A Kent County educator known for using hikes through the woods and objects from nature to engage students in learning about science and the environment has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, Greg C. Petersen, is the environmental lab science teacher for kindergarten through fifth grade at the C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy in Grand Rapids. The school is part of the Grand Rapids Public Schools district.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education award program in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year.
Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Each winner also will be featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations: WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, and FOX 47 in Lansing. The news segment featuring Petersen will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing and then on Thursday in Detroit.
For the Excellence in Education awards program, the Lottery has teamed up with Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo. Izzo met recently with Petersen at the Breslin Center and presented him with the award.
Petersen said his favorite part of being an educator is “engaging young minds and leading them in scientific and environmental inquiries. I love getting outside with kids in nature.”
He said he was attracted to a career in education primarily because of “the importance of the job!” He added: “Also, I love working with kids and have a passion for environmental science. The health of our environment in the future depends on the very students I’m teaching today.”
The Excellence in Education award nomination for Petersen describes him as “a natural magnet to the kids coming into his classroom.”
“He has the ability to combine high levels of content along with a sense of humor and an obvious respect for each student. He is engaging in ways that encourage even the most reluctant learner to pay attention. The structure of his class invites participation. He regularly leads the class on outdoor hikes along the trails behind the school, showing them the wonders of nature and science. He is creative in his teachings, and uses sounds and found objects on these nature walks to teach auditory and visual lessons,” the nomination said.
“Mr. Petersen recently filled film canisters with various objects found in nature to create a game in which he shook the canister and the children had to guess what was hidden inside. He used this game to demonstrate how listening can teach us about the world and environment around us. The students also chose a ‘class tree,’ a sugar maple on the trail, and plan on checking on it regularly to witness the transformation that will take place with the changing weather. While creating a sense of pride and caring for this tree, he also encouraged students to learn about the impact of weather on the world around us.
“I see Mr. Petersen interacting with the other teachers and it’s obvious he is well respected and a natural leader. His rapport with the kids and teachers encourages an atmosphere of openness. The students love Mr. Peterson, and he has created a positive, exciting classroom environment where the kids are eager to come and learn. His impact as a teacher has been inspiring to witness,” the nomination said.
Petersen has been an educator for 27 years, the last 15 in his current position at the C.A. Frost Environmental Academy. He earned a bachelor of science degree in fisheries and wildlife from Michigan State University and a teaching certificate from Calvin College. He also earned a master’s degree in education from Grand Valley State University.
Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
- Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
- Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
- Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
- Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts
- Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.