EPA Announces 2021 President’s Student and Teacher Environmental Award Winners in the Southeast
Honorees in Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina
ATLANTA (August 26, 2021) – On August 12, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), announced the 2021 recipients of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) and the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA). EPA Region 4 awarded two PIAEE honorees in North Carolina, and two PEYA honorees located in Florida and South Carolina.
“This past school year has been one of the most challenging for our nation, yet students and teachers across the country remained dedicated to tackling the most pressing environmental challenges we face – from climate change to environmental justice,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “I’m so proud of the remarkable youth and educators we’re honoring today, and their work to make a difference in their communities. By working hand in hand, we can create a more sustainable, more equitable world.”
“By awarding PEYA and PIAEE grants to teachers and students, we promote environmental awareness and action in schools and communities,” said John Blevins, Acting Region 4 Administrator. “We are proud to recognize our teacher and student honorees for their dedication and commitment to making a difference in these very challenging times.”
The PIAEE award was established by the 1990 National Environmental Education Act and seeks to recognize, support, and bring public attention to the outstanding environmental projects performed by teachers who go beyond textbook instruction to incorporate methods and materials that utilize creative experiences and enrich student learning in K-12 education. CEQ, in partnership with EPA, administers this award.
This year’s PIAEE award winners in the Southeast are Denise Renfro of Fayetteville, and Jason Vanzant, Newport.
PIAEE award recipient Denise Renfro is a teacher at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Ms. Renfro’s mission is to make sure that her diverse, underserved students are learning about energy, the environment, and STEM by using new or advanced technologies; applying their knowledge through service to their community; and supplying unique educational experiences that will foster confident leadership skills and allow them to pursue meaningful careers as STEM professionals. To support this mission, Ms. Renfro helped shape the Academy of Green Technology (AoGT), a multiple grade level collaboration on place-based and experiential learning of which she is the Director.
PIAEE award recipient Jason Vanzant is a teacher at Bogue Sound Elementary in Newport, North Carolina. Mr. Vanzant inspires and teaches kindergarten through 5th grade at Bogue Sound Elementary School in Newport, North Carolina. In his 13 years as an educator, he has created a “playbook” of environmental activities and resources that “scaffold” the learning process from topic to topic and grade-level to grade-level. Through his passion for the environment, Mr. Vanzant sparks student wonder, learning, and achievement! As a result of his interdisciplinary, hands-on, research- and place-based approaches to environmental education, the school district has seen dramatic shifts in academic achievement and interest in STEM classes and activities.
The PEYA was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1970 and recognizes outstanding community-level environmental projects by K-12 youth. Each year, PEYA honors a variety of local projects developed by students, school classes, summer camp attendees and youth organizations to promote engagement in environmental stewardship and protection.
This year’s PEYA winners in the Southeast are Miles Fethereson-Resch, St. Petersburg, and Roman Kenneth Phillips, Fort Mill.
This year’s K-5 PEYA winner, Miles Fetherston-Resch, is from St. Petersburg, Florida. Miles started Kids Saving Oceans to change the way we treat our environment and wanted to do something to help. Miles started a business aimed at turning ocean plastics into something people could buy and give all the proceeds to organizations that help the oceans. He named this effort Kids Saving Oceans and began with kid’s product line: t-shirts, one size fits all hat, four sticker designs. You can find Miles and Kids Saving Oceans on his website here: https://www.kidssavingoceans.com/pages/in-the-news
This year’s K-6 PEYA winner is
Roman decided to start a plastic film recycling initiative (Baxter Plastic Film Recycling) in his own neighborhood. His project goals were to educate his neighbors about the importance of recycling plastic film and to prevent it from being sent to landfills. In 2020, Roman, with the help of his neighbors, stopped 2,107 pounds of plastic film from being sent to local landfills. Additional information on Roman and Baxter Plastic Recycling can be found on Facebook @BaxterStreamCleanup.
To read about the winning projects in detail, visit: www.epa.gov/education/presidents-environmental-youth-award-peya-winners and www.epa.gov/education/presidential-innovation-award-environmental-educators.