Trailblazing Teacher Awards

The Center for Green Schools Trailblazing Teacher Awards are given twice a year to teachers who have demonstrated their commitment to advance ecoliteracy and bring sustainability into the classroom. The award also gives teachers a small monetary gift to expand their efforts, to purchase instructional equipment, curricular materials, event-related or field trip-related items or similar expenditures.

“Education for Sustainability aspires to educate students who have the ability, ambition, and knowhow to make decisions that balance the need to preserve healthy ecosystems with the need to maintain vibrant economies and equitable social systems in this generation and in all generations to come.” - David Sobel, Antioch University New England and Lead Author, “National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability”


The Center for Green Schools is accepting applications for our Fall 2014 round of Trailblazing Teacher awards. We’re looking for the nation’s leaders in bringing sustainability education to every student, through in-classroom activities, extracurricular projects, field trips, or their own creative mix. Top teachers get a place on our map of experts (see below!), a $250 gift card to help out in their work, a free registration for the Green Classroom Professional Certificate program, and unique opportunities to be highlighted leading up to Green Apple Day of Service. Nominate yourself or your favorite teacher today!


View Center for Green Schools Trailblazing Teacher Awards in a larger map



Vicki Sando, K-5 Environmental Science Program Developer and Science Enrichment teacher,
Public School 41, The Greenwich Village School, New York City, NY

JWorking with various industry leaders, Ms. Sando fosters partnerships, develops curricula, and teaches students "farm to table" agriculture, green building technologies, and wildlife conservation. Over the past decade, she has created and led the school garden program, including the GELL Project, an award-winning Green Roof Environmental Literacy Laboratory. The connections she has made between science curriculum and social studies units include helping first graders design a water filtration system, then remove an oil spill from water; guiding second-grade students to form their own opinions about hydraulic fracturing through a persuasive essay sent to their governor; and supporting the school’s Urban Eco-Club to conduct energy audits, and build solar cars, wind turbines, and water collection units. Ms. Sando is personally committed to preparing PS 41 students for sustainability concepts before they move on to middle school, as well as sharing her practices with teachers at her own and two other public schools. She plans to publish a K12 green roof curriculum guide, and further develop her website, .

Taylor Mayer, First Grade,
Sandia Vista Elementary, Rio Rancho, NM

Ms. Mayer has led Sandia Vista Elementary School’s first green team for staff and an additional afterschool club for students. Each week, students in the Sandia Vista Green Team explore environmental education through hands-on projects and community service-based environmental education lessons. “Enthusiasm towards environmental education attracted over 30 students from our school to join this club,” according to Ms. Mayer. Additionally, “awareness and education have greatly increased the participation of staff in environmental education.” The school-wide composting program Ms. Mayer implemented not only diverts school waste, but provides learning opportunities for a number of classrooms and provides enriched soil for the community garden that Sandia Vista created recently. She plans to work with students to develop a “keyhole” garden, a model originated in Africa that is ideal for dry, desert areas and makes use of composted materials from the school.

Adam Mulcahy, Ecology / Environmental Science 11-12,
Western Albemarle High School, Crozet, VA

Mr. Mulcahy has designed his school’s Ecology / Environmental Science curriculum to incorporate both a general understanding of the natural environment from a systems approach, and an ethical understanding of the human impact on that system. Whether taking his teenage students on nature walks or utilizing an outdoor classroom, Mr. Mulcahy focuses on themes that connect a large global environmental issue to something directly relevant to his students’ personal lives and individual abilities to cause change. He says, “I want to ensure they have a new awareness and allow them to make their own rational educated decisions on what they feel their personal level of moral commitment or obligation is at that point. They are then allowed to freely research, debate, discuss, and formulate individual value judgments.” Utilizing freshwater and the world’s water supply as a primary example, Mr. Mulcahy’s students learn about conservation, local and regional water issue and the challenges of desalination.

Anna Golden, Special Education Science (9th-12th),
Boston Green Academy, Boston, MA

Anna Golden teaches biology, environmental science and green engineering to students in a moderate special needs program. She uses her creativity to get students engaged in making a difference in their community. After noticing that they had lost green space near the school, her students worked to convert a nearby parking space into a garden, giving back greenery to the neighborhood and teaching the students that change is possible with thoughtful planning and advocacy. In her classroom, she is growing food with her students to use in the cafeteria, connecting them with life skills, plant biology and food systems. Because the students are moving into an older building within the coming year, they have been meeting with local professionals to locate green retrofit strategies for their new environment. Through this interaction, they are learning about careers while developing proposals to be taken to the district facilities department. Anna plans to use her award funding to implement small efforts that continue her students’ efforts through the transition to the new building.

Susan Tate, 8th Grade Science,
Whitehall Middle School, Whitehall, MI

Susan Tate looks for opportunities for students to work as citizens to solve real environmental issues within their community. Through seven years of engagement with a local teacher support system, the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, she has access to professional development, community partners, grant money and other resources. Projects her students have tackled include stream bank restoration, stormwater education and raingardens, reforestation, and water quality monitoring. They raise chinook salmon in the classroom as a reminder of the importance of protecting our local watershed and conduct research to learn about the area’s environmental history. Susan also serves as the advisor for her school's Environmental Club and Lexus Eco Challenge teams, who have in recent years focused on extensive recycling efforts, garden projects and energy savings. This past spring, she helped her students throw a film festival is at a local playhouse with free public screenings of environmental films and three winning student environmental films, rounding out a successful effort by students to bring their voice to the community.

Adrienne Thieke, 6th and 8th grade,
Abraham Lincoln Middle School, Gainesville, FL

Adrienne Thieke’s goal in her classroom is to make her students problem solvers and give them the skills they need to see complex problems from unique perspectives. For instance, to learn about community energy use and energy sources, each student designs an efficient home that is joined with classmates’ homes into a green community. To make mineral resources fun, each student is assigned a mineral involved in making a house. Students learn chemistry and earth sciences through their research and then create an artistic piece that features their mineral. She’s implemented other projects featuring recycled paper, water conservation, recycled bottle gardens, and product sourcing. This year, Adrienne hosted the North Florida EnergyWhiz Expo at her school, featuring a solar car race and solar cook-off as well as a teacher workshop. To help her in broadening the students’ experience and impact, she frequently pursues partnership with community partners. She focuses on getting students to see how they can be part of the problem-solving process by better understanding the problem and acting on a solution.