The following recipient bios are put together with material from the nominations received.
CANDY BLESSE, Truckee Elementary
Candy Blesse is known as a visionary in environmental education. She has a passion for sharing the beauty of our world with her students. When Candy learned that the environmental programs of our district were getting too expensive to continue, she didn’t give up and accept that the program was lost. Instead, she contacted U.C. Berkeley to find out how her grade level could partner through the National Science Foundation. With her aid, the program has developed from one-day to a three-day/two-night experience at Sagehen Creek. Ms. Blesse was invited to a National Education conference in Washington, DC because of her work with the environment. She empowers her students to take an active role in their future and their education and shows special dedicated to teaching her students critical thinking skills.
CLAIRE BOYLE, Tahoe Lake Elementary
Claire Boyle is known as a “dynamo” of energy and dedication. Undaunted by the requirements of “No Child Left Behind,” she knows that students need hands on experiences to cement skills they have learned in their classroom. While learning about native fish species, Ms. Boyle’s students take a boat ride to observe part of the life cycle. When field trips are not possible, she brings the "ocean" to the classroom with a pool to show the ocea migration of gray whales and how dolphins live.
Students are encouraged to think for themselves in Ms. Boyle’s classroom, which was evident when one of the 7-year-old students announced that Mauna Kea was indeed the tallest mountain in the world. The student had counted from the bottom of the sea to the top of the volcano to come to this conclusion! This was an amazing example of the critical thinking that is taught and encouraged of her students.
KAREN PILAAR, Glenshire Elementary
Ms. Pilaar is well known for the “peaceful classroom” that she promotes. Working with kindergartners, this teacher believes it is important to instill the ideals of cooperation and peace at an early age to ensure students will have success in collaborative learning and living. Her passion leads her to teach a range of experiences - from hiking and skiing to learning manners and proper speech to the traditional “Three R’s”. Science with 5-year-olds can be a challenge, but Ms. Pilaar’s “snail races” engage students as few projects do! And, the individually bound books of each child’s kindergarten experience is cherished by students and consulted often to fondly remember their year.
MIKE DEPEW, Community School
Mike Depew is the teacher of a one-room schoolhouse, the Community School, which takes students and moves them toward a better future. The Community School is considered the “last chance” for students of our district. In this classroom, Mr. Depew teaches all subjects at the high school level to a group of students who have not been successful in traditional school. Mr. Depew teaches English and critical thinking skills by engaging students in the greatest films of all time. On the Waterfront becomes a vehicle to discuss the overwhelming need to belong and be somebody. Citizen Kane becomes a vehicle to discuss abuse of power. Many of these students have a cynical attitude toward the world and adults; this teacher brings in countless community members to try and reconnect the students and their society. Students are allowed the chance to form personal connections with people whom they previously thought had written them off. The passion of Mr. Depew inspires his students to try again! They are not always successful at first, but many return in a couple of years to say how their lives were changed because he believed in them when no one else did.
SUE MOCK, Alder Creek Middle School
When students are asked what makes Ms. Mock so special, they will excitedly tell you how much their life has changed because of their experiences in her classroom. Ms. Mock inspires students to truly live wisely and respect the environment. Ecology and the science surrounding a sustainable future is taught daily in class, but the students are also encouraged and inspired to not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk. Her students have implemented an extensive recycling program at school, and they have gone into the community providing education for adults to do the same. Ms. Mock’s students beautify their campus while learning the classification of the plants they use. Most impressively, her students have installed solar panels at the school, which allows them to monitor the amount of solar power they have generated. This program will eventually lead to their school and town using the power they have helped generate.