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News Releases from Region 05

EPA Honors Teacher, Student Award Winners from Minnesota and Ohio

Contact Information: 
Francisco Arcaute (
312-886-7613, 312-898-2042 cell

For Immediate Release No. 19-OPA054

CHICAGO (July 26, 2019) - This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 2019 Presidential Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) and Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The winners included an 11-year old student from rural Ohio, a teacher from Eden Prairie, Minn., and a 4-H team from Minnesota’s Big Stone County. 

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 PlAEE, and another eight received honorable mention. Additionally, the 200 student award recipients - who worked as a team or individually on 17 projects - received the PEYA.  Altogether, EPA received 162 project applications from 26 states.

“EPA congratulates the winners for their stellar efforts to help tackle the environmental problems of today and tomorrow,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp.  “We look forward to seeing what these students and teachers do next as they continue to channel their leadership skills, energy and creativity to advance environmental stewardship and conservation.”

  • Lane Wasson, an 11-year-old from Vincent, Ohio, started recycling paper in his second-grade classroom. The following year, with the help of a new Recycling Trailblazer club, he expanded recycling to the entire school. Lane used $90 in donations from parents to purchase recycling bins and plans to expand the program to the high school and a local church.
  • Jennifer A. Heyer, a kindergarten teacher at Cedar Ridge Elementary School in Eden Prairie, Minn., was recognized for her Wilderness Wednesdays, an outdoor learning program that stresses the importance of nature. The success of the weekday program led her to develop the Weekend Wilderness Challenge, which inspires students and their families to spend time outside together each weekend. Heyer’s students also plant gardens and participate in Earth Day cleanups.
  • The Big Stone County 4-H Aquatic Team created a public awareness campaign and a public service announcement to keep invasive species out of Big Stone Lake. They also produced a public service announcement themed, “Be An Aquatic Superhero, Stop Those Water Hitchhikers,” which reached more than 5,000 students and residents.

Established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act, the PEYA program promotes local environmental awareness among our nation’s youth and encourages positive community involvement. EPA Headquarters works with staff located in EPA’s 10 regional offices in the selection of award recipients across the country.

Also 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.

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