a buckthorn removal event. Betsy has directed a student-led recycling and carbon footprint reduction project and assisted in developing the school’s first Environmental Education Day. Betsy has brought professional development opportunities to staff by partnering with the DNR to bring Project Learning Tree (PLT) to Lakewood. These are just a sampling of the roles that Betsy has had in strengthening environmental education and action in her school and community.
Lifetime Achievement in Environmental Education
Art Widerstrom has been doing environmental education since before the term was coined. Art's work as a DNR forester has involved many hours of education and outreach work. He has overseen designing trails, managing thinnings, advising on invasive species, and planting thousands of tree seedlings. He organized underbrush removal forHugo Elementary and did prescribed burns for East Bethel Elementary. Art arranged for horse-logging demonstrations at OH Anderson Elementary and helped students at Jefferson Elementary plant seedlings on a snowy spring day. Art has served as an advisor for numerous School Forests in the metro area, providing hands on assistance to teachers and students alike as they utilized their School Forest for outdoor educational purposes. Art’s work has been key in helping scores of teachers succeed in outdoor environmental education by providing expertise and hands-on management to create safe and healthy forests to learn in.
One of Art’s biggest contributions has been the hundreds of forest management plans he has written for private forest landowners. These plans laid out specific projects for landowners along with education to provide the purpose of the projects. He facilitated annual landowner meetings designed to educate landowners about the importance of taking care of their forests and managing for wildlife.
Art is a lifelong learner with a heart for environmental education and outreach. He enrolled in Project Learning Tree workshops to keep fresh, and would participate in School Forest trainings whenever possible as well as the DNR’s “Teaching Forestry to Kids” . Art has given thousands of volunteer hours to teach children and adults about proper land management, preventing wildfires, how to plant trees, and how to respect nature. He has organized Arbor Day plantings for several cities making sure that the cities not only had trees but also education to care for them.With over 40 years of experience as a DNR Forester, Art Widerstrom has been an amazing asset to the state of Minnesota.