Educator of the Year

We are proud of our Michigan PLT Educators!

The Michigan Outstanding Educator of the year exemplifies what PLT is all about. These educators come from varied backgrounds and can do a lot of great work - like conducting programs, training teachers, spearheading conservation programs and invigorating their community.

Since 1994, Project Learning Tree has formally recognized the efforts of outstanding educators for their commitment to environmental education, their exemplary use of PLT, and their exceptional teaching skills. Their diverse experiences illustrate how PLT can be used effectively with all age groups from preschoolers through university students, all class subjects, and in the classroom and outdoors.

Michigan PLT accepts nominations for the Michigan Outstanding Educator award and the top candidate is then referred for the PLT National Outstanding Educator award. Michigan's yearly outstanding educator receives a trip to the PLT International Coordinators Conference where they are honored at an awards luncheon and have an opportunity to share their PLT experiences.

Craig Kasmer helps young boy drill into a tree with a hand drill during a maple syrup event.

2019 Michigan Outstanding Educator

Craig Kasmer, Interpreter, Hartwick Pines State Park, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Project Learning Tree is pleased to present the 2019 Michigan Educator of the Year Award to Craig Kasmer.

Craig has been a PLT and Project WILD educator for 10+ years. He goes above and beyond his general programming at Hartwick Pines, often by co-facilitating professional development workshops across the state where many participants enjoy learning “how not to take someone for a hike.”

Craig’s presentation style and calm demeaner makes teaching science look easy. There is no doubt that countless formal and non-formal educators are teaching outdoor education concepts at their facilities today because of Craig’s mentorship and inspiration.

A recent workshop participant of his said, “I feel this was just the boost in confidence [Mackinaw Schools teachers] needed to take their use of the nearby nature preserve to the next level.”

Please join us in praising Craig for his mad science skills as well as a teaching style that gives everyone the desire to learn outdoors.

2013 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator

Maureen Stine, a conservation educator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Michigan, was named one of five Outstanding Educators by Project Learning Tree.

Stine works in the NRCS Onaway field office under a U.S. Farm Bill program to help private landowners in six counties in northern lower Michigan restore and manage healthy forests. She also volunteers on the USDA Earth Team, which provides environmental education to children K-12 and trains teachers to use environmental education with their students.

"I am tremendously honored to have been nominated by the Department of Natural Resources for this PLT award," Stine said. "Park interpretation was a fun way to spend the first half of my career, and now serving the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has enabled me to achieve the professional certifications and trainings needed to implement sound forestry management practices balanced with conservation education. Project Learning Tree is an outstanding international organization that epitomizes the significance of interpreting various forestry disciplines holistically for the benefit of our nation's youth."

Among her many conservation activities, Stine is the Michigan Green Schools program liaison for Cheboygan, Otsego and Presque Isle counties, co-chair of the Getting Kids Outdoors Northern Michigan Coalition advisory committee, and a member of the Leadership Team for the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative.

Stine uses PLT activities and service-learning opportunities to provide meaningful experiences for students of all ages with an emphasis on trees, soils and water quality issues. She recently guided 125 students on the Cheboygan River to test temperature and pH, gather macroinvertebrates and remove monofilament fishing line from the river banks. The students are now working on a public awareness campaign and installing trash receptacles and interpretive signage to educate others about the dangers to wildlife from improperly discarded fishing line.

"Maureen goes above and beyond to help Project Learning Tree in any way she can," said Michigan PLT Coordinator Ada Takacs. "She helps make connections across the state, facilitates workshops, presents at state and national conferences and is also a mentor with educators in her area."

Stine graduated from Southern Illinois University with a B.S. in forestry and outdoor recreation resources management. When she moved to Michigan 10 years ago, she began to establish close working relationships with school districts in the northern Lower Peninsula. She conducts PLT workshops that help teachers easily and effectively teach about the environment, often in outdoor, hands-on situations. She also works with the Junior Master Gardener program, 4-H, several Conservation Districts' Master Naturalist Programs, the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education, and the National Association for Interpretation. She was invited to join the Michigan STEM Partnership as well.

Stine was honored at PLT's 27th International Coordinators' Conference, April 29-May 2, in Point Clear, Alabama. She was also invited to attend the World Forestry Center's International Conference.

PLT Outstanding Educators are selected for their commitment to environmental education, exemplary use of PLT and exceptional teaching skills.

Michigan's Outstanding Educators

2019 - Craig Kasmer, Interpreter, Hartwick Pines State Park, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

2015 - Jennifer Edwards, teacher at Ronald Brown Academy, Detroit

2014 - Kathy Yeloushan, Education Coordinator for Renaissance High School, Clarkston Community Schools

2013 - Maureen Stine, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - also recognized as a National Outstanding Educator by PLT

2012 - Tracy Page, DeVries Nature Conservancy

2011 - Joan Chadde, Michigan Technological University

2010 - Melissa Eldridge, Ionia Conservation District

2009 - Mike Mansour, Hawk Woods Nature Center

2000 - Thomas Hodgson

1999 - Casey Harris - also recognized as a National Outstanding Educator by PLT

1998 - Helen Stenvig

1995 - Janet Fulton, Diane Walker