ROW/KSOE Teacher of the Year

Anne Atwell McLeod, teacher, and award-winning student at the 2013 River of Words Ceremony
Every year, the Center for Environmental Literacy works in collaboration with the Kalmanovitz School of Education to choose a stellar educator as the ROW / KSOE Teacher of the Year.

2020 Deadline: March 15th, 2020

Do you know a teacher who...

  • Inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn?
  • Plays an active and useful role in the community as well as in the school?
  • Works in and out of the classroom to preserve and protect the earth?
  • Utilizes River of Words creatively in the classroom and community?
  • Lives and teaches in the United States?

If so, consider nominating them to for consideration for the River of Words/Kalmanovitz School of Education Teacher of the Year Award! Each year, ROW/KSOE's Teacher of the Year is flown out for the River of Words Award Ceremony, to be honored for the work they do in their schools and communities. The Teacher of the Year is also asked to share their strategies and experience with Saint Mary's students and teachers in a workshop.

In order to submit a nomination, send an email to with the heading "Teacher of the Year Nominee." Attach to that email a 1-2 page cover letter, in a commonly used document format (.doc, .docx, .pdf, .txt), which will serve as the actual application.

In that cover letter, please tell us...

  • How long the candidate has been teaching, where they teach, what grade(s) and subject(s) they teach
  • How does the candidate incorporate River of Words or the Watershed Explorer Curriculum into their classroom
  • How has the candidate’s impacted in their school and community

If you would like to attach additional materials, such as properly credited poems written by students of the nominee, or local news articles written by or about the nominee, you are welcome to do so. Please note that we can unfortunately not accept nominations of teachers outside the U.S. at this time.

Check out our "Past Teachers of the Year" profiles (below) to learn about our most recent award recipients. There, you will find inspiration from past Teachers of the Year and examples of their work.

Words of Wisdom from Past Teachers of the Year

The legacy of teaching River of Words 

In 2013, Olivia Henshaw-Black, age 12, submitted a poem to River of Words and won the Anacostia Watershed Prize; Olivia's teacher, Anne Atwell Merkel, was a Grand Prize winner in the first ever River of Words Contest in 1996. Anne is the first ROW winner who has grown up to guide her students, the next generation, to explore their watershed through creating personal, environmental poetry.

But the story doesn't stop there. Anne Atwell Merkel's mother, Nancie Atwell, was named River of Words Teacher of the Year in 2010, and in 2013, four of Nancie's Center for Teaching and Learning students were selected as finalists in 2013. That year, when Nancie retired from the classroom, Anne was hired to teach in that same position. This story of two generations of teachers, a mother and daughter, passing down their legacy of environmental literacy is truly inspiring.

I Believe

I believe in gray days, itchy knee-high grass,
wool sweaters, overgrown paths, sips of vinegar,
dandelions bursting from the earth,
the birds that called back, cold bitter coffee,
the stale odor of basements, raging rivers, musty books,
the white caps in the bay, cool wings blowing from
the south, long walks accompanied by the wind,
the two-trunked tree in the side yard, the few precious
minutes before sunset, unevently stacked wood, fallen trees,
mossy rocks, gravel roads that end, slow-moving cars,
deep exhales of the mountain air, neatly-trimmed rose bushes,
cold showers, old men parked in their lawn chairs.
That some day life will live up to its enourmous expectations.

Theodore Matel, age 13
Edgecomb, Maine
Center for Teaching and Learning
Teacher: Anne Atwell-McLeod

Congratulations to our 2021 Teacher of the Year

2021 Teacher of the Year
Diana Ajjan

John F. Kennedy Middle School; Northampton, Massachusetts 

"Poetry is a natural place for adolescents to find their voice and to connect language with thought and experience." 

Past Teachers of the Year

Manju Goyal
Manju Goyal

Golden Oak Montessori; Castro Valley, California

“The opportunity for education doesn’t start or end in the classroom, rather it continues far beyond into everyday happenings.”

2019 Teacher of the Year Glenn Powers
Glenn Powers

Center for Teaching and Learning; Edgecomb, Maine.

"My students will transform the world both through science and poetry; through the analytical and the emotional; through the indubitable power of data and through the emotive power of language."

2018 Teacher of the Year Lyndrid Patterson
Lyndrid Patterson

Da Vinci Academy; Gainesville, GA

"My goal, cliché as it sounds, is to ignite life-long learners... If they fall in love with the lake or the ocean, they will naturally want to be good stewards of it."

2014 Teacher of the Year Joanna Fox
Joanna Fox

Booker Middle Visual and Performing Arts Magnate School; Sarasota, Florida

"Awareness of our world is the first step in caring for our world. Feed curiosity, create wonder. Wonder through the clouds and acknowledge the blue between."

2013 Teacher of the Year John Oliver Simon
John Oliver Simon

Poetry Inside Out and California Poets in the Schools; San Francisco, CA

"It was a revelation to me... how kids who didn't seem like they had much to say would burst out with the most imaginative poetry."

Harriet Maher
Harriet Maher

Lafayette Parish Schools in Lafayette, Louisiana

"Writing in and about the natural world helps all of us to see our place in it and our responsibility to it."

Barbara Strasko
Barbara Strasko

Fulton Elementary School; Lancaster, PA

"I see a poem as a moment of change, and think the writing of poetry is a powerful way to shift our perceptions of ourselves and the world."

John Rocrock
John W. Rocrock

San Benito High School; Hollister, California

"I'm enthusiastic about nature and ecology. But the students come up with the ideas--who can say where those come from? They surprise me every year."

Linda Cover
Linda Cover

Watsonville, California

"ROW has given our students their very voices, and now they sing--loudly, sweetly, harmoniously, and sometimes angrily... Our students have become the "Lorax" of our town, speaking for the rivers, wetlands, forests, and mountains."

Connie McDonald
Connie McDonald

Louisiana State University Lab School; Baton Louge, Louisiana

"I knew when I read the mission statement that this was a contest our students could be involved in... There are plenty of poems hiding in the sights and sounds and smells Louisiana kids are familiar with."

Words of Wisdom
From Past Teachers of the Year