The Tamar Chotzen Educator of the Year Award (established in 2007) recognizes outstanding talent and accomplishments by educators on Audubon’s staff. Tamar Chotzen served as Audubon’s vice president of centers and education from 1999 until 2005. During her tenure, Chotzen led the organization's efforts to grow its network of centers. The Chotzen Award honors three employees whose primary responsibility is on-the-ground education in an Audubon state office, at a center operated by the National Audubon Society, or at a center that has a formal licensing agreement with Audubon. Because of an endowment from Tamar Chotzen’s family, each winner will receive $2,500 in recognition of service to education and to Audubon.
This year, Audubon Vermont’s Education team nominated Sarah Hooghuis, our Youth Conservation Leadership Coordinator for all of their incredible work, particularly engaging teens and young professionals for our organization.
Sarah started with Audubon as an Education and Outreach AmeriCorps member at the Green Mountain Audubon Center where they facilitated a variety of nature-based education programs for thousands of children. Their teaching has inspired young children to love and care about birds and the natural world and has helped them to build strong conservation values. Sarah has since been hired as our Youth Leadership Program Coordinator where they continue to inspire the next generation of conservationists. Sarah is a mentor and role model to all of the teens and young adults on our team. As an educator, Sarah promotes experiential learning opportunities that actively engage program participants in hands-on learning. They exude the kind of excitement for the natural world that both young people and more mature audiences find contagious.
Sarah leads our Youth Conservation Leadership Program. The Youth Conservation Leadership Program at Audubon Vermont provides paid learning opportunities for young adults including work-based learning programs for high school students; internships for college-aged students in environmental education, conservation, and policy; and year-long service positions. Sarah skillfully coordinates our teen Junior Conservation Technician Program and our teen Counselor-In-Training Program, both programs that seamlessly weave conservation and environmental education together. They also coordinate our paid internship program across three departments: education, conservation and policy.
Junior Conservation Technicians (JCTs) are high school aged students employed by Audubon over a 5-month period. They work alongside professional educators and conservation biologists to complete meaningful conservation projects around the Green Mountain Audubon Center. Projects this year included the installation of a plants for birds garden, building tern chick shelters, removing invasive species, working on various trail maintenance projects, and monitoring forest plots to name a few. They meet regularly for check-ins with Audubon’s Junior Conservation Techs (JCTs) and our Counselors in Training. Sarah makes sure that JCTs are putting forth their best effort and shares all their knowledge, including connections to who is working in the field.
Quotes from this year’s JCT’s show the impact Sarah’s programs are having on the next generation of conservation leaders:
“I loved getting to work with my hands, learning practical skills like using power tools, getting to spend a week working at ecology camp, and meeting people that are also passionate about the environment and nature.” – Rowan Dienz del Rio
“Being able to meet with well renowned foresters and conservationists is a really cool opportunity that I don't see in many other places.” - Anon
“This is the best job I’ve ever had. I love coming here and feel like I learn more than I do in a traditional school setting because it’s so hands-on. I wish Audubon had even more regular high school programs for us to attend.” – Jada Dostal
Sarah understands the importance of diversifying Audubon’s supporters. They have a passion for our Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (EDIB) efforts. They lead our monthly Pride Hikes and have helped to build strong and lasting partnerships with Pride Center of Vermont and Outright Vermont. Our Pride Hikes are free and open to the public, and create a safe place for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies to experience nature and learn in the state of Vermont. Sarah cares deeply about Audubon’s EDIB principles and incorporates a culture of learning into all their youth leadership programming.
We are thrilled and honored that Sarah has been chosen by National Audubon Society team as a recipient of this award! They are extremely deserving of this award. They will be recognized at our next National Audubon All Staff call on November 15th. Congratulations Sarah!