Three local educators recognized at provincial conference on Oct. 21

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After a year-long hiatus, the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN) recognized 12 outstanding educators across the Columbia Basin at an awards ceremony on October 21. They were awarded for excellence in educating students and the public about environmental stewardship and sustainability at the Classrooms to Communities 2022 provincial conference in Revelstoke.

“The 2022 award winners include early years, Indigenous and community educators, along with primary and intermediate teachers. All are committed to creating opportunities for people to connect with, learn about, and learn from our amazing local environment,” said Mia King, program manager, CBEEN. “We are grateful for their dedication to increasing the ecological literacy of students, professionals, and community members throughout the Columbia Basin.”

Local award recipients include Indigenous educator, Jenna Jasek, and primary teacher, Jodi Casey, from Invermere and Early Years educator, Evelyn Walker of Little Badgers Early Learning. Each one brought their own unique style to educating young people about the great outdoors.

Jasek works the with Rocky Mountain School Division 6 and is the vice principal for Indigenous Education and Equity. She works closely with CBEEN and provides opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the environment. Jasek helped start the Every Child Matters movement in the valley and co-hosts the year-long learning challenge. She provides Indigenous learning resources to fellow educators and peers.

“My passion for learning about my culture and sharing knowledge with students and staff is a gift for Mother Earth. She is our greatest teacher,” said Jasek in an October press release, and added, “… I will always be on this journey and invite others to join me. KUKSTSEMC!”

Casey is a grade two teacher at Eileen Madson School and has worked for 22 years in the division. For more than a decade  she has been working in environmental education and welcomes colleagues at school to join her and her class in taking their teaching and learning outdoors. 

“It is an honour to be recognized with a group of colleagues who are all so passionate about providing experiences outdoors with students. It really touched my heart that someone in our community took the time to nominate me, said Casey. She said she saw quickly, that children thrive and find inspiration in nature. 

Walker is a lead teacher at Little Badgers Early Learning where her students, ages 18 months to five years, get to experience a myriad of things from ice-fishing to hatching chickens.  When she joined the Little Badger team three years ago Walker’s dream was to build a garden for the Akisqnuk community and it came to fruition; the Learning Garden has brought together both the Akisqnuk and Little Badger community with its students, learning first-hand about the cycle of planting and harvesting a garden. Walker said she and her supportive board of directors, manager and team have plans for a fishing program this winter. Walker joked that if there was an award for most spiders rescued, her kids would win it.

“As an early childhood educator, I am honoured to receive this award. I feel it shows our team that we are on the right path in our offerings, and it encourages all of us to think outside the box,” said Walker. “Spending time in nature in the early years builds a foundation for the future.  Not only does it allow children opportunities for imaginative and creative play, but it teaches children how to self-regulate and what calm feels like.”

Other award recipients include teachers and community and Indigenous educators across the Basin: Lisa Moore, Matt Kieller, Sarah Newton, Hailey Ross, and Jade Berrill from Revelstoke; Caren Nagao from Golden; Rita Corcoran from Slocan Valley;  Cheryl Anderson from Kimberley and; Kathy Murray from the Fernie/Elk Valley area.