Our Champion Teachers

By Ariel Whitson|September 2, 2014

Our Teacher Ambassadors (TAs) are teachers who advocate for environment-based education. They are teachers who believe that the real key to combating climate change and the destruction of our natural world is through teaching future generations every day in the classroom about the environment and how it ties in to all the other subjects they are learning. Their kids begin to understand that their actions have impacts on other ecosystems outside of where they live, and that relationships exist between all the different systems in our natural world. These TAs are champions of the Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) Curriculum, and they’ve taken on the task of convincing other teachers how beneficial the EEI Curriculum is for their students.


Teacher Ambassador Jim Bentley working on an activity from the EEI curriculum.
Teacher Ambassador Jim Bentley working on an activity from EEI Unit 6.6.c. “Made from Earth: How Natural Resources Become Things We Use.” This unit teaches students about the importance of natural resources in their personal lives.


Last school year the TAs trained more than 2,300 teachers and held over 100 workshops across the state. The success of this program prompted Ten Strands, in partnership with the Office of Education and the Environment, to host a TA retreat to create a sense of community with the TAs, encourage them to share best practices, and train each other on how to effectively draw new teachers to the EEI Curriculum.  A mixture of 17 current and new TAs attended the retreat from across California.

“When I say the magic words EEI and wave my arms, you will all be transformed into 4th graders!” Linda Rasmussen, a TA for the EEI Curriculum, used magic to take fellow TAs back to their days as kids in a classroom and guided them through an activity from the EEI Curriculum. The activity had the TAs categorizing organisms as decomposers or scavengers. Who knew that a blowfly is a scavenger and a decomposer! The activity energized the room and demonstrated key merits of teaching the Curriculum.

Some of the other main highlights of the retreat:

  • Training the TAs on ways to connect the Curriculum to the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards).  Many of the TAs spoke about how teachers are eager to find materials to teach to these standards, so learning about how the Curriculum is aligned to CCSS and NGSS is helpful.
  • Sharing best practices for engaging teachers at the workshops.  For example, starting a workshop with a short activity from one of the lessons to get teachers excited and keep the workshop engaging and interactive.
  • Training the TAs on how to use the Curriculum for differentiated learning, i.e., teaching to English Language Learners or students with learning disabilities.
  • Demonstrations on ways to integrate other forms of teaching into the lessons such as bringing in guest speakers or designing additional hands-on activities.


teacher retreat 5
Teacher Ambassador Laura Honda describing to fellow TAs different ways of supplementing the EEI units.


The TAs came out of the retreat feeling ready for the new school year. One TA said about the retreat, “I had a wonderful time. I treasured this time at the retreat for the professional development and spending time with like-minded people.” As the program continues to grow we are excited for the new teachers that will be brought on board as a result of committed Teacher Ambassadors.

Ariel Whitson
This article was written by Ariel Whitson

Ariel Whitson has a background in finance, administration and event planning. She has over five years of experience working with nonprofits. Ariel started her career at the United Nations Association San Diego and Free the Slaves. She later served as a project coordinator at University Research Co., LLC in Washington D.C., where she oversaw the finance and administration of a $65 million USAID tuberculosis project in South Africa. She is passionate about working with youth, and spent a few years working as a tutor and camp counselor.