Mrs. Dewar Receives Presidential Award

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized Westgate Community School 5th/6th grade teacher and now 4th-8th Grade Assistant Principal, Ashleigh Dewar, with the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE).  Dewar was selected as one of two EPA Region 8 winners and is one of only 11 winners nationwide.  

“We're excited for Mrs. Dewar and can't wait to celebrate with her,” said Westgate’s Executive Director, Sharon Collins. “Her ability to positively influence environmental stewardship benefits her students and the community.”

“I’m very grateful for the dedication of my students over the past years and for all the hard work we’ve done together," said Mrs. Dewar. “I’m honored and excited to earn this award.”

Dewar is recognized for leading and inspiring her students, fellow teachers, and administrators alike by creating and sustaining a learning environment that makes a difference for her students and the community at large.

She leads 5th and 6th grade students to a 3-day outdoor education camp where they learn outdoor and nature skills by participating in hands-on activities including safe fire starting, orienteering, outdoor cooking safety, and survival skills. Students also learn about animal tracking, wildlife habitats, Colorado wilderness history, and wildfire impacts on the ecosystem. On campus, Ms. Dewar provides students with interactive opportunities to care for the school’s chickens and goats. The school sells the chicken eggs, teaching the students about supply and demand and helping them to examine how the global economy and the school’s small economy are affected by changes in the natural world. During the warm months, Ms. Dewar’s students maintain the school’s community garden and learn first-hand about Native American farming practices as they put agricultural concepts into practice. Students make connections between how historical environmental practices have affected the current ecosystem health and how current human impact on the environment may impact the Earth in the future.

These experiential educational opportunities, accessible to all students at the school, also support students who benefit from more physical movement and interaction in their school day.

Environmental education is successfully woven into other subjects in Ms. Dewar’s class. During math class, students learn statistics and how to write, evaluate, and interpret algebraic expressions while working on the project, Water Rights 21st Century Math Projects. For this project, Ms. Dewar teaches about international water challenges, including issues with access, collection, and transportation of drinking water. Students analyze water usage and conservation while also learning about algebraic expressions and how their own personal water usage has an impact on the environment.

PIAEE was established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act. The award program seeks to support and bring public attention to outstanding environmental projects performed by teachers who go beyond textbook instruction to utilize creative experiences and enrich student learning in K-12 education. The White House Council on Environmental Quality, in partnership with EPA, administers this award.