CEEF Excellence in Environmental Education Award

Program Overview

The mission of the California Environmental Education Foundation is to inspire young people to understand and care for the environment through the support of innovative environmental education programs and partnerships.  

Each year, CEEF provides a monetary award to recognize one California student, educator, and administrator for their distinguished service and dedication in the form of projects, programs, or initiatives which advance excellence in environmental education.


CEEF will accept nominations for the Excellence in Environmental Education Awards from January 1 to March 1 of every year. The 2024 Award Nomination period is now closed. The awards will recognize work that was done in the previous calendar year; for example, the 2024 awards will recognize programs, projects or initiatives that took place during the period of January 1, 2023 – December 31, 2023.

Please note, the project or initiative does not have to have been completed during this period, and can be ongoing. Furthermore, you may submit more than one nomination, but each should be submitted separately.

You may nominate an individual who you feel should be recognized for their efforts to promote environmental learning in their school, district, or community. Self-nomination is also welcome. Award recipients may receive any combination of certificates, project stipends ranging from $200-$500, and/or media recognition.

Submissions are now closed, please check back next year. You can download last year’s flyer here.

Separate awards will be given for each category: student, educator, and administrator. Submissions will be evaluated considering the following criteria:

  • Environmental Benefit
  • Inclusion and Justice
  • Embracing Sound Environmental Education Practices

Please help support innovative environmental education across California by making a donation in support of the CEEF Excellence in Environmental Education Award by clicking here. Thank You!

2023 Award Winners

CEEF is excited to announce the winners of our 2023 Excellence in Environmental Education (EE) Awards! Each year, CEEF recognizes students, teachers, and administrators for demonstrating excellence in environmental education and stewardship. Educators who motivate young people to understand and care for the environment are integral to creating an informed society as we collectively deal with impacts of climate change. This year, we celebrate Jeffrey Embleton and Laura Arnow for demonstrating extraordinary excellence in environmental education! 

Jeffrey Embleton has shown an outstanding commitment to child learning and goes above and beyond in his role as an administrator at ASCEND Charter School, where he connects urban youth from Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood to environmental learning and outdoor experiences. Each year, he leads week-long trips for middle schoolers to the Point Reyes National Seashore and will be taking another group this upcoming year. Jeffrey has consistently been a calm and supportive leader who creates a nurturing learning environment for students so he is leading the pack for what we stand for here at CEEF. 

Laura Arnow, a teacher at Calabasas Elementary, encourages her students to identify environmental problems such as micro-trash on campus, disposable plastics associated with school meals, and plastic pollution in the ocean tied to balloon decorations. Over the years, Laura’s students have given presentations to both the city council and the school board and have succeeded in convincing the district to implement a balloon ban. Additionally, they convinced the school board to change the purchasing protocol for school lunch programs to reduce plastic waste. In addition to her teaching, Laura also serves on the Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s Green Team and led a concerted effort to complete the auditing required for their school to become the first school in the district with green certification from the Monterey Bay Green Business Network. They are now working to become the first net zero campus in the district. 

In addition to the EE Award winners, CEEF recognizes Michelle Stephens, a teacher at Bolinas-Stinson School, for her efforts in transforming outdoor learning across all grades. This included the purchase of journals for each student in the school for grade-appropriate science and nature journaling, as well as curriculum guides for each teacher. She has made a public commitment to philosophically and financially supporting this transformation at the school, ensuring that teachers have a voice through the process. 

CEEF also recognizes Tracey Runeare, principal of Harbor High School, who created flexible support for special education students and staff to explore climate resilience by working with State Park Rangers on a series of collaborations, and in the process, facilitating inclusive and justice-oriented learning environments. Lastly, we would like to give special recognition to Janine Jacinto for going above and beyond, engaging her students in the City of Lodi’s watershed education programs since 2003, and exemplifying environmental benefit.  

Congratulations to the educators and administrators who have gone the extra mile to develop their students’ understanding of climate change and empower them to think critically about the socio-political issues related to climate justice.

Past Winners

Rob Wade, Plumas County Office of Education

Will Parish (Ten Strands President) and Anne Stephens (CEEF Board member) presented the CEEF Excellence in EE Award to Rob Wade at the State Science Communities of Practice meeting in Rancho Cordova.
Celeste Royer presented the CEEF Excellence in EE Award to the entire BEETLES Team at their annual Advisory Committee meeting. (l to r: Celeste Royer, Lynn Barakos, Emilie Lygren, Kevin Beals, Jedda Foreman, and Craig Strang)
Celeste Royer presented the CEEF Excellence in EE Award to Kevin Beals and Emilie Lygren at the AEOE Annual Conference in La Honda.

CEEF awarded Rob Wade, Science and Outdoor Education Coordinator for the Plumas County Office of Education, the Excellence in Environmental Education Award on June 22 in Rancho Cordova. The award was presented during the State Science Communities of Practice meeting. Rob oversees three EE programs for the Plumas USD and works with many community partners to support these programs, including the Feather River Land Trust, the Plumas Corporation, and the US Forest Service. Each year, Rob coordinates professional learning for all of the teachers in Plumas County and provides school and field site support for teachers as they take their students outdoors. He has developed a unique approach to EE that he calls “Outdoor Core”, using the local environment as a context for implementing the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Rob has also developed the 6th Grade Watershed “Plumas to the Pacific” Program, where every 6th grader in the district takes a 5-day field trip from the headwaters to the Feather River, tracing it through the Delta and out through the Golden Gate.

Creating bridges between EE and the K-12 classrooms on a daily basis can be a challenge. Rob is a master at using EE pedagogy strategies to make learning engaging and relevant. He has the full support of administrators and community members and has helped an entire generation of students develop their “mountain kid” identity as stewards of the headwaters of the Feather River.

Rob says “I am in fact proud of what two decades of constant effort and a held vision have led to. Proud of every student loving where they live and caring for their Feather River homeland. Proud of all of the teachers who slowly but surely have come to use our outdoor locale to teach. Proud of the private and public community partners who have chosen to support this place-based ambition. This is a long journey and we are all on it. I am proud that what we have created can last like the land itself, in perpetuity.”