Brawley educator wins national award
By WILLIAM ROLLER, Staff Writer
Posted on Aug 18, 2016 by William Roller
BRAWLEY — Jose Flores, civics and U.S. history teacher at Brawley Union High School, was honored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality with a 2015-2016 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.
Flores, along with 18 teachers and 63 students from across the country, was recognized for his outstanding environmental education on Monday at a ceremony at the White House. The PIAEE distinguishes recipients for innovative environmental education that merges environmental learning into their classrooms using novel hands-on methods.
“I was surprised (about recognition) and happy for the accomplishment of the students, who did a lot of hard work,” said Flores. “My role was as a liaison. I’d mentor out students among different partners: Comite (air and water quality nonprofit monitor), EPA No. 9 Region techs and STEM scientists, who shared information with students to make improvements in the community.”
On a regular basis, Flores’ students participated in environmental investigations relevant to the community. Recent examples include tracking household water consumption during California’s five-year drought. Also, students co-hosted an event with Comite Civico del Valle that taught 300 individuals nationwide about diesel fuel, pollution, asthma, indoor air quality and pesticides.
“We’d follow the California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy and the California Civic Learning Blueprint to prepare students to engage and apply environmental literacy,” added Flores. “We’d embed environmental instruction within an English or civics class or isolate instruction in an environmental science or government class. But the idea was to apply it throughout all academic disciplines.”
Teaching for 25 years, he engaged students with cutting-edge environmental discoveries through classroom experiments. His students have participated in the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit, Salton Sea Now! — A Tipping Point and Kids Making Sense’s AirBeam air quality air monitoring.
At the recognition ceremony, Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, noted awardees are exemplary leaders committed to environmental conservation and confronting issues of landfill waste and climate change directly. “Environmental education cultivates our next generation of leaders. I have no doubt they will someday solve some of our most complex issues.”
The PIAEE awards recognize exceptional kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers who make use of creative methodologies for environmental education. Two teachers from each of EPA’s 10 regions from different states were chosen. Teachers received a presidential award plaque and up to $2,500 to advance the recipient’s professional development in environmental education. And the teacher’s local education agency also receives up to $2,500 to fund environmental education programs.
Flores has also augmented his coursework by serving on the California Task force on K-12 Civic Learning, California’s Environmental Literacy Steering Committee and the California Department of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission.
Despite some adult indifference to issues of climate science it is still important to teach this discipline, noted Flores, since today’s students will inherit the world and need to address the challenges that have been temporarily shunted to a back burner.
Staff Writer William Roller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3452.