DCNR Environmental Educator, Others Cited For Professional Achievement

The Keystone Award—the most prestigious annual honor extended by the PA Association of Environmental Educators—was presented to Bureau of State Parks environmental educator Estelle Ruppert for her dedication to “advancing the quality and opportunities of environmental education in Pennsylvania.”
            A program specialist with the bureau where she has been employed for more than 25 years, Ruppert was among seven environmental representatives and agencies honored March 17 at the association’s annual awards conference at Raystown Lake Resort and Conference Center, Entriken.
            Among Ruppert’s many accomplishments recognized at the ceremony was the development of “P.L.A.C.E.: People, Land and Community Education,” an award-winning education initiative connecting science, civics and service learning through place-based community education. Unique in Pennsylvania’s environmental education circles, the program focuses on the importance of land-use planning, conservation and local government.
            The supporting guide book, “PA Land Choices,” is implemented throughout many state parks, and is utilized by the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy annually through its national “A Trail to Every Classroom” program.
            In his award presentation, Mike Weilbacher, executive director of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia, and PAEE board member, noted Ruppert has been a fixture in environmental education:
            “Like a keystone holds up an arch and a keystone species holds up an ecosystem, Estelle has been an essential member of the environmental education community—and state parks—in Pennsylvania for decades.”
            PAEE honors are not new to Ruppert. In 1994 she was named the organization’s Outstanding Environmental Educator.
            Accepting the 2012 honor, Ruppert likened her teaching to the main characters in The Wizard of Oz, saying, “it took smarts, heart and courage” to persevere in teaching about the environment.
            “This is PAEE’s most prestigious award, presented to someone who has successfully dedicated their time to advancing the quality and opportunities of environmental education in Pennsylvania,” said Sarah Hopkins, who heads the bureau’s Outdoor Programming Services Division within which Ruppert works. “Estelle has worked with many DCNR folks in recent years on the PA Land Choices educational program, a successful intra- and inter-agency initiative.”
            Other association awards presented March 17 included;
-- Outstanding Environmental Educator, to Todd Garcia-Bish, director of environmental education, Lutherlyn Environmental Center, for “significant teaching contribution to the environmental education field in a formal or non-formal setting, through either curriculum development or teaching;"
-- Daisy S. Klinedinst Memorial Award, to Christina Reed, environmental educator, Harmony Habitats, South Allegheny Elementary School, to “an educator, new (less than five years) to the field, who is involved in environmental education and who seeks to continue to expand his/her involvement in environmental education;"
-- Outstanding Environmental Education Program, to CHANCE (Connecting Humans and Nature Through Conservation Experience), Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlin, associate professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, for “an exemplary environmental education program which could be used as a model program;”
-- Business Partner Award, to Logan Valley Mall, Joy Weidel, group marketing director, in recognition of “a member of the business community that has made significant contributions to promote environmental education within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;”
-- Government Partner Award, to Trout in the Classroom, Amidea Daniel, Fish and Boat Commission; Samantha Kutskel, PA Council of Trout Unlimited; and Patti Vathis, state Department of Education, in recognition of “a government official who serves on a local, state or national level and has demonstrated significant support for environmental education within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
-- Outstanding Contribution to the Environmental Field, to Lisa Suhr, PAEE bookkeeper, PA Association of Conservation Districts, “for someone who has contributed to environmental education in a non teaching area, such as publishing or research.”

(Reprinted from DCNR's March 28 Resource online newsletter.)


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