Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Educator Spotlight: Jessica Draughn

Jessica Draughn, a communications specialist for the Town of Leland recently completed her NC Environmental Education Certification. 

In her role as communications specialist, Jessica says she enjoys creating engaging content and helping to make sure communication with the community is accurate and informative. In her personal time, she enjoys being outdoors, hiking, birding and looking for more opportunities to teach environmental programs with local community groups. 

Jessica says the certification helped advance her career. “Obtaining my Environmental Education Certification has allowed me to network with educators and environmentalists nationwide, many of whom are in jobs or careers they have created themselves. It’s helped me realize that you don’t necessarily have to find jobs and sometimes, the job finds you.”

She says her favorite part of earning her certification was learning and exploring lots of amazing places throughout the state. “I’ve slept in a treehouse above the Cashie River, hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and learned how to pin butterflies at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. I had forgotten how fun field trips were as a kid, and these last two years have allowed me to experience that feeling all over again.”

When asked what experience stood out for her, Jessica says it was the classes she took with Gail Lemiec at the Fort Fisher Aquarium. “Gail is an incredible educator with a wealth of knowledge, and I feel so lucky to have taken Sea Turtle Exploration, Project Learning Tree, and Aquatic Wild workshops with her. She is so passionate about what she does, and it shows through the workshops she works so hard to provide to educators like me.” 

For her community partnership project, Jessica worked with a local Girl Scout Troop and the Town of Leland to install bat boxes in Westgate Nature Park. “This project was unique because the girls constructed the bat houses themselves from kits and donated the bat houses to the town. The public can view these bat houses at Westgate Nature Park, in the nature classroom at the end of the walkway. Our goal with this project was to bring awareness to the local bat populations in this area of the state and show that anyone can make a difference, no matter how small it may be.”

Jessica said the certification program changed her approach to teaching. “As a non-formal educator, I had no formal teaching experience until this program. I have a background in film studies, but I always knew that I would end up doing something related to environmental education. This program allowed me to learn more about what it takes to teach and learn from others and has helped me build the confidence I needed to do it. I will always give educators a round of applause because it's not for the faint hearted. It is a fantastic gift to give others the knowledge you have gained along your journey, and it's not something I will ever take for granted. I can't wait to continue taking classes and workshops from other educators because I know there will always be something new to learn.”

She says the program also changed the way she views environmental issues. “Through this program, I have become more invested in local environmental issues and work to help provide environmental education in an area that is quickly becoming increasingly developed. With more people moving to this part of the state daily, it's important to offer programs that help them feel connected and informed on how their footprint affects the area they now call home.”

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