Stephen Pletcher, Emporia, wins KWF Conservation Educator Award

Stephen Pletcher, left, from Emporia, receives the 2012 Conservation Educator award from Troy Schroeder, Kansas Wildlife Federation President. Westar Energy, Inc., of Topeka, sponsored the Conservation Educator award.

The Kansas Wildlife Federation (KWF) proudly announces winners of the 2012 Conservation Achievement Program Awards (CAP). KWF honored thirteen recipients on February 23rd at a reception and banquet in their honor in Emporia.

For 49 years, the Federation has recognized Kansans who have devoted exceptional efforts for wildlife conservation in the state. Kansans, who wished to recognize the awardees for their contributions, supplied the nominations. 

The CAP awards are given in several categories including youth, land, water, wildlife, forest, education, farming and ranching. For 2012, 12 awards were given, along with the President’s special award for meritorious service to the KWF.

These are the most prestigious conservation-related awards given in Kansas and are patterned after similar awards in most other states through respective state affiliates of the National Wildlife Federation. Long-time professor of biology at Kansas State University, Robert Robel of Manhattan won the overall award, Conservationist of the Year. Dr. Robel passed away last month so his wife, Anise, accepted the award in his place. 

Award sponsors for these awards included Westar, Inc., Kansas State Chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Kansas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Kansas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Geary County Fish and Game Association, the Watershed Institute, the Jim Ruder family of WaKeeney, Kansas Farmers Union and the Emporia Area Chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation.

The 2012 Conservation Educator Award was presented to Stephen Pletcher of Emporia. Stephen has been a teacher in the Emporia school district since the fall of 1980. He has been the Physical Education teacher atRiverside since the fall of 2006.

Steve is an innovative teacher who creates many activities that teach the standards of Physical Education. Mr. Pletcher’s students are taught TREF skills, which stand for Think, Respect, Effort and Focus. His students begin a warm up activity as soon as they enter the gym and each student knows the routine and what is expected. On top of this, Steve spends a great deal of his own time outside of the school day working with students. After noticing that many of the students sit in the gym before school, he created a morning walking program for students. Students received awards for the mileage that they walked or ran. Student helpers kept track of the number of laps that students achieved.

During the 2009/2010 school year, Mr. Pletcher wrote multiple grants that enabled Riverside Elementary to have an exercise/walking trail built in their outdoor wildlife learning site (OWLS). He has spent many hours since improving and maintaining this trail. He organizes the staff, PTO and students in quarterly workdays on Saturday mornings to help maintain and improve the trail, outdoor classroom and planting, pruning and identifying plants and trees in the area. This is above and beyond his teaching assignment.

In the 2011-12 school year, Stephen became involved in the National Archery in the Schools Program, (NASP). After securing the funding and working with trainers, he coordinated efforts with the district maintenance crew to install a retractable net in the gymnasium. As a result of his efforts, students have the opportunity to develop their archery skills. This is the only elementary school in Emporia that provides this curriculum.

Mr. Pletcher also coordinates an extra activity with Riverside students in an annual jump rope challenge. This year, Steve will challenge his students to raise funds for the Salvation Army with this contest. As you can tell, Steve displays a great deal of energy and enthusiasm for his job. To his students he combines high expectations for learning and behavior with a sense of fun thrown in. In short, Steve connects with his students.

Perhaps Steve’s greatest strength is integrating reading and math in his Physical Education activities.  He is always listening to what students are learning during PLC time at each grade level. He will try to find a way to help teach that math or reading concept to his students during a Physical Education activity.

Westar Energy, Inc of Topeka sponsored the Conservation Educator of the Year award.

In conclusion, Mr. Pletcher is the type of teacher everyone would want for their child. This recognition of Stephen Pletcher as the 2012 Conservation Educator of the Year by the Kansas Wildlife Federation is well deserved.