Each year, IslandWood is proud to partner with Seattle Foundation in honoring three extraordinary Washington K-12 teachers with the Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community.
The award, which grants recipients a $10,000 prize, was established by an anonymous donor in memory of philanthropist and civic leader Patsy Collins, who believed deeply in the importance of education to cultivate stewardship of the environment.
The three exceptional educators honored with the award this year – Aidé Villalobos, Sarah Hart, and William Depusoy – have each, in the words of John Haskin, Senior Vice President for Education at IslandWood, “demonstrated exceptional incorporation of environment and community for meaningful learning experiences with their students.”
Read on to meet each of these educators, who are igniting change every day in their schools, communities, and environment.
Aidé Villalobos | Evergreen Elementary School, Shelton
“This award represents the cultures, languages, histories, dreams, successes and challenges of my students and myself. It is a reminder of the empowerment and transformation that an education and profession have the potential to achieve. It is the result of countless partnerships and community members committed to creating opportunities beyond the classrooms walls that our youth deserve. Finally, this award represents my determination to support our underrepresented youth to become the faces and voices of leadership and change in our communities and environment.”
Aidé Villalobos is a dual immersion second grade teacher at Evergreen Academy in Shelton. She uses interdisciplinary learning experiences to make equity-based environmental education compelling and relevant for her students. Aidé has built strong alliances in the community with local environmental experts to both support learning and inspire her students in and out of the classroom. As she says, “Connecting to my school community is necessary to empower my students to become responsible stewards of their community.”
Sarah Hart | Broad View Elementary, Oak Harbor
“Who knew that I’d be Wonder Worm Woman? The Patsy Collins award is the highlight of my career.”
Sarah Hart is an elementary teacher at Oak Harbor Elementary on Whidbey Island. She has developed a wide range of inclusive community-based projects for her students focused on composting, gardening, and robotics. An advocate for school and district-wide advances in sustainability, she helped Broad View Elementary become a 2018 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, and Oak Harbor School District become a 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon District Sustainability Awardee. In recent years, she has independently pursued professional development opportunities to further incorporate climate science into her classroom. As she says, “the children I influence today will help our environment and save the world tomorrow.”
William Depusoy | Dunlap Elementary School, Seattle
“Applying for this award has been just about as great as receiving it, because it made me look back at my teaching over two decades, digging through old boxes full of raincoats, gloves and trowels along with water testing equipment and laminated taxonomy charts, to truly reflect on what I have been up to. And what a packrat I have been! Old microscopes, field journals, bags of gravel and soil, fishnets and seeds started spilling out from the shelves. I always wanted to teach this way, and I wanted kids that resembled me or were my neighbors (in Rainier Beach) to get the chance to learn this way. I wanted us to work together to understand the ecology of our neighborhood better and help it out, so this award has given us an opportunity to remember and celebrate all that we have done together for that.
I recently went to an Audubon native plant sale at Seward Park. While I purchased a red huckleberry, the attendant asked me where I taught. She was a Dunlap alumni who now is a sophomore studying environmental science at UW. She remembered me taking her class to IslandWood. I hope my work influenced her.”
William Depusoy teaches fourth grade at Dunlap Elementary in the same Seattle community where he grew up. As an educator, William is committed to providing his students with a rich variety of hands-on environmental learning experiences that center justice, stewardship, and civics. His aim is to “nurture a culture of organizing around the environmental health of our community.” From leading students in removing invasive plants to exploring the scientific and cultural significance of orcas, William’s teaching centers on the belief that when students “have the knowledge, they also have the stake in what happens.”