A Richland County employee and a local teacher were honored recently by the S.C. Association of Conservation Districts (SCACD) for their accomplishments and dedication to conservation efforts.
Quinton Epps, Conservation Division manager for Richland County, was named Outstanding District Employee. Sarah Burnham, a fourth- and fifth-grade Montessori teacher at Brockman Elementary School, was named S.C. Conservation Teacher of the Year (Primary).
Outstanding District Employee
As the County’s Conservation Division manager, a role he has served since 2014, Epps oversees and coordinates the activities and staff of both the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District (RSWCD) and the Richland County Conservation Commission (RCCC).
During his time with the County, Epps developed the largest mitigation bank in South Carolina to offset development-related ecological losses. He also oversaw the acquisition of nearly 3,000 acres of floodplain and 300 acres of easements for conservation and flood resilience. Epps initiated and continues to champion the Lower Richland Tourism Plan to foster eco-tourism in Lower Richland, and he has overseen more than $2 million in conservation grant awards through the RCCC.
RSWCD’s staff, commissioners and programs have received numerous local, state, regional and national awards in recognition of these achievements.
“One of the most important predictors of success is a leader who wants you to be successful,” said Chanda Cooper, conservation education analyst for Richland County. “Quinton’s guidance, vision and support have enabled RSWCD’s programs to grow and flourish. More importantly, he has helped me to develop my own skills as a conservationist and professional.”
Quinton Epps, Richland County Conservation Division manager, far right, was recognized as Outstanding District Employee by Chaneen Haler, president of the S.C. Conservation District Employees Association, far left, and Jeff Wilson, president of the S.C. Association of Conservation Districts, during last week’s S.C. Conservation Partnership Conference.
Conservation Teacher of the Year
Environmental projects are thriving at Brockman Elementary School, thanks to Burnham’s hard work and vision.
“My goal is for my students to spend as much time outside as possible,” Burnham said. “We have a lovely Peace Garden on campus with picnic tables alongside raised (garden) beds and near our outdoor composting station. We eat lunch there when the weather is cooperative and often hold class outside.”
Her expertise isn’t limited to her students. With more than 22 years of classroom experience and certifications in multiple environmental curricula, Burnham serves as a mentor and guide for other teachers interested in environmental education.
In the 2021-2022 school year, she led a cohort of 20 elementary teachers interested in starting or continuing school gardens and related environmental projects. She also worked with her students to produce a video for other schools explaining how to run a Holiday Poinsettia Project, in which students collect and care for donated poinsettia plants after the winter holidays. The project reduces landfill trash, provides hand-on learning and leadership opportunities for students, and creates thriving houseplants that green classrooms and offices can adopt.
Burnham is a member of the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina and participates in the Green Step Schools program.
“The S.C. Green Step Schools program supports and celebrates teachers who are helping their students learn, do and teach others about environmental issues,” said Jennifer Mancke, a Green Step Schools program mentor at Brockman Elementary. “Dr. Burnham and her students are engaged in a number of outstanding Green Step projects, and I am so excited for their hard work to be recognized by SCACD!”
Brockman Elementary School teacher Sarah Burnham, right, was recognized as S.C. Conservation Teacher of the Year (Primary) by Jeff Wilson, president of the S.C. Association of Conservation Districts, during last week’s S.C. Conservation Partnership Conference.
About RSWCD and SCACD
SCACD recognized Epps and Burnham Jan. 24 during the S.C. Conservation Partnership Conference in Greenville. Both Richland County conservationists received plaques from SCACD, an organization that represents and supports the state’s 46 soil and water conservation districts.
Locally, RSWCD promotes the wise use and care of natural resources for long-term sustainability. Richland County supports RSWCD’s work with staff and other resources.
To learn more about the mission and programs of the RSWCD, visit www.richlandcountysc.gov/rswcd. To learn more about SCACD, visit www.scacd.org.