Seattle Foundation Blog

Teachers Honored for Creating Learning Experiences that Make a Difference for Youth and Their Community

Established in memory of Patsy Collins by an anonymous donor at Seattle Foundation, the Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community honors extraordinary teachers in Washington K-12 schools.


October 03, 2016

By Stephen Robinson, Philanthropic Advisor

We value our teachers. We sometimes show them by placing an apple on their desk in the morning, or by introducing them to our families with warmth. If we are lucky, we show them by giving them a gift as a token of appreciation for their years of time and support.

One anonymous philanthropist believes that we can do more to honor the hard work put in by our teachers. Thus, the Patsy Collins Award: a $10,000 cash prize for teachers who go the extra mile for their students by incorporating project and inquiry-based learning into their daily curriculums, and by implementing hands-on outdoor learning projects in the school yard and beyond. 

Who was Patsy Collins? Like the educators we hope to honor, she was a powerful and authentic woman who always put her students first. In her spirit and to honor her legacy, this award highlights the work the incredible and oft-overlooked work of our educators.  Established in memory of Patsy by an anonymous donor at Seattle Foundation, the Patsy Collins Award for Excellence in Education, Environment, and Community honors extraordinary teachers in Washington K-12 schools.

Through a rigorous process, a selection committee comprised of team members from Islandwood, Seattle Foundation, and community members chose three recipients from a field of over 50 applicants. In no particular order, we are pleased to announce this year’s recipients: 

Joann MooreGig Harbor High School, Gig Harbor, WA. Joann has over 35 years of experience in getting her classrooms outside and engaged in project-based learning. She has created and nurtured partnerships with groups such as the National Park Service, the Department of Natural Resources, Pierce County, Pen Met Parks, and the Nature Conservancy. Her citizen-scientist students have now aggregated over 25 years of stream data in a local watershed. Joann's students find their own passions and curiosity in the outside world, step outside of their comfort zones, and give back to their community - every day, and every year.

Mary-Elizabeth EzenwakaRoxhill Elementary School, Seattle, WA.  Mary-Elizabeth is a relatively new educator bringing innovative environmental and inquiry-based approach to Roxhill Elementary, located in the White Center area in southwest Seattle. She has taken initiative in getting her second grade classroom engaged with community and environment. Mary-Elizabeth pioneered the use of the nearby Roxhill bog into not only her own teaching (the first to do so at the school!), but into the teaching of other educators too, covering every grade in the school. And, she created a partnership with Camp Long, now manifesting in weekly naturalist sessions at the school as well as activities at Camp Long itself (a first for many students and families, despite being only three miles from the school).

Jessica LevineEckstein Middle School, Seattle, WA. Jessica weaves current events, project-based learning, field trips, and partnerships into her curriculum every day. In her words, "I'm not simply educating good scientists, but rather raising sustainable savvy citizens. The future of our planet depends on it." Jessica helps her students see the impact they can make in both their daily lives (recycling programs, alternative transportation) as well as on a grander scale (proposing pollution solutions complete with models and prototypes). Another fascinating project educates whole communities through her students by having them translate student-created posters about hazardous materials into the languages they speak at home: Amharic, Tagalog, and Korean to name a few.                        

Congratulations to this year’s recipients, as well as all the other teachers who were nominated for this year’s Patsy Collins Award. On November 2, IslandWood will be holding its Waking the World breakfast event to celebrate these teachers, their colleagues, and extraordinary educators everywhere. Additional information on the event can be found here.

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social equalityBasic Needseconomic opportunityhealthy community frameworkphilanthropistseducationChildren and youth

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