Renee Pagoota-Wight, a kindergarten teacher at Sherrills Ford Elementary in Catawba County recently completed the Department of Environmental Quality’s N.C. Environmental Education Certification Program. Renee has worked in education for 23 years and has a passion for marine life, specifically coral reefs.
Renee holds a Master’s degree in Classroom and Clinical Reading for K-12 and her teaching style focuses on education through experience. “My favorite part of teaching is instilling a love of learning to read and learning through play.” When she is not teaching, Renee enjoys photography and traveling.
Renee says her most memorable experience of the program was visiting Yellowstone National Park as part of a N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Educators of Excellence Institute. She also says that attending a workshop in Wilmington was a notable part of the certification process. “I thoroughly enjoyed the Methods of Environmental Education which I participated in at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington. It was a real eye opener as to the number of non-formal educators that seek Environmental education certification alongside formal educators. It was a fun class!”
In addition to gaining hands-on experience in nature and making new connections with formal and non-formal environmental educators, Renee utilized the certification program to construct an outdoor classroom at Sherrills Ford Elementary. As her community partnership project she led a community group to design and build a short trail and an outdoor classroom called the “Nature Nook.” The outdoor classroom was recently featured in a story by the Hickory Record.
Renee also credits the program with enhancing her ability to teach students about natural science and helping her narrow down her post-retirement career. “I feel confident in taking groups outside and starting with a simple concept like using our senses to discover. We Skyped a scientist this year and he explained that observation is one of the most basic, yet important skills in scientific discovery. I feel that in the future when I retire as a formal North Carolina educator I will seek opportunities to teach outdoors or in natural spaces.”