Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! When we talk about green schools, the conversation in the building industry is often focused on environmental impact and healthy design and construction. However, educators are the central players in the third “pillar” of green schools, in support of environmental literacy.
Students who learn to think across subject areas, connecting their learning to real-world problems and solutions, are more likely to understand and care for the complex web of life that supports them and sustains their communities. Schools and educators that integrate environmental and sustainability education are able to address complex issues, while giving deeper meaning to curriculum.
In the spirit of the day, the Center for Green Schools reflects on some of our favorite educators, the ways they supported us, and the lasting impact they have had on our careers in green schools.
Mrs. Gieringer, Our Lady of Holy Souls School, 7th and 8th Grade Math
When I entered junior high, I really hated math; when I left, I not only loved it, but I also thought that I might want to be an architect. Mrs. Gieringer was tenacious, and she quite literally changed the course of my life through her use of real-world, hands-on classroom projects. We managed fake stock accounts, balanced a checkbook for our expenses, built house models and more. She wanted each student to feel challenged, to be their best self, and to love the things that math could do. When we talk about educating for sustainability through project-based education, this is what I think about: inspiring students to love knowledge because of what it allows them to do in the world. —Anisa Heming, Director, Center for Green Schools
David Orr, Oberlin College
My passion for sustainable development and green buildings was most certainly developed at Oberlin College, where I had the pleasure of learning in a state-of-the-art environmental studies center, and under David Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics. David strongly believed in the capacity of students as change agents, and he pushed us to take on projects that fostered deep learning and to pursue leadership roles at the campus and community level that exposed us to the way the world truly worked. David taught me that buildings can be incredible teaching tools and that we must start educating students in the classroom if we are to foster more sustainable behaviors. I’ve carried these lessons with me as I've followed my career path in the green schools movement. —Phoebe Beierle, Green Schools Fellowship Manager
Mr. David Ely, Champlain Valley Union High School (Hinesburg, Vermont), 12th Grade
Mr. Ely solidified my interest in the life sciences in my final year of high school. He was my AP Biology teacher, and his class was both the most challenging and rewarding academic experience of my high school career. He taught with a level of passion and expertise I have rarely seen since. Perhaps most importantly, he treated his students like the young adults we were and set high expectations for accountability, personal responsibility and achievement. —Ali Peterson, Communications Manager
Deb Merriam, Parker School (Devens, Massachusetts), High School Arts and Humanities
Deb Merriam, one of my favorite high school humanities teachers, was committed to showing her students the unsung heroes in every history lesson and how every great moment has a lot of hard work behind it. I try to remember those lessons as USGBC works hard to be inclusive in carrying out its mission and in bringing the benefits of green building to all communities. Deb also taught me how to diagram a sentence—making me a lifetime advocate of good grammar! —Emily Riordan, Community Advancement
Ms. Ahern, Melrose Middle School (Melrose, Massachusetts), 6th Grade
Ms. Ahern, my 6th grade math teacher, taught me some very valuable lessons about the power of confidence—and fostered my longstanding love of word problems. It was this love of problem solving that led me to my first position managing data here at the Center for Green Schools and that helps me everyday in my work developing comprehensive green schools measures that schools can use to track their progress towards sustainability. —Emma Arnold, Information Management Associate
Leslie Kearney, Little Rock Central High School (Little Rock, Arkansas), 10th to 12th Grades
Frau Kearney was my German teacher throughout high school; and as chaperone to several regional Oktoberfests and a post-graduation tour through Europe, she brought learning to life. As the only teacher I had every semester of high school, “Frau” was a welcome, constant source of light during turbulent adolescent times. I learned from her that the foundation for a happy life is humor, compassion, kindness and giving back to your community through service. And I retained just enough German language to impress friends. —Jenny Wiedower, K–12 Education Manager
Mr. Francis, Idaho Falls High School, AP U.S. History, World History and Interdisciplinary English
Mr. Francis taught me about the power of context and why previous events shape future ones. He also taught me about the value of study and preparation. I still take notes in column form because of Mr. Francis. —Bryan Howard, Legislative Director
Ms. Olinda Jara, Nuestra Senora de la Merced High School (Peru), 7th Grade
Ms. Olinda was my history teacher when I was 12 years old. Although history classes might be a boring course for some students, Ms. Olinda had the power to make the classes interesting and hold our attention—she was like a storyteller. What I most like about her was her availability to hear our doubts, give good advice and inspire confidence. —Yngrid Chayacani, Research Intern
To all the educators out there, thank you for all that you do to inspire, enlighten and cultivate the next generation of leaders. Your work is fundamental to advancing our mission of green schools for all.