Goochland Middle School teacher Anne Moore has the rare distinction of netting two presidential education awards in one year, receiving the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
A total of 15 teachers nationwide receive the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators annually.
“To solve our future environmental challenges, young people need to understand the science behind the natural world and create a personal connection to the outdoors,” said Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy in a news release. “These teachers and students are demonstrating the important role of environmental education, and showing how individual actions can help address climate change, protect the air we breathe and safeguard the water we drink.”
Moore was one of 108 teachers to receive the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, which is described as “the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science.”
“I was very honored that I was nominated by colleagues to apply for the two presidential awards,” Moore said.
Her applications highlighted her penchant for hands-on experience and field work, she said, particularly as evidenced by the environmental units she teaches.
While working in Chesterfield County, she organized a program called Trash to Treasure with the staff of a county convenience center where refuse is dropped off. The children studied various environmental problems facing Chesterfield and hit on the issue of trash tires as the one they wanted to tackle.
The class and the center developed an amnesty day, which allowed residents to drop off used tires without paying the usual fees. It helped combat the leaching of toxic chemicals into the environment, she said.
Now a teacher in Goochland, Moore also collaborates with Virginia Commonwealth University on a project informally called Team Warbler.
Her students learn about the tongue-twistingly named prothonotary warbler. She collaborates with the Audubon Society, the VCU Center for Environmental Studies, the VCU Rice Rivers Center, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Professors come out to teach students about wetlands and watersheds, and they do cooperative work with VCU students who have done field work including bird banding.
Students also prototype nesting boxes for those studying the bird, who then pick one of the prototypes for mass production. Students make and donate 50 to 100 of the nesting boxes with the chosen design for use in the study.
As an added treat, students get to go out in canoes to actually watch researchers capture and band the warblers.
“Science is something that has always just been near and dear to my heart, and especially environmental science,” Moore said.
Moore said she is exploring the possibility of studying a different bird with different migration patterns. The prothonotary warbler summers in the area and winters far to the south, including in South America. The white-throated sparrow, in comparison, would offer a chance to study a bird that summers to the north but spends the winter in the area.
“I am truly honored and humbled to receive both of the awards,” said Moore, who was able to meet with other top educators and officials. She also got to meet President Barack Obama.
And that tough-to-pronounce prothonotary warbler? She is planning a lobby campaign with her students to change the name to the easier-to-say and, she argues, more descriptive “golden swamp warbler.”