A Merced County teacher was just named one of the most innovative environmental educators in the country.
Sergio de Alba, a teacher at R.M. Miano Elementary School in Los Banos, was selected as an honorable mention for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, according to the EPA.
De Alba oversees an outdoor learning program at R.M. Miano Elementary that includes 11 gardens, each one used to help students learn about a different set of food, plants, gardening or harvesting techniques.
“I just think we were recognized for having a successful program for 17 years that incorporates environmental education along with agriculture, nutrition and just helping students understand the importance of giving back to the community,” de Alba said.
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The program has gotten students more engaged in hands-on gardening projects, de Alba said. Students learn to appreciate the way the gardens enhance the look of their school.
The program also recently received an award that will pay for a hydroponic cloning system, de Alba said, explaining the system will almost double the efficiency of producing new saplings through the cloning process.
De Alba isn’t the first Merced County teacher to be recognized. Yosemite High School teacher Jeff Rivero won the award in 2016 for his efforts teaching students about the effects national policies have on economics and natural resources.
The EPA will announce more details on the applicants and winners of the presidential award later this month, according to spokesperson Michele Huitric.