Conservation Teacher of the Year

The Shenandoah Valley Soil and Water Conservation District is planning to recognize outstanding conservation education efforts of teachers within our District.  We need nominations!  We are seeking your help to find those teachers that are doing an outstanding job with conservation education! 

Elementary (grades K-5) and secondary (grades 6-12) educators will be recognized in separate categories. All teachers in public, parochial and private schools in Page and Rockingham Counties and the City of Harrisonburg are eligible to be nominated for the award.  Nominations will be reviewed by the SVSWCD and a winner in each category will be recognized locally and will receive $100 gift certificate for education material.  Additionally, each local winner will be nominated by the SVSWCD for consideration of the State’s Teacher of the Year Awards Program to be eligible to win a State Teacher of the Year certificate, plaque and $250.00 provided by the VASWCD Educational Foundation and any other awards or recognition the state deems appropriate.

To be eligible for the award:

  • Educators must be teaching full-time in the classroom
  • Teachers who are SVSWCD Directors are not eligible, but Associate Directors are eligible
  • Team teachers are eligible, but awards will only be made to the designated leader.

Any teacher who meets the eligibility requirements may be nominated. Teachers can nominate themselves, or someone else in the District may nominate them.

To make a nomination:

  • The 2018 Conservation Teacher of the Year nomination period has passed.  If you know someone that you would like to nominate please check back next year for the 2019 Conservation Teacher of the Year nomination period. 

Previous Conservation Teacher of the Year Winners

2017 Conservation Teacher of the Year Winners

K-6 grade: Autumn Pequginot-Lacey Springs Elementry School

For thirteen years Mrs. Pequignot has incorporated conservation education into her elementary school classes.  Autumn has played a major role in planning and organizing a school wide “Ag-venture” day for the past three years.  This event is not just for Autumn’s class or school, but has been expanded to include classes from a neighboring elementary school.  SVSWCD staff has had the pleasure of participating in this event and notes that is it a great conservation learning opportunity for all of the students.  Autumn has dedicated time to the creation and care of the Lacey Springs’ outdoor classroom, which her students use often.  She continues to seek out grant funds to grow and enhance this valuable learning space.  Autumn has partnered with local high school students to have garden tables built for use in the outdoor classroom and she even developed a Master Gardeners club to get students with Autism at Lacey Springs involved with the outdoor classroom.  In addition, Autumn’s classes participate in the school wide recycling program and she takes her students outdoors as much as possible to engage them with hands on learning opportunities.

Autumn has partnered with many organizations and groups to foster her conservation curriculum and host the annual “Ag-Venture”.  Some of which include the SVSWCD, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and local farmers.   She has had students from Broadway High School FFA assist with building garden tables for the outdoor classroom, as well as having them assist with an FFA related station at the annual “Ag-venture”.  She has partnered with Rockingham County 4-H to provide a program called “Farm Fridays” to all of the kindergarten classes at Lacey Springs and stations at the annual “Ag-venture” event.  Autumn was also able to partner with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and received a grant through their organization to provide her school with a conservation library, providing teachers and students with books about different aspects of the Chesapeake Bay.

In addition to all of the outside partner organizations and groups, Autumn has been able to partner with other groups within the school to spread her conservation message. Autumn works closely with the STEM committee to host school wide STEM activities and evening events for families to participate in hands on STEM experiences that relate to the environment, agriculture and watershed health.

7-12 grade: Kristin Brill-Luray High School

For five years Kristin has instructed science and agriculture education classes and works hard to incorporate conservation education into all of her classes.  Kristin is fully committed to giving her students real life experiences both in and out of class.   Kristin took on the challenge of coordinating a Trout in the Classroom program for her students.  She was able to work with a representative from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to rebuild the Trout in the Classroom program after she discovered the schools trout tank.   Kristin originally intended for the Trout Program to be a project for her ecology students that would allow them to observe life cycles of a native species, however this  program has grown to include not only her ecology students, but also her forestry and natural resources students.  The trout program spearheaded new conversations with all of her students regarding the impacts of forests on water quality, microhabitats, native species and even feeding relationships in ecosystems.

Kristin has worked hard to procure funding to support the Trout in the Classroom program.  In cooperation with her coworkers, she has also worked to secure funding through the Chesapeake Bay Trust mini grant to fund and build compost bins to be used in her horticulture classes.  The compost bins allow Kristin to teach her students about sustainable greenhouse operations, soil formation, decomposition and even recycling.

Kristin expands her love for conservation education far beyond the classroom serving as the coach for not only the school’s Envirothon team, but also serving as the coach for Forestry Judging and the Natural Resources team.  Despite her short tenure with the Envirothon program, her passion for natural resource conservation has led her to develop an amazing foundation for a championship Envirothon program.  During the first two years as Envirothon coach, Kristin’s teams placed in the top three at the SVSWCD Local Envirothon, giving them a chance to compete and experience the Area I Envirothon Contest.  Kristin’s dedication to conservation education is evident as she often accompanies her student to many workshops sponsored by the SVSWCD, allowing her students to further their foundational knowledge about the Envirothon topics.

Kristin’s teaching style includes a wide range of hands-on learning experiences and engaging labs that allows her students to apply their knowledge.  She works hard to engage her students in their own education, hoping that these first hand experiences provide a foundation for understanding the importance and role of natural resources and conservation in their lives.  Her philosophy is to give students the skills, experiences and information necessary to become better stewards of the land.  In her own words she says: “I believe that education is the vessel for change, betterment and conservation of our resources within our community and around the world.”  Kristin’s teaching challenges her students to think about and apply conservation related topics and concepts to the real world in which we live.

2016 Conservation Teacher of the Year Winners

K-6 grade: Susan Eckenrode-John Wayland Elementary School

susan-eckenrode-plaqueSusan has been an elementary instructor for 21 years.  During her career as a second grade teacher, Susan has found many ways to incorporate conservation into her curriculum.  She has been incorporating Trout in the Classroom into her school for many years, raising trout and releasing them into North River.  Susan has involved her students in caring for the multiple school gardens, taught them about recycling, and has helped coordinate an Earth Day Celebration for the entire school.

Susan has partnered with many organization and groups to foster her conservation curriculum.  She has had students from Turner Ashby High School come teach her students about erosion,  worked with Rockingham 4-H to do Ag in the Classroom activities with her second grade class, and partners with the Town of Bridgewater to have her students plant and maintain butterfly gardens in their local parks.

Susan shares her enthusiasm about conservation with more than just her second grade students; she helps plan school wide field trips to local parks where students learn about conservation with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Wildlife Center.  She has also been very active in introducing new environmental education into John Wayland Elementary School; as a result John Wayland has received the VA Naturally School Award for the past 16 years.

7-12 grade: Rebecca Holloway-East Rockingham High Schoolrebecca-holloway-plaque

Rebecca has been an Agriculture Education Instructor for 13 years, focusing in the areas of Horticulture, Ecology, and Ag. Power.  During her career, Rebecca has found many ways to incorporate conservation into her curriculum.  She regularly incorporates water quality testing in her classes, she coordinates exciting field trips for her students with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and has worked with the Rockingham County Extension Office to provide the Private Pesticide Applicator’s Certification program for her classes.

In addition, Rebecca’s students annually participate in the SVSWCD Local Envirothon competition, covering the topics of aquatics, forestry, soils, wildlife and a current issue.  She has worked with the SVSWCD to cover the core Envirothon topics in the classroom and has also taken her students to workshops sponsored by the SVSWCD to further their foundational knowledge about the Envirothon topics.

Rebecca shares her enthusiasm for conservation education to others.  She has worked with Riverbend Elementary School to grow plants with second grade students, start a pallet garden and work on their butterfly garden.  She supports the efforts of other teachers and encourages them to develop environmentally focused programs.