U.S. EPA honors Berkeley teacher with environmental education award
“Ms. Omania’s dedication to her students has rippled throughout the community as her students reach out to their peers and families to share what they have learned,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “She has gone above and beyond in her teaching career to better her student’s understanding of our natural world and conservation of its precious resources.”
Ms. Omania has helped her students think critically about how they generate waste in their daily lives and ways to reduce it. She created the Plastic-Free Planet curriculum and leads an Heirs to Our Oceans chapter for students that meets weekly during lunch and provides a space for students to connect, practice public speaking and plan action projects both at school and in the greater community.
“I am so honored to receive this award. I dedicate it to my students who inspire me daily with their persistence and passion to work together to solve the complex environmental challenges of our times,” said 3rd grade Oxford Elementary School teacher Jacqueline Omania.
After learning about the ways landfill waste affects our environment, Ms. Omania’s class decided to challenge themselves to adopt a zero-waste classroom philosophy. After changing many personal habits and classroom practices, the students were able to reduce the waste they generated during the school year to one quart-sized jar. These efforts saved nearly two dumpsters’ worth of landfill waste and more than 4,000 disposable plastic utensils. Her class was also involved in helping the City of Berkeley pass its Disposable-Free Dining Ordinance by collecting signatures and speaking at various venues about the problems of plastic pollution and their vision of a zero-waste city.
Two teachers in EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region received an honorable mention in this year’s awards: Kelly Porter of Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Rachna Nath of Arizona College Preparatory’s Erie Campus in Chandler, Ariz.
From across the country, 19 educators and 200 students were recognized for their remarkable efforts that promote environmental education and stewardship. Eleven educators received the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, and eight educators were recognized with an honorable mention distinction. Additionally, the 200 student award recipients – who worked as a team or individually on 17 projects – received the President’s Environmental Youth Award. Altogether, EPA received 162 project applications from 26 states.
Established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act, PIAEE supports, encourages and nationally honors outstanding kindergarten through high school educators who integrate environmental and place-based, experiential learning into school curricula and school facility management across the country. Under the act, the White House CEQ assists EPA in administering the awards program.
The PIAEE program seeks to recognize, support and bring public attention to the outstanding environmental projects performed by these innovative teachers who go beyond textbook instruction to incorporate methods and materials that utilize creative experiences and enrich student learning. The program recognizes up to 20 elementary and secondary (K-12) education teachers, school administrators, and their local education agencies and provides funding to help support those educators in their environmental education work.
For a list of past PIAEE winners, visit: https://www.epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators-piaee-winners
For information on environmental education at EPA, visit: www.epa.gov/education