How much of a difference can one teacher make? When it comes to environmental sustainability, Wendy Turner, a second grade teacher at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School, shows that one teacher can inspire the “greening” of a whole school. Turner’s leadership sparked enthusiastic support and hard work from her peers, students, parents and the school’s administration.
Turner has always been passionate about the environment. When she first started working at Mt. Pleasant seven years ago, Turner reported that there was no place to recycle plastic bottles at school. That’s when she saw an opportunity to make a change. She started a Terracycle collection program, and enlisted help from parents through the PTA. These small steps led to other green initiatives.
Turner has been able to make amazing changes at her school and she encourages teachers, staff and students at other schools to do the same. She advises, “When you make new changes, try not to be discouraged or give up. It’s really hard work, but it’s very important work. Start small and build a network within the school to help complete goals. And tap into the power of student engagement.”
Over the years, Turner and her colleagues achieved many “green” points of pride that include:
- Mt Pleasant Elementary School recipient of the US Department of Education’s 2015 Green Ribbon Award
- Installation of eight raised garden beds where students have harvested hundreds of pounds of vegetables
- Single stream recycling to collect plastic, cardboard, paper, metal and glass
- Turner was named the Brandywine School District Teacher of the Year in May 2016, a Green Schools "Changemaker" by the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, and the Outstanding Environmental Educator by the Delaware Nature Society, both in 2014.
Last year, Turner expanded the School’s green efforts to include waste and energy. Over 250 students and faculty conducted energy and waste audits with help from sustainability consultants Mary Ann Boyer and Anne Sudduth of Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants, who provided expertise and curriculum support for the school’s “green” team.
While Turner has made great strides in greening Mt. Pleasant, her work is not done. This year, Mt. Pleasant is shooting to receive the Green Flag award from National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program. She and her team are on their way. One teacher can inspire students, but to make a real difference, it takes a village to be green.
Written by Allison Berman, a junior at Bates College and an intern at Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants (www.boyersudduth.com).