Monday, November 20, 2023

DEQ Secretary Elizabeth Biser Awards Environmental Stewardship Initiative Program Manager Yolanda Gibson with Environmental Education Certificate

Secretary Biser awarded Yolanda Gibson with her NC Environmental Education Certificate today. Yolanda started working on her certification while teaching environmental science and biology at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury. She recently took a position as a program manager with the Environmental Stewardship Initiative (ESI) in DEQ’s Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service. As one of the program managers, she supports members of the ESI Program with sustainability initiatives.

Yolana enjoys hiking, exploring nature, baking, and challenging herself to find new ways to engage audiences through experiential learning and hands-on experiences. “I love revamping recipes for my daughter that has severe food allergies and spending time working at a local food pantry.”

Yolanda says her favorite part of earning her environmental education certification was attending workshops and meeting people with similar interests. “There were so many wonderful experiences, but attending the Swans, Bears and Wolves Workshop probably stood out the most. Opportunities to go out in the field and participate in hands-on experiences are rare; so, having access to this workshop was extremely beneficial. Although I have completed my certification, I am scheduled to attend the Coastal Conservation Workshop this August and cannot wait to go!”

“It is an honor to award Yolanda with her Environmental Education Certification,” said Secretary Biser. “Completing the program is a wonderful achievement and the added bonus is that she has joined the DEQ staff and brings her commitment to environmental education to her work with the Environmental Stewardship Initiative.”

For her community partnership project, Yolanda installed a native pollinator garden and small wildlife viewing station at Kensington Elementary School in Union County. She wanted to create an outdoor space for environmental education. “My vision was to create a green space within the school setting providing students with an area for learning, reflecting, and journaling. This project allows for engagement between important members of our community, our teachers, and students. The garden is a beacon for connectivity, becoming more environmentally conscious, and inspiration in expanding environmental awareness throughout the community. The garden provides a space where participants can glean ways to garden sustainably, providing immeasurable benefits to countless organisms and the environment. The school community members will benefit from a space that fosters inclusivity, decreases stress, and increased socialization opportunities.”

Yolanda says that the certification program changed the way she taught. “Having access to tools, resources, and opportunities to participate in hands-on learning has been instrumental in changing my approach to teaching. These educational aids allow for experiential learning events. I feel more comfortable with not ‘having all the answers,’ but still being able to facilitate programming that promotes inquiry-based learning.”

She also says the program changed the way she views environmental issues. “Discussing environmental topics can be depressing and sometimes it seems individual efforts are insignificant. Furthermore, there are no easy solutions to these daunting issues. Through my experiences with this program, I have witnessed how the smallest efforts are significant. Planting the pollinator garden took weeks to finish, but over that short period of time I could see so many benefits from one garden, one effort, one act.”

Yolanda says that her Environmental Education Certification will help her in her new position as she prepares for a lead trainer role to help companies increase their environmental stewardship efforts through the ESI Program.

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