Teachers of the Month

February, 2013
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Dr. Carolyn Cover-Griffith

Alameda High School

Dr. Griffith loves science and teaching. She believes that science must be taught to everyone to help make the world a better place. She believes that teaching high school students about the environment will change the world for the better. She always encourages her students to use the knowledge they gain in her classes to make informed decisions and to work for a sustainable future.

Dr. Griffith started out her education at UC Santa Barbara as a Biology major, then went on to San Francisco State University for a Masters in Physiology and then a Ph.D. in Endocrinology at UC Berkeley. She started her career as a biomedical researcher at the University of California, Berkeley studying cancer. She has always loved teaching, so she switched her focus after a few years by teaching molecular biology at California State University, Eastbay. Then, she taught at Alliant University for a credential class for high school science teachers. At UCB, she mentored high school students and co-taught Molecular Endocrinology. But in August 2000, she started teaching AP Environmental Science and regular Environmental Science courses at Alameda High School. From then on, she made a big impact on her students and taught them about ways to make the world a better place.

From ET staff, Ilse Villacorta:

I know Dr. Griffith not only from the recent Waste Audit that we did but because she was my AP Environmental teacher back when I went to AHS. She was the main inspiration for me in taking an interest in the environment and for becoming a more proactive person and student. She has an infectious energy that allows people to feel empowered to change the world around them. She is always positive and has been the driving force behind having AHS implement a composting and recycling system. She has attended LEAF in the past and looking to attend again in the future.

January, 2013
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Janay Shepherd

Mission Valley ROP

Hello everyone, my name Janay Shepherd. I wear many hats as a teacher for Mission Valley ROP. I teach Careers In education, Money Management Computer Applications and Marketing Special Needs Education. I also help with community service learning hours and am the SLWRP coordinator. I have been teaching high school 8 years now. I was a early childhood professional before teaching high school. I believe that it is everyones responsibly to not only take care of people but take care of the world around us. One of my personal motto's is to leave things better than how you found them!

December, 2012
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Michelle Espino

Castlemont High School

Last month EarthTeam had the honor of working with Michelle Espino, an English instructor at Castlemont High as a part of the Waste Action Program. Ms. Espino attended UC Santa Cruz where she received a B.A. in Feminist Studies with an emphasis in culture, power & representation as well as law, politics & social change & an M.A. in Education. EarthTeam staff came in contact with Ms. Espino while on the Castlemont campus and knew her passion for teaching would be a driving force in empowering her students to be leaders. Even though her classes are small in size they are all full of passion. During the waste audit at Castlemont, one of her classes, that was less than ten students, sorted through more waste than an average large class would have sorted through. The students were overflowing with excitement and ideas for their campus as Ms. Espino encouraged them to be the change they want to see in their community, constantly reminding them that they are fully capable of making a difference. Now these same students are spearheading a brand new recycling program on campus. Right after finishing the Waste Action Project (WAP) classroom visits, Ms. Espino received a $1,000 grant to help their efforts.

Ms. Espino feels that “My classrooms involvement with WAP is part of a larger action project around fostering civic engagement opportunities for students. I want students to see themselves as active members of the community whose voice, opinions, and actions count equally as others & to recognize themselves as agents of change. We have identified our schools absence of a recycling program as part of a larger community issue around lack of awareness & lack of action in terms of environmental justice. We feel that by taking this project on we can increase awareness around issues of sustainability that affect us not only at school, but within our local community as well. We also just received a grant for $1000 to help us kick of our campaign. I think we will use the money to buy rollers so that we can collect the recycling easier, as well as paint so that we can decorate bins along with other supplies. This week along with reading short stories students will be doing SORTS on the 4Rs & environmental vocab, designing 4R posters & doing a gallery walk on the trash vortex.”

November, 2012
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Susan Bewley

Thornton Middle School

EarthTeam is proud to nominate Susan Bewley for our November 2012 Teacher of the Month. Ms. Bewley is an English instructor at Thornton Jr. High in Fremont. Finishing UCLA with a Political Science degree and then law school brought her focus into the History and Government teaching areas. However, she has always been fascinated by Science and feels that we need to respect our environment to support our existence. This led her to becoming involved in recycling at Thornton Jr High. According to Ms. Bewley, “We affect over 1000 families with our efforts at the school, and with publicity about it, thousands more. I am honored to assist with the effort of recycling the materials we use.”

Thornton is new school for EarthTeam and just finished it’s first ever Waste Action Project on campus. Thanks to the energetic efforts of Ms. Bewley, Thornton has been able to participate in WAP (Waste Action Project), SLWRP (service learning waste reduction program) meetings and FIERCE (Fremontlans Enabling Real Change in the Environment) meetings alike. For a new coordinator in a new school Ms. Bewley has definitely hit the ground running towards a green future for Thornton. She has been able to work closely with instructors on her campus who teach a wide spectrum of subjects to meet and find a common ground. That common ground is to improve the environmental stewardship and activism present at Thornton Jr. High. We want to thank her for all the work she has done thus far and wish her all the best for the rest of the school year.

June, 2012
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Candy Sykes

American HS, Fremont

EarthTeam is proud to recognize Candy Sykes from American High School in Fremont as the Teacher of the Month. Sykes, a Chemistry teacher and Science Department Chair, leads a wide range of environmental efforts on campus and in the community. On campus, Sykes has established a model school recycling program. Her team of students are able to recycle the entire campus and sort materials in 20 minutes each week. Funds generated from the recycling program are reinvested in campus beautification efforts and scholarships for environmental leaders. Sykes has also established a school garden on campus, converting a 1/3 acre weed covered lot to a garden highlighting creative reuse of materials otherwise destined for landfill.

In the community, Sykes' Re:Use Team of students lead environmental workshops teaching paper making, t-shirt rug weaving, and jewelry making from spent gift cards. This year the Re:Use team presented at the city-wide Eco-Fair in the Fall and the City of Fremont’s Earth Day festival in the Spring. Students also led workshops at the Maker Faire and EarthTeam’s Leadership and Environmental Action Forum. In addition to her efforts to support her own students, Sykes also advises a group of students from Fremont’s 5 high schools that have come together to work on a common goal of protecting the environment.

Thank you Mrs. Sykes for your dedication to building the next generation of environmental leaders!

May, 2012
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Brian Cooper

Stanley Middle School, Lafayette

In his first year as a math teacher at Stanley Middle School, Brian Cooper found himself surrounded by collaborative and optimistic people who weren't afraid to ask questions and do some problem solving. A passionate group of 8th grade students met during their lunch break each week and created a plan to implement a new waste management system for the 1200 students on their campus. They conducted a waste audit with EarthTeam, met with members of Sustainable Lafayette, took council from WasteBusters, and learned from the practices of their friends at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School.

April, 2012
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Jeff Evans

Mission San Jose High School, Fremont

In Jeff Evans' first year as the site coordinator for the Service-Learning Waste reduction Project at Mission San Jose High School, he has laid down the foundation for environmental awareness through multiple projects. Last month, with the help of the Health teacher, Mr. Evans' led a waste audit with over 200 freshmen health students. 

 These students then presented their findings to the rest of the freshmen class in preparation for a Waste-Free Lunch Week. The waste-free week, in which students were encouraged to bring reusable packaging for lunches, was part of a larger inaugural "Green-Service Week" put on by the school's SLWRP team of teachers and students.

 Congratulations, Mr. Evans, and thank you for partnering with EarthTeam on our Waste Action Project!

March, 2012
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Nga Nguyen

Nea Community Learning Center,

For this month, EarthTeam is delighted to honor Nea Community Learning Center’s Mr. Nga Nguyen as Teacher of the Month. His dedication to learner accountability, youth empowerment, and green responsibility are markers of his passion and special knack for teaching.  Mr. Nguyen (aka “The Star Wars Guy”) has been at Nea since its inception, 3 years now, and has been teaching for over 15 years. He has taught younger and older students, ranging from grades 1 and 2 through middle and high school, in subjects such as math, science, and Japanese culture. At Nea, he leads the Green Team, a group of environmentally-conscious learners, grades 6-10.

Recently, the Green Team participated in a waste audit and action-planning session with EarthTeam. His 16 learners sorted through 8 bags of trash, finding their waste stream composed mainly of paper (57%). During the action-planning visit, the learners worked in small groups to create mind-maps based on their waste audit findings. This work, as well as a subsequent waste audit, will be presented to the school and custodial service to garner more 4R buy-in from the entire campus. “We are striving to create a responsible, green community.”

Mr. Nguyen also leads Nea’s parent/teacher Green Team Committee, a dedicated group of Nea community members who discuss the ‘past, present, and future of green activities’ on campus. His intent for both the staff and learners at Nea is to broaden their awareness of how costly and wasteful living a first world lifestyle can be. He says: The motto of our class is a Ghandi quote, "Live simply so that others may simply live." When asked what green-related projects he’s now working on, Mr. Nguyen stated that he’s in the ongoing process of “placing the seeds of ‘better living’ in the learners' minds and souls,” which includes the correct and proper disposal of waste.  In April, they will be having their 2nd annual Green Festival.  Additionally, as Nea is so close to the Alameda Beach, they’ll be conducting a beach clean-up day, allowing the learners to embody their environmental consciousness beyond the classroom walls and view and interact with the spaces they inhabit as lifelong environmental stewards and change-agents.

February, 2012
Associated Earth Team Programs:

Lisa Shafer

Fremont High School

Journalism, a healthy diet and the environment - those are three things journalism teacher Lisa Shafer has emphasized at Fremont High School's  Media Academy  in Oakland, Calif.  Shafer has been involved with  EarthTeam since the summer of 2009.  

She believes the best way to solve current environmental problems is by empowering young people to take charge in improving their community and the environment as a whole. “It’s important for all of us to be aware and do what we can to repair the damage we’ve done,” said Shafer. “Kids that live in urban areas are the victims of everything that’s wrong with the environment. It’s magnified for them, whether it’s asthma or blight. They would benefit from getting involved and helping to make their environment better.”

For the last two years Shafer’s journalism students have designed and put together the Green News Annual Anthology (Tanya Castro, 2010 and Tiffany Martin, 2011).   “Both girls were very independent,” said Shafer. “It was really cool to see students take on a project for a client. Both girls learned a lot from the projects.” Additionally, Kim and Gloria Mejia-Cuellar are Green News monthly contributors and members of the Student Editorial Board.

At school, Shafer revived the school garden which was neglected during the summer. Shafer led her sixth period freshmen to get involved with the garden, replacing dying plants and using the harvest to cook healthy meals. “I was a total fan of the garden since I got to Media. It’s incredible. I watched it die in the summer and I was like oh my gosh, this cannot happen,” said Shafer. “I wrote a grant and hired somebody. We’re doing this wellness project with the freshmen about healthy food so it only made sense to educate them on how to grow food.”

Shafer has worked as a reporter for the Contra Costa Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Blade (Toledo, Ohio). She holds a masters degree in journalism from the University of Michigan and a bachelors degree in English Composition from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. 

January, 2012
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Restoration Action Project

Kevin Jordan

Oakland HS Environmental Science Academy

Mr. Jordan has participated in the Eco-Stewards program for several years now, with the student participating in the program when they are sophomores and then again as seniors.  Mr. Jordan goes the extra mile with his students during restoration trips, creating a creek profile and calculating creek speed with some of his students at wild and urban portions of the creek.  
Kevin Jordan grew up in the area west of Palo Alto, in the 1960's and 1970's, when it was rural.  He graduated form Woodside High School, Humboldt State University (B.S. Biology) and Cal State East Bay (M.S. Ed).  Mr. Jordan started teaching science at Oakland High School in 1990 where he organized the Eco Rec Club which, with major help from his colleague Katie Noonan, which evolved into the Environmental Science Academy of Oakland High School (ESA).  They have 10 years of graduates that have attended all of the UC and State schools as well as most of the Ivy League Universities.  
Mr. Jordan is also a trip leader with the Sierra Club which is a major partner in providing environmentally friendly and educational rewards to students in his program.  Every summer, with Sierra Club support, they take ESA students on multi-day camping and white water rafting trips (he's in the back of the raft in the photo).
We are honored to have Mr. Jordan as an EarthTeam teacher.  Regarding the reasons for which he returns the honor, he says, "EarthTeam has been providing outdoor educational opportunities for ESA students for many years.  Getting our students to local parks and developing their understanding of major concepts like biodiversity, invasive species, restoration and water quality has helped ESA students pass AP exams and more importantly become thoughtful citizens.  We are very grateful for the connections we make with EarthTeam."
December, 2011
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Restoration Action Project, Waste Action Project

Catherine Kuhn

Skyline High School

Catherine Kuhn, who teaches Biology at Skyline High School in Oakland, has participated in EarthTeam's Waste Action project and Eco-Stewards project. Ms. Kuhn brings professionalism and endless support to her students. Recognizing the opportunity and the benefits for her biology students, Ms. Kuhn enlisted all of her freshman classes in the Waste Action project. Through this project, students got a memorable glimpse of the school's waste stream by auditing a sample trash can, and collectively brainstormed methods for reducing the large amounts of waste that Skyline High School generates daily. After working with EarthTeam's Waste Action staff on the initial audits, Ms. Kuhn took on the task of leading her students in two waste audits on her own (not a light task!), to ensure that her whole freshman biology class became aware of the waste issues and contributed to the solutions at their school.

 Despite her busy agenda, Ms. Kuhn still finds energy, time and vision to bring academic enriching programs like Eco-Stewards and Waste Action to her students.

 “This week we have being talking about natural cycles of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, as well as the waste stream, the waste audit is aperfect fit, I’m SUPER STOKED about this!”-- Catherine Kuhn

 "I had the honor to work with all five of Catherine Kuhn's freshmen biology classes. Ms. Kuhn worked out a way for all of her freshmen to be involved in the program by proposing naturalist hikes on Skyline's beautiful redwood campus during class! She worked closely with me over the three days of hikes and classroom visits to tweak and adjust the curriculum for each consecutive class, improving the activities as each class experienced them. I am honored to have been with Ms. Kuhn those three days to see how she tirelessly works to ensure the best possible experience for her students. I look forward to our next class visit and field trip to Joaquin Miller Park to restore with the Friends of Sausal Creek in the spring!" -- Chiara Swartout, EarthTeam's Restoration Director


November, 2011
Associated Earth Team Programs:
Waste Action Project

Kyra Wheaton

American High School

Ms. Wheaton teaches Environmental Science at American High School in Fremont. EarthTeam’s Waste Action Program is delighted to recognize Kyra Wheaton for her dedication, hard work and vision she brings and shares with her students at American H.S. Ms. Wheaton arranged to have all the Biology freshmen students participate in the Waste Action presentation, with a total 561 students! This has come to be a tradition at American High School.

“I am proud that my coworkers and I have started composting for students in our cafeteria.  Every lunch two freshman students supervise the waste sortingm currently in my 13th year of teaching, having started at Pinole Valley HS and Deanza HS. 

For the last three years I have been teaching AP Environmental Science, which is truly where my passion lies.  As I graduated from UCSB with a degree in Environmental Studies.  While at Santa Barbara, I took a waste management class that has forever made me feel guilt for throwing anything in the trash.  The professor predicted that people will eventually mine landfills for resources.  After college, Americorps sent me to Southern Humboldt where I participated in Salmonid studies for CA Dept of Fish and Game.  From there I spent more time working for Fish and Game in warm and cool water fisheries and took classes at Humboldt State. 

At this time, most of my free time is spent as a soccer mom, where I coach my sons team and play on two of my own teams. My goal is to help create a green academy at American HS in Fremont and still have students take a lab accredited science their freshman year.”

 Kyra Wheaton, we appreciate all the hard work you have done so far, and look forward to seeing you inspire and encourage the young leaders, congratulations!