Made possible thanks to funding from an anonymous donor at the Seattle Foundation, the annual Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community honors extraordinary teachers in Washington K-12 schools who are creating equitable, project-based learning experiences that inspire stewardship and environmental awareness.
We acknowledge that this has been an extraordinarily challenging year for teachers and students. That’s why we believe it’s more important than ever to celebrate teachers who have continued to find ways to engage students in meaningful and equitable environmental learning. We hope that recognizing these teachers will foster broader appreciation for the creative ways educators are supporting students right now.
This award was established to honor Patsy Collins, a philanthropist and civic leader who cared deeply about education and stewarding our environment and natural resources for generations to come.
This year, six teachers were selected to receive the Patsy Collins Award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize in recognition of their commitment to creating equitable learning experiences that make a difference for kids, their communities, and the planet. Teachers can be nominated for the award or nominate themselves, and are selected by a committee of IslandWood educators and staff, Seattle Foundation Staff, and a past award recipient.
Nominations for the 2021 Patsy Collins Award are now closed. Check back later this year for more information about the 2022 nomination timeline!
We are proud to partner with the Seattle Foundation to support teachers who are creating opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of their environment and the impact they can have on their world and community.
The Seattle Foundation administers the donation that funds this award.
Candidates for the Patsy Collins Award should exhibit these qualities:
“I don’t give back. I give forward.”
Patsy Bullitt Collins devoted much of her life to philanthropy and working toward the public good. She cared deeply about the arts, the environment and social justice and made it a priority to give back to Seattle and to the causes she loved.
Patsy Collins was one of IslandWood’s earliest and largest supporters, believing that through our experiential, student-centered learning, we can inspire lifelong community and environmental stewardship.
– Kimberly Schulze, ’17 Patsy Collins Award Recipient
This year, we were thrilled to honor six extraordinary educators, including Brian Goff of Lopez Island Elementary School, Craig Parsley of Louisa Born STEM K-8, Kit Pennell of Chimacum Elementary School, Kathleen Hall of Jason Lee Middle School, Mike Bosko of Wahluke Junior High School, and Rachel Petrik-Finley of Garfield High School. In the words of Director of Campus Programs, Dr. John Haskin, “by inspiring their students to become environmental and community stewards, they are helping create a better world for us all.”
– Aidé Villalobos, ’19 Patsy Collins Award Recipient
Please join us in recognizing these extraordinary teachers who are going above and beyond for kids, our communities, and the planet.
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 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 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.”
Middle school science teacher, Laura Tyler has been advocating for environmental education, in her words, “long before it was trendy.” Thirty years ago, she helped start Seattle Public School District’s recycling program. In the years since, she has continued in a leadership role, serving on the board of Washington Science Teachers Association, the Seattle Schools Next Generation Science Standards adoption committee, and elsewhere. Today, she takes her students on weekly walking field trips to observe the seasonal changes and to use the natural environment as a lab to study biology, geology, chemistry, and physics. Multiple generations of her students have worked on local restoration projects. She has partnered with Seattle Parks and Recreation in the East Duwamish Beltway and Seattle Tilth in Rainier Beach Farm and Urban Wetland. She also secured funding for her students to decorate a chain-link fence in a local park with native flowers they created from plastic bottles. “I want [my students] to be keen observers of different environments, tenacious problem solvers, and critical thinkers,” says Laura.
“I am deeply committed to nurturing my students’ sense of resiliency and agency through animal-focused stewardship.” Since 2004, Jennie Warmouth has been teaching her students to write online adoption advertisements for homeless dogs and cats awaiting adoption at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Lynnwood, WA. Her students have helped over 500 “difficult to place” dogs and cats find forever homes. Jennie inspires her students to use their emerging communication and critical thinking skills to tackle human-animal and environmental dilemmas that they witness in their own lives. Most recently, her second and third grade students advocated for the humane treatment of live butterflies used in their school district’s life sciences curricula. “They are motivated toward compassionate action and stewardship that extends beyond the four walls of our classroom,” she says.
“A thriving educational environment is one that fosters relationships beyond the classroom walls and empowers students as members of their communities.” Elizabeth Wing has cultivated this community engagement through numerous partnerships. In a study of Pacific Northwest Native Americans and the vital role of salmon, her students worked alongside Snoqualmie tribal members in habitat restoration along salmon spawning water routes. Her students helped their school become a King County Level Four Sustainable School by educating the community on reducing and recycling waste and on energy and water conservation. Most recently, Carnation Elementary became a 2018 National US Green School award winner. With Oxbow Farm, a local organic farm and education center, Elizabeth has designed lessons on sustainability and the environment. She also connected the district’s food service director to local organic farmers to supply produce for lunches. The school is now a USDA Bronze Level Farm to School Site.
As a 4th grade teacher, Denise strives to create a classroom environment that fosters, in her students, a genuine curiosity about the world. Through self-directed, project based learning she encourages her students to wonder/question, to propose solutions, to explore ethical issues, and to be citizen scientists. She uses current and historical real-world examples to facilitate learning through peer conversations, books, technology, and presentations from local experts. The school’s location near Ronald Bog, provides an ideal venue for Denise to work with students as they examine the complexities of wetland habitats and the impact of human actions on the environment.
In his 33 years as a teacher, Mike has coordinated environmental internships for his students, connecting them to government agencies, local organizations, and businesses. He also developed a project-based mentorship program where students design solutions to environmental problems. Six years ago, Mike helped open the Tesla STEM High School where he teaches AP Environmental Science and Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Design. His commitment to hands-on, community-connected environmental learning is involving students in local and global community issues and inspiring them to pursue careers as environmental leaders.
WAAs a teacher at Highline High School, Kim focused on using real-world, problem-based learning to motivate and inspire her students. She designed a chemistry unit for her students on protein structures focused on E. coli in waste water treatment. When a real E. coli outbreak occurred in the region, her students developed an information brochure on E. coli. She brought experts into the classroom to spark discussion, initiated partnerships with local government and organizations, and gave students autonomy to research and develop solutions to real community problems related to sustainability and the environment. She adds, “students armed with a cause, facts, and ideas can advocate for change amongst their peers and in our city…and are our best chance for a sustainable future.”
Joann has over 35 years of experience in getting her classrooms outside and engaged in project-based learning. She has created and nurtured partnerships with groups such as the National Park Service, the Department of Natural Resources, Pierce County, Pen Met Parks, and the Nature Conservancy. Her citizen-scientist students have now aggregated over 25 years of stream data in a local watershed. Joann’s students find their own passions and curiosity in the outside world, step outside of their comfort zones, and give back to their community -every day, and every year.
Mary-Elizabeth is a relatively new educator bringing innovative environmental and inquiry-based approach to Roxhill Elementary, located in the White Center area in southwest Seattle. She has taken initiative in getting her second grade classroom engaged with community and environment. Mary-Elizabeth pioneered the use of the nearby Roxhill bog into not only her own teaching (the first to do so at the school!), but into the teaching of other educators too, covering every grade in the school. And, she created a partnership with Camp Long, now manifesting in weekly naturalist sessions at the school as well as activities at Camp Long itself (a first for many students and families, despite being only three miles from the school).
Jessica weaves current events, project-based learning, field trips, and partnerships into her curriculum every day. In her words, “I’m not simply educating good scientists, but rather raising sustainable savvy citizens. The future of our planet depends on it.” Jessica helps her students see the impact they can make in both their daily lives (recycling programs, alternative transportation) as well as on a grander scale (proposing pollution solutions complete with models and prototypes). Another fascinating project educates whole communities through her students by having them translate student-created posters about hazardous materials into the languages they speak at home: Amharic, Tagalog, and Korean to name a few.
Christine has been an educator and program coordinator at Hazel Wolf since the school’s inception six years ago. The focus of her work is designing integrated Project Based Learning units for grades K-8 that teach environmental awareness and sustainability. Currently, she serves as the school-wide E-STEM (Environment -Science, Technology, Engineering Math) Program Coordinator, provides professional development for other staff, and develops and teaches an Environmental Studies elective for middle school students. Christine brings community partners and parents to Hazel Wolf for various events, including E-STEM Career Day; connects kids to parks both inside the classroom and through a variety of field trips -including to zoos, nature centers, wastewater treatment plants, and national parks; and serves as THE source of best-practices for incorporating E–STEM for the rest of the staff and the community.
As a science teacher at Klahowya Secondary School, Maureen teaches students in grades 7-12 in a variety of sciences: Life Science, Earth Science, Biology, and Anatomy and Physiology. She uses environmental studies to excite kids about learning science, the importance of their community, and that each one of them can make a tangible and positive impact. Over the last three years, she has implemented the creation of an outdoor classroom, a rain garden, and a community vegetable garden. Her students, along with local companies and individuals, have helped to design, build, and maintain these teaching tools. Along the way, students learn about the water cycle, use their hands, and donate back to the community food bank through the vegetable garden.
At Maple Elementary School, Marcia strives to connect her fifth-grade students to their community and environment. Since the Duwamish River runs right through the neighborhood in which her students live and play, she developed a comprehensive teaching plan around the interaction between humans and the environment. Marcia connected her students to representatives from the EPA, the Duwamish River CleanUp Coalition, and Boeing. Her students wrote letters and drew pictures to present to Mayor Ed Murray, urging signage to be posted about the Duwamish. Her students were able to take a boat trip on the Duwamish to see the river first-hand. They did all of this while learning lessons in science and math. She created a classroom full of students who felt a sense of pride and ownership in their community and in their lands and waters.
When it comes to extending learning outside of the classroom, Kathleen Ferguson goes WAY beyond the walls of Okanogan High School. Over a decade ago, she observed that students were more engaged and successful in the classroom during hands-on, out of the classroom environmental units. Kathleen took this success and ran with it, developing four different lab-based, outdoor heavy classes, including both Advanced Biology and Ecology of the Okanogan.
Hands-on, real world projects include: fire ecology, entomology, and watershed monitoring. This spring will mark the fifth year that students in Kathleen’s Advanced Biology Class contribute to a 10-year longitudinal study (in partnership with University of Washington and Wenatchee Valley College, among others) monitoring environmental changes in a nearby burn-zone. Kathleen has used the rich landscape of north-central Washington to connect her students with over 20 scientists per year, ensuring that they are engaged, outside, and making a difference. Many of her students display a continued interest in environmental fields after graduation.
While Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary is located within Seattle, Ben Lawton makes sure that his students get outside, where he believes the environment gives context to the classroom. Over the course of each school year, his students prepare in the classroom as they look forward to six environmental field trips –rain or shine. The importance of water is highlighted from day one, and capped by trips to the Cedar River, Tiger Mountain, and West Point Wastewater Treatment plant. Through these, the children can see how fish, forests, and people are all affected by the water cycle –and how their actions matter. Ben also coachesthe school’s LEGO Robotics Team.
Leslie Addington-Ferris also teaches in an urban environment, at Schmitz Park Elementary in West Seattle. Through a use of classroom time, on-site composting and gardening, after school activities, and field trips, she takes a daily approach to instilling an ethic of responsibility to community and the environment in her fourth-grade students. Every year, her students choose and design a unique environmental project to implement, including the school garden –and then present their work to the grade below them. Last year, as leader of the school’s Science Professional Learning Community, Leslie hosted the first annual “Science Celebration Night”, where kids, parents, scientists, teachers, and 15 external organizations enjoyed activities and experiments.
First Place School was founded to serve families in crisis, and the children who attend First Place are often facing life’s most difficult lessons at the earliest ages. Thanks to Cheryl, they are also learning about community, responsibility, and the true potential of the human spirit. Her students are taking the hands-on lessons of composting, recycling, and reducing beyond the classroom to their families and their communities. The result is a message full of hope and heart: regardless of background, everyone has something to give.
Darcy’s innovative teaching has allowed her students at Camelot to embrace issues of conservation, sustainability, and stewardship within their classroom, school, family, and community. In 2012, Camelot Elementary received one of the first ever Department of Education’s National Green Award. Shortly after, 5th graders took their first trip to IslandWood which inspired their next big project: an outdoor “school in the wood” on Camelot school grounds. With a school theme for this year of “Let your Life Speak,” we know this isn’t the last we’ll hear of Darcy Borg and her students.
IslandWood acknowledges that we live and work on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people, who have been stewards of this region's land and waters since time immemorial, and who continue to protect these lands and waters for future generations, as promised by the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855, the Treaty of Point No Point of 1855, and the Treaty of Medicine Creek of 1854.
While the majority of our work takes place on Suquamish (suq̀ʷabš) and Duwamish (dxʷdɐwʔabʃ) land, we also conduct programs on the land of the Snohomish (sduhúbʃ), Puyallup (spuyaləpabš), Muckleshoot (buklshuhls), Skokomish (sqoqc’bes), and S’Klallam (nəxʷsƛ̕ay̕əm) peoples.
4450 Blakely Ave. NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 206.855.4300 IslandWood is a registered 501c3 charitable organization.
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