OUTstanding Teacher Awards From Five Rivers MetroParks

Five Rivers MetroParks is accepting nominations for its sixth annual OUTStanding Teacher Award, open to Dayton-area classroom educators who teach any subject from pre-K through high school. Nominations are due Jan 31, 2021.




A winner will be selected from each of the following categories:

  • Rising Star (less than 10 years of teaching experience)
  • Leader (10 to 20 years of teaching experience)
  • Lifetime Achievement (more than 20 years of teaching experience)


“During these unprecedented times, nature is integral for mental and physical wellness, and also a perfect venue for students to safely learn about the natural world,” said MetroParks education coordinator Joshua York. “Whether some teachers have pivoted to incorporate more outdoors time in their classroom or have always utilized nature in their curriculum, educators who connect children to the outdoors deserve special recognition.”


Awardees will be announced and celebrated in a virtual format this spring. Winning teachers will also receive an award package containing:

  • Outdoor educational materials to assist in connecting students to the environment
  • Plant kit with plants selected for the winning teacher’s school
  • EECO (Environmental Education Council of Ohio) membership and money to use toward the 101 Conference at Camp Kern, held annually the first weekend of October
  • A one-year membership to the James M. Cox, Jr. Arboretum Foundation and transportation for their class for a field trip to Cox Arboretum MetroPark (or an alternative experience if an in-person field trip is not an option)


Funded through the James M. Cox Jr. Arboretum Foundation, the award is for teachers providing students with outdoor, environmental experiences that inspire an interest in and positive attitudes about nature.


“Research has shown that kids who spend time in nature are happier, healthier and smarter, and so it’s important to celebrate teachers who utilize the outdoors as an education resource,” York said.

This photo was taken prior to the pandemic and does not reflect current best practices for COVID-19. Visit metroparks.org to learn how to stay safe while using your parks and trails.

Anyone can nominate a teacher by writing a short essay or producing a video (less than five minutes long) that answers the following:

  • Why do you feel this teacher is deserving of the OUTstanding Teacher Award?
  • In what ways does this teacher get students outside during the school day?
  • In what ways does this teacher weave nature into the curriculum?
  • Does this teacher get students outdoors after typical school hours? Please provide specifics about what the teacher does.
  • What are the most significant positive impacts the nominee has made on other teachers and the school community?
  • How does your candidate go above and beyond leading his/her students in outdoor experiences? Please provide specific examples of what the teacher does.
  • How does this teacher utilize outdoor space at the school? Has he/she created or enhanced a green school yard?
  • Why are you nominating this person?


Additionally, award submissions should include two photos of the teacher that capture the great work he/she is doing getting kids outside and bringing nature into the curriculum and classroom.


Teachers can self-nominate. Nominations can be submitted by completing an online form and either posting a video to YouTube or uploading the written essay. Information on judging criteria can be found online at metroparks.org/outstanding. Videos do not have to be professionally produced, as the content of the message is what will be judged. Please be as specific as possible in your nomination, so judges have a clear understanding of the amazing work and the impact of your award nominee.


Community volunteers with a background in outdoor education will judge the awards. Five Rivers MetroParks employees and board members of the James M. Cox Jr. Foundation, Wegerzyn Gardens Foundation and Five Rivers MetroParks Foundation and their immediate families are not eligible.

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