Each year the Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC) publicly recognizes environmental educators, members, organizations, and partners for their valuable contributions to environmental literacy, the field of environmental education, the EENC as an organization, and the environmental well-being of North Carolina.
On September 20, 2019, EENC celebrated seven individuals and organizations for their amazing work. From EENC Membership Chair, Trent Stanforth: “The decisions were very difficult, and we are honored to be able to identify and shine a light on the incredible work done in our field.”
Environmental Educator of The Year
The 2019 Environmental Educator of The Year was awarded to Meredith Morgan. Ms. Morgan has been overseeing public programming at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Whiteville. She oversees the Museum’s very popular Storytime and Nature PlayDays, as well as the Museum’s large events, including Movies on Madison and Bugfest South. She has been valuable to the Museum in expanding programming beyond the confines of the former bank building where the Museum is housed by developing a relationship with a private landowner who shares their space for teaching outdoor programs. She truly understands the value of getting people into nature to learn more and become better environmental stewards.
Exceptional Environmental Education Program
North Carolina Envirothon won the 2019 Exceptional Environmental Education Program Award. The North Carolina Envirothon is one of the oldest environmental education programs in North Carolina, starting way back in 1991. For the past 28 years, this extracurricular program culminates a statewide contest in the subjects of aquatics, soils, forestry, wildlife, and current environmental resources for 5th-12th grade students. This program increases interest in the environment within older students by exposing them to adults working in a variety of “green” fields, from Soil & Water Conservation District employees to Forest Service Rangers. This program took the lead internationally this year by hosting the 2019 National Conservation Foundation Envirothon Competition in Raleigh, which welcomed teams from across the United States, Canada, and China.
This year’s Outstanding Partner Award was given to Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs. Part of the NC Department of Environmental Quality, the Office served a vital role this past year on a variety of EENC accomplishments. They helped co-author a document with EENC on how funding from Every Student Succeeds Act can be used to fund environmental education. Their 2018 annual non-formal educators meeting joined EENC’s half-day diversity, equity, and inclusion workshop to provide two full days of professional development for educators. Finally, they were instrumental in the facilitation of EENC’s third Environmental Education Summit, which brought together leaders from statewide organizations in education and the environment to get to know one another better and identify strategies to work together toward common goals.
The 2019 Outstanding Practitioner Award recognized Mandy Smith-Thompson. Ms. Smith-Thompson is a certified environmental educator, a Central Carolinas Master Naturalist and Habitat Steward, and a newly designated Master Gardener who has served the City of Concord for the past 12 years. She has created programs that have led to cleaner streams, addressed the need for native plants in Concord, assembled Cabarrus area environmental educators, installed a pollinator meadow, and more. She partners and collaborates with outside organizations, including Concord Wildlife Alliance, Master Gardeners, and NC Wildlife Federation. She’s known for putting projects into motion, some that help solve some of the environmental issues she teaches about. She reminds humans of that which they used to know - how the natural world works and where we fit into it.
EENC’s 2019 Outstanding Service Award was given to Brad Daniel. Dr. Daniel has grown EENC exponentially since he started serving on the board seven years ago. During his term, he helped designed the research symposium that is now integral at our yearly conference, guided statewide environmental education summits, and pushed the growth of EENC’s relationships with other organizations, to name a few. More recently, he was integral in this year’s EENC joint mini-conference in conjunction the North Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers’ annual meeting. This was the first time these two organizations have partnered on an event since the 1990’s. He has been providing outstanding service to EE for decades, showing no signs of slowing down.
EENC celebrated Tanya Poole with a Special Recognition for a Lifetime of Environmental Education Award. Tanya Poole serves as the outreach education specialist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Her 20+ year career also includes teaching as an adjunct environmental education professor, two years of service on the EENC board of directors and leading a multitude of professional development workshops ranging from Project WILD: Bears to Methods of Teaching Environmental Education. She keeps her eye on the prize and works tirelessly for the cause of environmental education in North Carolina. She’s a fantastic professional, well-loved, regarded and respected. From award winner Tanya Poole: “There are a thousand people in our community who are very deserving of this award, and it is a privilege to receive it.”