ASU Extended Studies Program graduate receives Presidential Award


Monika “Mona” Cloys holds her Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

Adams State University Extended Studies graduate Monika "Mona" Cloys received the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) this summer at the White House. She is the program coordinator and science teacher at Lake County High School in Leadville, Colorado.

"Environmental education is extremely important in our world today," Cloy said. "It gives students content knowledge to ground them so that they can be involved in a logical debate concerning the immense environmental challenges that we face in the twenty-first century."

According to the PIAEE, 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, may 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 and teaching methods.

Cloys has assumed many educational roles in her 11-year teaching career, including alternative program coordinator, science teacher, and online instructor. She uses curriculum ideas gained through her graduate work to develop educational units focused on citizen science and key environmental issues. These units require students to investigate real data and, in-turn, build critical thinking skills. In Our Changing Climate, her students use current scientific data and data collected by indigenous people to study climate change in the Arctic. This project involves data analysis, hands-on science lessons, as well as student- led investigations and presentations. In her Ocean Journeys unit, students used the U.S. Satellite Laboratory's Animals in Curriculum-based Ecosystem Studies (ACES) curriculum to learn about the role of oceans in human and animal journeys. The community service portion of her curriculum has expanded greatly in recent years as she has sought ways to get students in the field whenever possible. Her students conducted a waste audit for a recycling project and successfully petitioned multiple stakeholders to begin a composting initiative in order to reduce waste.

Outside of the classroom, Monika was involved in a teacher workshop to create lesson plans revolving around the district's composting initiative. Additionally, it is her hope that all school districts in the upper Arkansas River Valley will use her district's environmental educational model for soil science and begin composting initiatives.

At the 2016 Colorado Science Educators Conference, Cloys heard about the award and was encouraged to apply. "I was told that my program was exactly what they were looking for." The application process included letters of recommendation from a principal, teacher and student, submitting lessons plans and writing several essays that showcased work in environmental education. She accepted her award in August at the White House.

"I was thrilled to go to the White House although the presidential family was not there," Cloys said. She met the EPA administrator Gina McCarthy; Dr. John Holdren, assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology; and Secretary John King, U.S. Department of Education.

Cloys earned her Master of Art in Education: Curriculum and Instruction Concentration: STEM with Leadership Distinction from the Adams State Extended Studies program in 2015.