Muddy Sneakers’ 2017 Teacher of The Year Awarded to Pisgah Forest Elementary Teacher Cheryl Gardner

Muddy Sneakers “Teacher of the Year” recipient Cheryl Gardner (left) of Pisgah Forest Elementary and Muddy Sneakers WNC Program Director Ruby Compton (right).

Pisgah Forest Elementary Fifth Grade Teacher, Cheryl Gardner, was recognized as the Muddy Sneakers “Teacher of the Year” at the fifth grade awards ceremony on Tuesday, June 6.

Every year, the field instructors at Muddy Sneakers select a Teacher of the Year. The award is given to an educator at one of the non-profit program’s partner schools who exemplifies the Muddy Sneakers mission both on expedition days and in the classroom. The award recognizes classroom teachers who demonstrate a commitment to offering students opportunities forinquiry-based learning, curiosity, and an exposure to the outdoors.

Ruby Compton, WNC Program Director, presented the award. For the gathering of fifth graders, their parents, and school administrators, Compton stated, “It is imperative for the success of our program to have advocates in the communities that we serve, and Ms. Gardner has been one of our biggest cheerleaders and participating teachers from day one.”

Compton also read the nomination from Muddy Sneakers Field Instructor, Ben Nelson: “An award for Ms. Gardner might be more like ‘Teacher of the Decade’ than ‘Teacher of the Year.’ She undoubtedly has played an instrumental role over the last few years in ensuring the future of Muddy Sneakers at one of our original schools. We have seen PFES shift to scheduling more expeditions than any other school, and I suspect that Cheryl has been a quiet but powerful force behind that shift.

“As Muddy Sneakers nears the completion of its first 10 years, I think it’s appropriate to honor a teacher who’s been with us for most of that time,” wrote Nelson. Gardner is the first Transylvania County educator recognized by Muddy Sneakers.

Past recipients include Brian Ballenger of Vance Elementary and Tara Hammond of Hillandale Elementary.

A standing ovation followed the announcement. “They snuck this one in on me,” said Gardner. Traditionally, the award is kept secret from the winner until the actual presentation.

Muddy Sneakers is an education non-profit that partners with schools to supplement classroom science instruction with experiential, inquiry-based outdoor learning. Committed to measurable results, the organization provides fifth grade students multiple field experiences throughout the school year. Students develop a connection with nature, become more physically active, gain in self-confidence, and increase science aptitude. Programs take place on nearby conserved lands where students are instructed in small groups by highly skilled outdoor educators. Muddy Sneakers currently serves 44 schools across western and piedmont NC as well as upstate SC and reached over 2,700 students during the 2016-2017 academic year. For more information, including how to sponsor student participation, visit www.MuddySneakers.org.

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