A Sycamore High School teacher is heading to the White House to receive a prestigious award for his work in environmental education. Mr. Ron Hochstrasser has been selected as a winner of the 2015-2016 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. He is one of 20 teachers across the country who will be recognized at a White House award ceremony on August 16.
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, were 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 & teaching methods.
“I am extremely honored to be receiving this at the White House,” said Hochstrasser. “Being in the lens for something like this doesn't come easy for me. I think there are any number of teachers out there who are equally as good and better, so it makes me all the more appreciative of this recognition.”
Mr. Hochstrasser in entering his 19th year at Sycamore High School. He serves as the high school representative on the district’s Green Team, which aims to make a significant impact on the district’s environmental footprint. During his time at Sycamore, Mr. Hochstrasser has helped grow the green space at the high school, adding more than 50 different species of trees as well as working gardens.
“I try to find every opportunity I can for kids to be involved,” said Hochstrasser. “I try to make environmental lessons very relatable to kids and provide opportunities to actually do things.”
Among those things, include pushing for water bottle filling stations at the school. His students collected all the water bottles that had been thrown away during a week's time at school and put them in a pile in the Commons area during lunch.
Mr. Hochstrasser also rallied his students to participate in successfully advocating for the removal of styrofoam lunch trays. His class was responsible for the initial cost-benefit studies and waste audits that ultimately led to district-wide recycling and composting programs. Before then, Mr. Hochstrasser would load sometimes as many as 15 large bags of recyclable materials in his car to take to be recycled.
“You see something you can do something about and you find ways to do it,” said Hochstrasser. “I've seen the environment treated in ways that are just wrong and someone has to do something about it. Why not me? What still amazes me though is how easily people can overlook those wrongs and I feel like it helps if there is someone there to keep putting the light on certain things."