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”


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. The Center for Green Schools will accept applications for our Spring 2015 round of Trailblazing Teacher awards beginning March 1, 2015. Sign up today to receive notification when the application period opens, so you can nominate yourself or your favorite teacher!




Benjamin Driscoll, Early Childhood/PreK and Elementary Science,
Lee Academy Pilot School, Boston Public Schools, MA

“I relish the opportunity to introduce my students to sustainable practices during school hours and encourage them to take them home too,” says science teacher Ben Driscoll. He and his students study living things by caring for worm bins, planting seeds and caring for plants; they also observe seasonal changes by doing bi-weekly drawings of class trees and studying how animals get ready for winter. Through outreach to community groups, Mr. Driscoll has coordinated the construction and maintenance of raised garden beds, which are a benefit to both the school and the entire Lee community. As the new recycling coordinator at Lee Academy, Mr. Driscoll has trained teachers and students how to recycle during the school day, which cut school waste in half, and resulted in being awarded best school for recycling in Boston Public Schools.

Melissa Follin, 3rd Grade
Old Donation Center, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Virginia Beach, VA

Third grade teacher Melissa Follin asks, “is it possible to transform curriculum that will not only target objectives, but provide authentic opportunities for students to apply advanced concepts in a real-world setting AND make a positive impact on our world? With the world as our canvas and best practices in curriculum design at the forefront, this is the journey we chose to begin.” Her strategies include re-studying Native Americans through the lens of sustainability, which grounded her students’ thinking and provided a jumping off point for future studies. Ms. Follin’s students engage in hands-on work with community partners in oyster restoration, wetlands restoration, and entrepreneurship. By growing baby oysters, taking measurement, analyzing data, researching, and transplanting them onto a sanctuary reef, students have grown in their understanding of the three systems involved in sustainability (economic, environmental, equity). The knowledge they shared and excitement on the final transplant trip were indicators of the power behind this type of learning. Ms. Follin says, “they truly understand the importance of what they are doing.”

Karen Linehan, Grades 1 and 2,
Friends School of Wilmington, Wilmington, NC

Karen Linehan has captivated first- and second-graders with her unique environmental thematic units and enthusiastic teaching practices, increasing her students’ curiosity and comfort in their natural world and inspiring her peers at school. Her students have worked alongside local community college students in cultivating gardens; she planned, established and maintains an outdoor classroom on campus; and helped developed a butterfly and moth garden, built a bird garden with native shrubs, and expanded existing wildlife habitat areas. Ms. Lineham’s students, as well as students in other classes, are often found exploring these outdoor classrooms where they observe wildlife, write and draw in nature journals, and investigate research questions posed inside the classroom. Additionally, she worked to create a “green hour” for her students - an additional half hour of unstructured outdoor time before the traditional day begins.

Galeet Cohen, 9th – 12th Biology & Environmental Science,
Central High School, The School District of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Ms. Cohen’s Environmental Science class explores sustainability from a local perspective by taking on projects that allow students to interact with professionals working in environmental fields. She says, “I want concepts from the textbook to leap off the page and so I take my students on field trips to places that they don’t normally have access to.” As a result, Ms. Cohen’s students have first-hand knowledge of infrastructure like sewage treatment plants and power generating stations; and she leads weekly trips to a local urban farm where students experience the full food production cycle over the course of a year. This year, her students are working with a local architecture firm to design rainwater catchment systems that will diminish their school’s contribution to stormwater runoff, and also help store water for maintaining a series of demonstration gardens Ms. Cohen’s environmental club created last year in partnership with the Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Eric Magers, Physical Education, Spanish,
Manchester Essex Regional High School, Manchester Essex Regional School District, Manchester, MA

As the head of both the Green Team and Green Scholars at Manchester Essex, Eric Magers works each day to improve his students’ education, as well as their community. Every student conducts a project throughout the year that focuses on improving the environment, the community or the school district. While working on their projects, students learn about relevant, real-world sustainability issues through activities such as researching, writing grants, and communicating with others. Green Scholars teaches independence, flexibility, and 21st century STEM skills. One example of the positive impact of his students’ projects is improvements made to the school’s waste system, resulting in 70-80% reduction in the school’s waste output. In another project, Magers and his students worked on banning plastic bags in the town of Manchester, which was successfully achieved in 2013 and went into effect in 2014.