CIU professor named Outstanding Educator for environmental literacy

August 06, 2019

CIU Professor Dr. Lynn Hoekstra loves to inspire and equip future educators to teach their students with joy and creativity.

It’s that kind of spirit and her desire to show children how to be good stewards of the earth that earned her the title of 2019 South Carolina Project Learning Tree (PLT) Jerry L. Shrum Outstanding Educator of the Year. Project Learning Tree is a nationwide environmental education program that uses trees and forests to advance environmental literacy and promotes stewardship to students. It also fosters professional development among the educators who use it.

Hoekstra is a professor of education and undergraduate Teacher Education Program director at CIU. She has included PLT Early Childhood curriculum in her syllabus for the past four years, introducing dozens of future teachers and thousands of future students to environmental education.

Hoekstra says she is humbled by the recognition. 

“Protecting the natural world is our God-given responsibility and such a privilege!” Hoekstra said. “I am blessed to teach at CIU where I can train teachers so that their students will be inspired to ask questions, become aware, and take seriously their role as caretakers of this precious environment.”

Hoekstra grew up on a family farm in Illinois where she first learned to treat the environment with respect. As a middle school teacher in Michigan, she developed an appreciation for the habitat and landscape of the Lake Michigan dunes where she led student field trips. She has also lived in southern California where she became more aware of conserving water and green space.

Hoekstra says she appreciates PLT’s goal of teaching students how to think, not what to think. 

I want (teachers) to be inquisitive and creative in their own learning so that their students will be motivated to ask questions and actively engage in learning activities,” Hoekstra said. “Learning is best when the whole body is involved, so I try to incorporate movement and hands-on discovery activities and encourage my teacher education students to do the same.”

Hoekstra will accept the award on Nov. 8 at the annual meeting of the Forestry Association of South Carolina held on the Isle of Palms.

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