ExCom Candidate Statements 2022

Below are the candidate statements for ICEC’s Executive Committee nominees for the 2022-2024 term. ICEC’s members are asked to review the statements.

All members in good standing are eligible to vote and will receive the voting link via the November newsletter and follow-up email. If you are a current member (paid annual or Life) and did not receive the newsletter or email, please contact us exec@iowaee.org. We likely do not have a current email address for you!

You will be able to vote for up to five candidates in our election.

Voting runs November 1 through November 30, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.

Kyla Burns

My name is Kyla Burns, I am a science teacher at Johnston High School. I am a biology major from Iowa State that has taught at Johnston for 16 years. I am a 2020 finalist for the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teaching and I was selected for the Teaching Channel’s Next Generation Science Standards Squad. With this placement, I worked at the national level on curriculum and instruction aligned with NGSS. I am interested in serving on the ICEC board because I am extremely passionate about environmental education and extending learning into the outdoors, where people can experience nature first hand. I feel environmental education is key to the success of our future as we are raising generations who are becoming more disconnected with the world around them and the impacts we have. I am hoping I can bring new insight to the board, particularly surrounding how to engage K-12 students in the vision of ICEC and how to work with schools and teachers to incorporate this learning. While I have not served on any previous board positions, I have worked with environmental educators in the state of Iowa in many capacities. I have partnered with the DNR to bring learning to my own district, I help teach teacher workshops at the zoo to help better instruct educators on how to incorporate environmental learning into their classrooms, I have worked with Iowa PBS to develop NGSS aligned curriculum, and I have written environmental curriculum for national corporations. I am excited to learn more about ICEC, network with like-minded individuals in the state of Iowa, and make a larger impact on the environmental education of our communities.

David Conrads

The Iowa Conservation Education Coalition has a long history of connecting and equipping both formal and informal educators to become better conservation/environmental education instructors. The ICEC played a formative role in providing opportunities for me, personally, to grow professionally and even in helping inspire me to create the Iowa Wildlife Camps (1991) and School of the Wild (1999) at the University of Iowa. Our UI WILD (Wildlife Instruction and Leadership Development) programs (Iowa Raptor Project/Iowa Wildlife Camps/School of the Wild) have recently been moved by the university from Recreational Services to the College of Education, which strengthens our ability to help train future teachers coming through the college on conservation issues and teaching in the wild.

On the ICEC ExCom, I hope to play a continuing role in helping connect more formal and informal teachers/instructors to our organization, as well as pre-service teachers from universities and colleges statewide. I also hope to help ICEC play a leading role in connecting more students with extended outdoor learning experiences in order to awaken awareness, nurture appreciation, and inspire action for the wild and conservation issues facing our state and our world.

Kean Roberts

My name is Kean Roberts, and I am nominating myself for the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition’s ExCom position for the 2022-2024 term. I am currently an 8th grade science teacher at Ames Middle School and a PhD Candidate of Education at Drake University. Throughout my time as an educator, I have integrated place-based inquiry into my classroom. For example, I had my students investigate the environmental effects Ames Middle School has on its surrounding area and waterways. Similarly, my educational scholarship identifies pedagogical practices that increase environmental ethic and stewardship of K-16 students. This scholarship is highlighted by publications in the National Science Teaching Association’s Science & Children journal as well as presentations at regional and national conferences. I was nominated and accepted as the 2020 – 2021 Graduate Student Representative for the Association of Science Teacher Educators. Although I am just beginning my professional career, I have sought out administrative duties at Ames Middle School and intend to seek out more organizational and scholarship leadership positions.

I am interested in the Iowa Conservation Education Coalitions ExCom position because of the importance of their work within formal and nonformal settings. During my time at the last Midwest Environmental Educators Conference in Decorah, Iowa, I noticed that most participants taught in a nonformal setting. While the work that they do is phenomenal, it first requires students to self-select or family-select into the programs to receive the educational and ethical benefits. To reach a more systemic impression, more environmental education is needed within formal education settings. As a public science teacher that values environmental education practices, I am placed into a unique role that would help ExCom reach more interested formal educators and fulfill its purpose of environmental stewardship and conservation. Additionally, my work with K-16 students has helped me develop the skills to craft effective educational experiences, communicate content and educational research in a simple and concise manner. I look forward to furthering my engagement with environmental educators throughout Iowa and the Midwest.

Peg Steffen

I was extremely lucky to have been provided with many opportunities to be immersed in conservation education from an early age. My parents shepherded me through family camping, fishing, and river excursions before I headed to Iowa State for a major in biology with an emphasis on teaching and wildlife conservation. As a young teacher in small town Iowa, I took advantage of the many in-services for Project Wild, Project Learning Tree, Project WET, and Aquatic WILD.

Ottumwa High School was the next step in my career working with a dedicated team of teachers to implement problem-based learning curricula. After 25 years of teaching, I accepted an Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship to work for NASA Headquarters and then NOAA’s National Ocean Service to develop programs for teachers that promoted Earth stewardship. As the developer and manager for NASA Explorer Schools and NOAA Planet Stewards I was able to expand my network connections, learn to manage budgets and develop working teams to meet goals.

Game development and its use in the classroom also became a natural extension of conservation and climate education during my time at NOAA. These formed that basis for the games.noaa.gov website. Beat the Uncertainty; Planning Climate Resilient Cities, was developed during my posting to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi to develop climate education for the country’s leadership. I was also a lead for the first national climate game jam in 2015 and brought that tradition to Iowa. Game jams encourage students to learn about a topic in conservation education (water resources, soil ecology, or aquatic ecosystems) and develop engaging games that teach and encourage active stewardship.

I am now retired, writing STEM curriculum for the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and serve as managing editor for the peer-reviewed journal, The Earth Scientist, a product of the National Earth Science Teachers Association. I continue to infuse conservation education in my work and in my off hours, I enjoy the many beds of prairie plants and grasses that surround my home. I would be honored to work for the ICEC in an expanded role.

Tony Vorwald

I would like to continue to be a part of the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition Executive Committee because I believe in the organization’s mission. Serving on the executive committee will continue to grow my skills as a professional in conservation and conservation education. I believe that I possess the skills necessary to be a ICEC ExCom member because I have been a full-time naturalist for the past 5 years, as well as a member of other organizations such as the Iowa Association of Naturalists. Also, I am currently pursuing my master of natural resources degree in Integrated Natural Resources through the University of Idaho.