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Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students. Up to two teachers from each of EPA's 10 regions, from different states, will be selected to receive this award.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers this award to honor, support and encourage educators who incorporate environmental education in their classrooms and teaching methods.

The 2021 PIAEE application period is now open. Applications must be received by 11:59pm on February 19, 2021.

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About the Award

  • Teacher awardees will receive a Presidential award plaque and an award of up to $2,500 to be used to further the recipient's professional development in environmental education. Teacher awardees will also receive a congratulatory letter from a senior official from EPA and/or the White House.
  • The teacher's local education agency will also receive an award of up to $2,500 to fund environmental educational activities and programs (and not for construction costs, general expenses, salaries, bonuses, or other administrative expenses).
  • Honorable Mention recipients will receive certificates of recognition.

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Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, teachers must meet the following eligibility requirements.

  • Teach K-12 on a full-time basis in a public school that is operated by a local education agency,1  including schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education;
  • Hold a current teaching license from the state (or valid reciprocity from the state for a license from another state);
  • Have a minimum of 5 years of K-12 teaching experience, including at least 3 years of teaching environmental education and/or an environment-based curriculum;
  • Anticipate a classroom teaching assignment involving environmental education for the upcoming school year;
  • Be a citizen of the United States, its territories or possessions, or lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residency; 2 and
  • Has not been a recipient of this award in the past 5 years.

1 For this program, a local education agency is one as defined by section 198 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (now codified at 20 U.S.C. 7801(26)).
2 The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines lawful permanent residency as any person not a citizen of the United States who is residing in the United States under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence as an immigrant, also known as "Permanent Resident Alien," "Resident Alien Permit Holder," and "Green Card Holder."

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Selection Criteria

Teachers must have an outstanding record of teaching. Each of the factors below is meant to illustrate the applicant's record of teaching.  Applicants will be judged by the responses to the questions in each of these five factors, as well as their sample teaching materials and letters of support.

  • Innovation (25 points)
    • How does the teacher make learning about the environment unique, fun and exciting for his or her students? For example, does the teacher using experiential or place-based learning in ways that go above and beyond the practices of other teachers? Please be sure to demonstrate or exemplify this in the sample teaching materials.
    • How does the teacher tailor his/her teaching methods to the needs of his/her student population?
    • How does the teacher use any of the following topics as a basis to teach about environmental sustainability:
      • a healthy school environment;
      • environmentally friendly agriculture practices; 
      • human contributions to ocean litter and how to prevent it;
      • school gardens; recycling; or
      • STEM education?

  • Achievement (15 points)
    • What positive changes has the teacher seen in students’ academic achievement and behavior or attitude because of their participating in the teacher’s environmental education program?

  • Service to the Community and Underserved Populations (20 points)
    Many schools are part of communities that are considered minority, indigenous, low-income and underserved populations. Communities and their schools may also be located in places that are heavily impacted by environmental pollution. While your community and school may or may not be considered one that is impacted, please answer the following:
    • How does the teacher extend environmental education beyond the classroom? Are the teacher’s students participating beyond the classroom in environmental, conservation, or earth science extracurricular or community based-projects and activities?
    • How does the teacher inspire the surrounding community, including parents/guardians and members of the community, to participate in environmental education activities?

  • Leadership (15 points)
    • How does the teacher serve as a model for students and teachers with his/her approaches to teaching about the environment?

  • Integration (10 points)
    • How does the teacher help to integrate environmental education into the broader school curriculum or coordinate environmental education with other teachers and academic subjects?

  • Sample Teaching Materials (10 points)

  • Letters of Support (5 points)

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Judging Process

Applications will be reviewed according to the EPA Region in which the teacher's school is located by a panel composed of internal and/or external reviewers. The panel will rank the applications according to how well they meet or exceed the criteria and make recommendations to EPA and CEQ.

During the review period, teachers may be asked to provide additional information or documentation to verify their eligibility, such as proof of a minimum of 5 years employment as a teacher with their local education agency and 3 years of teaching environmental education and/or environment-based curriculum. The teacher's response to the request for additional information must be received within 14 days from the date the request is sent; if the information is not received by that date, the application will not be considered further.


EPA reserves the right to reject all applications in one or more of the EPA regions and to make no awards in those region(s) under this announcement. In addition, EPA reserves the right to make fewer than two awards in one or more regions. If EPA decides to make fewer than two awards in one or more regions, it will do so in a manner that does not prejudice any applicant or affect the basis upon which the applicants were evaluated or selected for award and maintains the integrity of the competition and the evaluation and selection process.

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How to Apply

To find complete details on the application requirements for the current awards cycle, please review the materials and related forms below:

Para obtener detalles completos sobre los requisitos para solicitar para la convocatoria de premios vigente, favor de revisar los materiales y formularios relacionados a continuación.

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Notification of Winners

Award winners and honorable mention recipients will be notified during the late spring or early summer following the close of the current application year.

Read about current and past PIAEE winners.

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Bartlett Award

In previous years, EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation partnered together to administer the Bartlett Award to one of the Presidential Innovation for Environmental Education Award Winners. The Richard C. Bartlett Award was established by the NEEF in 2007 to distinguish teachers who best represent Bartlett's passion for and leadership in environmental education. Richard Bartlett (1935-2011) believed that the role of teachers in integrating environmental education is critical to preserving the natural world for future generations. His commitment to conservation and environmental education spanned over four decades and inspired environmental educators nationwide.

No Bartlett award will be presented during this cycle of the PIAEE program.

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