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Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community

"Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit."
– John Steinbeck


May 16, 2017

“I don’t give back; I give forward” Patsy Collins once said, and years later her legacy and spirit continues.

Established in memory of Patsy by an anonymous donor at Seattle Foundation, the Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community honors extraordinary teachers in Washington K-12 schools with three $10,000 awards to 3 teachers or teams. The funds can be used at the full discretion of the teachers.

Patsy cared deeply about the arts, the environment and social justice, and she made it a priority to give back to the city and to the causes she loved. One organization that was very dear to Patsy’s heart was IslandWood, a 255-acre outdoor learning center connecting 4th and 5th graders throughout the Puget Sound area to nature - both at IslandWood’s campus on Bainbridge Island and in the schools, parks, and neighborhoods where these students live and play.

IslandWood exemplifies what Patsy believed in, and in turn the Patsy Collins Award honors teachers that exemplify Islandwood’s teaching methodology – an integrative approach to scientific learning, self-awareness, and environmental and community stewardship.

In the spirit of Patsy Collins, the Award will go to teachers who create learning experiences that make a difference for youth and their community. We are currently seeking nominations for educators who extend learning beyond the classroom – teachers who inspire their students through projects that relate to environmental and community stewardship. Candidates should exhibit these qualities:

  • Demonstrate commitment to engage students in learning experiences using the classroom, schoolyard and surrounding community,

  • Engage students in project-based experiences that motivate and inspire students toward environmental awareness and/or stewardship behaviors,

  • Serve as a respected resource to colleagues and community leaders,

  • Be committed to professional development, and

  • Be a Washington state, K-12, classroom teacher in a public or private school.

Teams are encouraged to be nominated and apply.


There is so much great work being done by teachers, and so few chances in which to recognize them for their contributions. If you know a teacher who embodies the spirit of Patsy Collins: educators who create learning experiences that make a difference for kids, their communities, and the earth, please nominate them for the Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community. Nominations accepted through May 31, 2017. 


Congratulations to last year's winners:

Joann Moore, Gig Harbor High School, Gig Harbor, WA. Joann has over 35 years of experience in getting her classrooms outside and engaged in project-based learning. She has created and nurtured partnerships with groups such as the National Park Service, the Department of Natural Resources, Pierce County, Pen Met Parks, and the Nature Conservancy. Her citizen-scientist students have now aggregated over 25 years of stream data in a local watershed. Joann's students find their own passions and curiosity in the outside world, step outside of their comfort zones, and give back to their community - every day, and every year.

Mary-Elizabeth Ezenwaka, Roxhill Elementary School, Seattle, WA.  Mary-Elizabeth is a relatively new educator bringing innovative environmental and inquiry-based approach to Roxhill Elementary, located in the White Center area in southwest Seattle. She has taken initiative in getting her second grade classroom engaged with community and environment. Mary-Elizabeth pioneered the use of the nearby Roxhill bog into not only her own teaching (the first to do so at the school!), but into the teaching of other educators too, covering every grade in the school. And, she created a partnership with Camp Long, now manifesting in weekly naturalist sessions at the school as well as activities at Camp Long itself (a first for many students and families, despite being only three miles from the school).

Jessica Levine, Eckstein Middle School, Seattle, WA. Jessica weaves current events, project-based learning, field trips, and partnerships into her curriculum every day. In her words, "I'm not simply educating good scientists, but rather raising sustainable savvy citizens. The future of our planet depends on it." Jessica helps her students see the impact they can make in both their daily lives (recycling programs, alternative transportation) as well as on a grander scale (proposing pollution solutions complete with models and prototypes). Another fascinating project educates whole communities through her students by having them translate student-created posters about hazardous materials into the languages they speak at home: Amharic, Tagalog, and Korean to name a few.               

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