Congratulations to our 2018 MAEE Award Recipients!
Lifetime Achievement Award
Chris Holmes is a Northern Minnesota elementary school teacher who recently retired after a 35-year teaching career. As coordinator of the Virginia School Forest (a part of the state school forest system) for the past 25 years, Chris has worked closely with his colleagues to provide an outdoor education program that is the pride of the Virginia Public Schools.
Throughout his tenure, Chris has enlisted the help of local agencies, resource professionals, businesses, and organizations who believe in providing outdoor education for area children, This group volunteers their time, expertise, and money to ensure Virginia students receive a first-class outdoor experience.
Chris has worked to structure the Virginia School Forest program to the ability level of new teachers joining the program. Novice instructors are mentored by experienced peers. As they gain control confidence and build the skills needed to teach lessons in the forest, they, in turn, become a resource for others and lead the program onward.
Under his direction, Virginia teachers along with Wuori Township and ArcelorMittal Steel, have recently been constructing and installing STEM learning stations throughout the forest. The activities at the stations are designed to allow children to explore STEM-related concepts while building on the important life skills of cooperation, confidence, character, and an appreciation for the outdoors.
Because of Chris’s efforts on behalf of environmental education through the years, he has been recognized by the Minnesota DNR, Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Minnesota Forest Industries for creating innovative conservation education activities.
In retirement, Chris has agreed to continue to help guide the Virginia School Forest as their outdoor education program strives to remain a leader in the state.
Meanwhile, you can find him most days spending more time than he should building cabinets in his workshop, skiing in the woods when the snow is deep, cutting firewood when it's not, and enjoying life with his wife Joyce at their home in Angora, Minnesota.
Non-formal Educator Award
Sarah Kate Erickson is the Director of Learning and Engagement at Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth, Minnesota. She has worked at the Aquarium in a variety of roles since 2005. She supports educational programming, community partnerships, special events, exhibit design and inclusion efforts among other things at the Aquarium. Sarah has served as an instructor at nature centers, residential environmental learning centers and museums across the country.
Ms. Erickson holds a B.A. in biology from Smith College and an M.Ed. in environmental education from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Sarah is originally from New Hampshire and currently resides in Duluth with her husband Ryan and daughters, Lucy (age 8) and Alice (age 2.75). She enjoys canoeing, cross-country skiing, cooking, art and spreadsheets. Sarah served as an MAEE board member from 2007-2009.
Formal Educator Award
Heidi Faris is starting her 4th year at Tamarack Nature Center’s My Nature Preschool. She’s the Naturalist Teacher for the ECFE classes as well as the T & Th preschool classes. She spent the previous 10 years in the zoo world where she specialized in connecting families to nature through play experiences. She also trains early childhood professionals on how to engage children in the outdoors.
Beyond the classroom, she is an advisor for the Conservation Education Committee with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Heidi is the Chair for the MN Children and Nature Connection working on local initiatives to connect families with nature.
Heidi loves animals, kayaking, roller skating, snowboarding and going on outdoor adventures with her two boys.