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Roscoe, South Dakota teacher Spencer Cody among winners of the President’s Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

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Richard Mylott (

Aberdeen, S.D. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pleased to announce Mr. Spencer Cody, a teacher with the Edmunds Central School District in Roscoe, South Dakota, as a recipient of the 2020 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE). Mr. Cody is one of seven educators across the country receiving the award from EPA and the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for outstanding elementary and secondary (K-12) education teachers who integrate environmental and place-based, experiential learning into school curricula.

“As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we are also celebrating nearly 50 years of environmental education that fosters awareness about conservation issues, and helps communities make informed, responsible decisions about their environment,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are also honoring dedicated educators who spark enthusiasm in our youth to develop a love and respect for the environment and find solutions for issues that impact our air, water and land.”

“It is my pleasure to mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day by recognizing the excellence and commitment of educators like Spencer Cody,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “Mr. Cody’s passion for teaching is not only developing critical STEM skills and environmental awareness, it is inspiring and improving the lives of his students.”

For the past 14 years, Mr. Cody has brought innovative hands-on teaching approaches to environmental education for students at the Edmunds Central School District from grades 7-12 leading to positive impacts in academic achievement and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. In 2019, Mr. Cody was named a Sanford Teacher Awardee for demonstrating high levels of inspirational teaching practices which engage students and build student confidence.

Mr. Cody’s place-based approach to education for environmental science is a key aspect of his teaching style. For example, he took a group of science students to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab in Mississippi to work with scientists collecting data on marine life in the Pascagoula Bay. Another group of students went on a field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to work with inter-tidal and kelp forest specialists and visited the Salinas Valley to learn about innovative organic farming practices to decrease the dependence on chemical applications.

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

Established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act, the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators seeks to recognize, support, and bring public attention to the outstanding environmental projects performed by innovative teachers who go beyond textbook instruction to incorporate methods and materials that utilize creative experiences and enrich student learning. CEQ, in partnership with EPA, administers this award to encourage and nationally honor outstanding elementary and secondary (K-12) education teachers who integrate environmental and place-based, experiential learning into school curricula. The program provides funding to help support educator awardee schools in their environmental education work and provides funding for the teacher’s professional development.

EPA, in partnership with CEQ, today announced the recipients of the 2020 PIAEE, as well the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA), recognizing ten educators and 35 students from across the country for their leadership and commitment to environmental education and environmental stewardship. This year, seven educators are receiving the 2020 PIAEE and three are being recognized with an honorable mention distinction. Winning educators demonstrated leadership by integrating environmental education into multiple subjects and using topics such as healthy school environments, environmentally friendly agricultural practices, reducing ocean litter, gardening, recycling, or STEM to teach sustainability to K-12 students.

View PIAEE winners here. View PEYA winners here.