Columbia, SC—David Kenga, the science lab teacher at St. John Neumann Catholic School (SJN), has been named Richland County’s 2017 Conservation Teacher of the Year by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District.
“The slogan ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ was coined for people like Kenga,” says Jane Hiller, Education Coordinator for Sonoco Recycling and Director of the statewide Green Steps Schools Initiative. Hiller nominated Kenga for the conservation award because, “in the three years since he joined SJN, Kenga has transformed the school’s science lab,” expanded and strengthened the school’s environmental programs, and garnered thousands of dollars in grant funding to support student-focused conservation projects.
Notably, Kenga has pursued grant funding and donations to purchase recycling signage and a portable lunchroom sink that allows students to empty, rinse, and recycle a variety of items. He and his students have installed drip irrigation in the school’s extensive raised bed gardens to maximize production while conserving water, and he has overseen the creation and refurbishment of butterfly gardens, herb gardens, vegetable gardens, and other themed planting areas. SJN’s school garden was selected by the National Horticulture Society’s Children and Youth Gardening Symposium to be a tour destination for teachers from across the nation in 2016.
Students at SJN also save banana peels, pencil shavings, brown paper towels, and other items to compost or vermicompost; harvest rainwater with rain barrels for use in the school garden; monitor several birdhouses, birdfeeders, and birdbaths; and routinely educate other students, teachers, and parents about their environmental initiatives. In the most recent environmental success story at SJN, Kenga used his skills as a former professional soccer player to raise funds to purchase a state-of-the-art saltwater aquarium for the science lab. By partnering with soccer coaches, parents, and community members, Kenga and his team raised more than $3,000 to fund the project…then spent spring break setting up the complex tank for his students.
When asked what makes Kenga so successful in his quest to promote conservation and stewardship at SJN, Hiller says “he seeks expert advice for ways to establish successful projects; he finds funding; and he empowers and motivates students, teachers, parents, and community members to help build and maintain these model quality projects.” Kenga “is modeling to his students the joy and pride that results from life-long learning and hard work as together they strive to conserve, protect, and restore their local and global habitat.”
“The Richland SWCD recognizes and celebrates the achievements of teachers like Mr. Kenga because we believe it is important for students to understand the environment and how to care for it,” says Richland SWCD Chairman Kenny Mullis. “The conservation programs at SJN are very impressive…it’s amazing how many different projects Mr. Kenga and his students are doing, and how well they are doing them!”
Kenga will be recognized at the SWCD’s Awards Banquet on May 18th.
Conservation Districts are political subdivisions of state government under the local direction of five-member Boards of Commissioners. In South Carolina, Conservation District boundaries conform to County boundaries. The Richland Soil and Water Conservation District promotes the wise use of natural resources for the benefit of the citizens of Richland County.
Richland Soil and Water Conservation District
2020 Hampton Street, Room 3063A
Columbia, SC 29204
Phone (803) 576-2080
Fax (803) 576-2088