Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students. Up to two teachers from each of EPA's 10 regions, from different states, will be selected to receive this award. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers this award to honor, support and encourage educators who incorporate environmental education in their classrooms & teaching methods.

The application period for the next cycle of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators will open soon. Look for more information to be posted shortly.

About the Award

  • Teacher awardees will receive a Presidential award plaque and an award of up to $2,500 to be used to further the recipient's professional development in environmental education. Teacher awardees will also receive a congratulatory letter from a senior official from EPA and/or the White House.
  • The teacher's local education agency will also receive an award of up to $2,500 to fund environmental educational activities and programs (and not for construction costs, general expenses, salaries, bonuses, or other administrative expenses).
  • Honorable Mention recipients will receive certificates of recognition.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, teachers must meet the following eligibility requirements.

  • Teach K-12 on a full-time basis in a public school that is operated by a local education agency,1  including schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
  • Hold a current teaching license from the state (or valid reciprocity from the state for a license from another state);
  • Have a minimum of 5 years of K-12 teaching experience, including at least 3 years of teaching environmental education and/or an environment-based curriculum;
  • Anticipate a classroom teaching assignment involving environmental education for the upcoming school year;
  • Be a citizen of the United States, its territories or possessions, or lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residency;2 and
  • Has not been a recipient of this award in the past 5 years.

1 For this program, a local education agency is one as defined by section 198 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (now codified at 20 U.S.C. 7801(26)).
2 The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines lawful permanent residency as any person not a citizen of the United States who is residing in the United States under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence as an immigrant, also known as "Permanent Resident Alien," "Resident Alien Permit Holder," and "Green Card Holder."

Selection Criteria

Teachers must have an outstanding record of teaching. Each of the factors below is meant to illustrate the applicant's record of teaching.  Applicants will be judged by the responses to the questions in each of these five factors, as well as their sample teaching materials and letters of support.

  • Innovation (25 points)
    • How does the teacher make learning about the environment unique, fun and exciting for his or her students? For example, does the teacher using experiential or place-based learning in ways that go above and beyond the practices of other teachers? Please be sure to demonstrate or exemplify this in the sample teaching materials.
    • How does the teacher tailor his/her teaching methods to the needs of his/her student population?

  • Achievement (15 points)
    • What positive changes has the teacher seen in students’ academic achievement and behavior or attitude because of their participating in the teacher’s environmental education program?

  • Service to the Community and Underserved Populations (20 points)
    Many schools are part of communities that are considered minority, indigenous, low-income and underserved populations. Communities and their schools may also be located in places that are heavily impacted by environmental pollution. While your community and school may or may not be considered one that is impacted, please answer the following:
    • How does the teacher extend environmental education beyond the classroom? Are the teacher’s students participating beyond the classroom in environmental, conservation, or earth science extracurricular or community based-projects and activities?
    • How does the teacher inspire the surrounding community, including parents/guardians and members of the community, to participate in environmental education activities?

  • Leadership (15 points)
    • How does the teacher serve as a model for students and teachers with his/her approaches to teaching about the environment?

  • Integration (10 points)
    • How does the teacher help to integrate environmental education into the broader school curriculum or coordinate environmental education with other teachers and academic subjects?

  • Sample Teaching Materials (10 points)

  • Letters of Support (5 points)

Judging Process

Applications will be reviewed according to the EPA Region in which the teacher's school is located by a panel composed of internal and/or external reviewers. The panel will rank the applications according to how well they meet or exceed the criteria and make recommendations to EPA and CEQ.

During the review period, teachers may be asked to provide additional information or documentation to verify their eligibility, such as proof of a minimum of 5 years employment as a teacher with their local education agency and 3 years of teaching environmental education and/or environment-based curriculum. The teacher's response to the request for additional information must be received within 14 days from the date the request is sent; if the information is not received by that date, the application will not be considered further.


EPA reserves the right to reject all applications in one or more of the EPA regions and to make no awards in those region(s) under this announcement. In addition, EPA reserves the right to make fewer than two awards in one or more regions. If EPA decides to make fewer than two awards in one or more regions, it will do so in a manner that does not prejudice any applicant or affect the basis upon which the applicants were evaluated or selected for award and maintains the integrity of the competition and the evaluation and selection process.

How to Apply

The application period for the next cycle of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators will open soon. Look for more information to be posted shortly.

For complete details on application requirements from last year's cycle, please review the application process and application packet provided below.

Notification of Winners

Award winners and honorable mention recipients will be notified during the late spring or early summer following the application year.

Bartlett Award

EPA and the National Environmental Education Foundation have partnered together again to administer the Richard C. Bartlett Award to one of the Presidential Innovation for Environmental Education Award Winners for 2015.

EPA and NEEF are dedicated to recognizing an exceptionally outstanding teacher who successfully integrates environmental education into their curriculum and engages students in interdisciplinary solutions to environmental challenges. The award recognizes an educator who can serve as an inspiration and model for others.

What is the Bartlett Award?

The Richard C. Bartlett Award was established by the NEEF in 2007 to distinguish teachers who best represent Richard C. Bartlett’s passion for and leadership in environmental education. Richard Bartlett (1935-2011) believed that the role of teachers in integrating environmental education is critical to preserving the natural world for future generations. His commitment to conservation and environmental education spanned over four decades and inspired environmental educators nationwide.

Bartlett Award winners are selected by a distinguished national panel of NEEF judges based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrating creative, replicable approaches to environmental education;
  • Adopting an interdisciplinary or systems thinking approach to integrating environmental education across subject areas;
  • Engaging others, such as fellow teachers, administrators and community members in their environmental education efforts; and
  • Increasing student achievement within and beyond the classroom.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Teacher must currently be teaching at a public school in the United States.
  • Teacher must have at least five years of teaching experience.
  • Teacher must currently be teaching grades K- 12.
  • Teachers who have previously received the Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award are not eligible to be nominated. This does not include past merit award winners.
  • If a nominee’s school has applied for NEEF’s Sustainable Energy Award, he or she may still be nominated for the Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award. However, if the nominee’s school wins the Sustainable Energy Award, he or she will no longer be eligible to win the Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award or merit awards.

Application Process

Representatives from the NEEF will select one winner from the pool of national PIAEE winners to receive the national Bartlett Award. The Bartlett Award winner must be selected from among the PIAEE winners. NEEF may also select 2 merit winners. 

Additionally, strong consideration for the Bartlett Award will be given to teachers who have successfully integrated environmental education into the broader school curriculum across multiple disciplines including science, physical education, history or social studies, and art, music, or language arts.

Note: Teachers must indicate on the PIAEE application form that they wish to be considered for the Bartlett Award, and that they meet the Bartlett eligibility criteria, as outlined above, and on the application form. Only application materials required for the PIAEE Award submission will be considered for the Bartlett Award. However, while the entire PIAEE submission will be taken into account in determining the Bartlett Award winner, special consideration will be given to responses to the following PIAEE selection criteria: Service to the Community and Underserved Populations, Leadership and Integration.

Winner Recognition

The Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award winner will receive $5,000 and two merit winners will receive $750 each. Additionally, the $5,000 winner also receives a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with national environmental education leaders.