High marks for an Earth-friendly educator
LEOMINSTER, Mass. (AP) — Even though she’s just been named Conservation Teacher of the Year by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lynn Fiandaca feels like she can’t take the credit.
“I feel like it should be the kids who are able to receive the recognition. They did everything. I just came up with some ideas with a few other people, but they took the ideas and ran with them,” said the fifth-grade teacher from Fall Brook Elementary School on Wednesday.
The honor is given by the Audubon Society in order to recognize teachers who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to conservation and environmental education.
Fellow fifth-grade teacher Katie Desrochers, who nominated Fiandaca for the award, said she had thought her friend deserved some kind of recognition for her work with the school’s composting and tree farm programs.
“When I first heard about this, I immediately thought of Lynn because everything she does in her classroom is about helping her students become stewards of the environment,” she said.
Over the last few years, Fiandaca orchestrated the school’s composting program, which officially began last school year.
“It entails all of the students after lunch making a decision on what can and cannot be composted. The things that can be composted are put in a bucket and the fifth-graders are responsible for collecting those buckets, making sure everything in them is appropriate, and then emptying them into the compost bin,” she said.
The school plans to sell some of the compost it produces and use the remainder to fertilize Fall Brook’s Christmas tree farm, which Fiandaca also oversees.
“The kids had decided they wanted to start a tree farm in order to cut them down and eventually use that money for the school or people in the community,” she said.
The farm, which began five years ago, originally featured over 50 trees, but the past summer’s drought killed off many of them.
Fiandaca said that she intends to use much of the $1,200 she was awarded by the Audubon Society for being Teacher of the Year will be used to revitalize the school’s farm.
“As an administrator, you hope that you’re encouraging leaders in your school,” said Fall Brook Principal Paula Deacon. “Obviously Lynn’s talents are exemplified in what her peers think of her. I don’t think there’s any greater reward than a peer nominating you.”
While this is the first time she will be receiving this particular award, Fiandaca has previously been honored by the state government. She was among the school faculty members given the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Secretary Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education in 2013 for the tree farm and twice in 2010 for helping raise awareness of the negative environmental impacts of dog waste and the prevalence of invasive species in the ecosystem around Fall Brook Elementary.
“Honestly, I do it because of how the students learn so much from them,” she said. “I think they feel like they’re making a difference in their community, which is why I choose these projects.”
The state Audubon Society had previously named Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School biology teacher Ken Pearson as Conservation Teacher of the Year in 2013.
Information from: Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg, Mass.), http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com