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Weekly Challenge # 30 – Recognizing our #EnviroEd Mentors or Being More than a Retweet

April 21, 2014


Around this time of year we celebrate Education Week in my region. This year the theme is “Achieving Excellence in Education”, and while there will be a lot of talk about how teachers today are developing passionate, well-rounded students for the 21st Century, I wonder how much of it will be built upon the concept of Environmental Empathy?

One of the few things that impresses me more than what students are learning today is what teachers are teaching today. I had a tour this past week of a Robotics program at Chinguacousy Secondary School. The teacher I met with David Weightman, is a tried and true science teacher who I’ve worked with in the past on environmental initiatives. I was stunned by what the students were learning – but was even more stunned by the fact David, the same age as myself was likely learning the BASIC computer language on PET computers in Grade 10  himself and was now teaching this.

This brings me back to my own high school days.

I always knew I wanted to work outdoors. I was a Scout, my family camped. But two teachers in particular helped shape my environmental empathy.

The first was Bryan Wyatt. He was my Environmental Science teacher and a skilled birder and bird bander. It was Mr. Wyatt who gave me an understanding of the interconnectivity of our world. We’d start a lesson discussing a chapter in a textbook about coniferous forests and by the end of the class we had moved on to changes in the soils or bird species – well beyond the lessons in the pages. I desperately wanted to band with him, but never had the opportunity. Years later, when we were both Regional Coordinators for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, we were showcased in the same newsletter and I had the opportunity to thank him for his impact on me as a student.

The other teacher had more of an experiential method of showing me the environment in everything. Ed Mitchell was my English teacher in grade nine and ten and also my Sociology teacher in grade eleven. For three years Mr Mitchell, your stereotypical 60 something year old English teacher in a white dress shirt, sweater vest kept me mesmerized with his passion for education. He had a constant mischievous look over his half glasses that spoke to this older gentleman being understanding of the crazy teens of the ’80’s.

My father and I were invited to hunt with Mr Mitchell on his farm when I was fifteen. I was a new hunter and recall that first autumn morning sitting at the edge of one of his farm ponds awaiting the arrival of waterfowl. It was here, in a frost covered duck blind that I found a love of Shakespeare and Tennyson.

Mr Wyatt and Mr Mitchell both, in their own ways gave me a wonderful gift of environmental literacy which I hope I have passed on to my students over the last couple of decades as well.

In much the same way I am amazed today at the effect current peers have upon me. In days where a PLN can bring conversation and learning from such wonderful examples so easily I must make mention of my entire online learning networks  such as @PaulKelba@Knderfynes, @HeatherMMckay, @Mr_Crozier, @BethLisser and @SLewisYoung.  As an administrator myself I am always impressed with two local principals @JanetJackowski and @GregPurmal for the way they promote their teams and interact with the community beyond the school walls. There is no way to make mention of everyone who makes that impact upon me because currently I follow over 700 folks and they ALL make an impact.

Now with that reflection I wonder who were (or are) the teachers who made the most impact on you in an environmental sense? Who was it in elementary, high school, college or university who opened your eyes? Perhaps it was not even a formal educator. Perhaps it was a Scout, Guide or 4H leader?Maybe even a summer camp councillor.  What was it that stood out for you? How did they make that impact upon you?

And, for this week’s challenge – how can you model the same behaviour as that environmental mentor in your own teaching practices? If you know how to ask that person – ask! Make their day knowing you took or take a lot out of their example. Share! And of course give credit where due.

It is said that imitation is the finest form of flattery. Be more than a “retweet” this week.


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