Columbia, SC—Kristin Ziegler
, Lead Teacher of the School of Zoological and Botanical Studies at Longleaf Middle School, has been named Richland County Conservation Teacher of the Year by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). The award is presented annually to a teacher who has exhibited an outstanding commitment to conservation education, and one has only to meet Ziegler to recognize both her passion for environmental stewardship and her love for the students under her care.
Ziegler, who received no fewer than four nominations for this award, is the lead teacher of an environmental magnet program called ZooBot that promotes the conservation of living things and the environment. In this position, Ziegler organizes monthly field experiences for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to explore parks, natural areas, and environmental learning centers across the region. Ziegler has chaired Longleaf Middle School’s Green Steps School Team since 2011 and implemented or maintained a number of school projects--including school composting, school gardens, rainwater harvesting, recycling, upcycling, Breathe Better air quality campaigns, and a nature trail--that led to Longleaf Middle School receiving the Certified SC Green Step School designation in 2013. Through these efforts, ZooBot students have, in their own words, “learned to take care of the environment and the animals that live there.”
Ziegler “provides a wonderful example of how an educator can blend academics and environmental stewardship through real-world learning to engage the next generation of young leaders,” says Joanna Weitzel, Executive Director of Camp Discovery, a ZooBot partner organization. According to Weitzel, not only does Zeigler “challenge and motivate students academically, but she leads them towards becoming responsible and caring…environmental stewards in our communities.”
This, notes Richland SWCD Chairman Kenny Mullis, is the ultimate goal of conservation education, and it often takes only the inspiration of an enthusiastic role model to make a difference in a child’s environmental mindset. “I wish every student were exposed to a teacher who educates them about the environment, who has enthusiasm for stewardship, and who instills some of that enthusiasm in the kids,” says Mullis.
And enthusiasm, says Jennifer Rogers, founder and director of the Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services, a ZooBot partner organization, is something Ziegler has in spades: “her enthusiasm for her job and motivation toward affecting her students has been evident since day one! She is inspiring to work with and a true gift as a teacher.”
In addition to Ziegler, two teachers received Honorable Mention Awards: Dr. Rachel Tustin, a 7th Grade Science Teacher at Dent Middle School who has guided the development of a sophisticated, student-led environmental monitoring program in the Gills Creek Watershed; and Susan Woodley, a Preschool Teacher at Lake Carolina Elementary Lower Campus who coordinates a variety of student environmental clubs and special projects to educate students and faculty about the environment. All three teachers will be recognized at the Richland SWCD’s Awards Banquet in May.
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Conservation Districts are political subdivisions of state government under the local direction of five-member Boards of Commissioners. 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