UCS teacher honored by Macomb County for helping students reconnect with nature, each other
UCS teacher honored by Macomb County for helping students reconnect with nature, each other
Posted on 04/17/2019

Students at Dresden Elementary don’t have to look beyond their school for some serious adventure opportunities.

Canoeing in Manistee, snowshoeing on the playground, climbing the Indian Staircase in Kentucky-these are all adventures members of Theresa Whitenight’s 4H Outdoor Adventure Challenge Club get to experience.

It is because of these opportunities and educational experiences, which instill a lifelong appreciation for and stewardship of the environment, why Whitenight was chosen as the 2019 Macomb County Green Schools Green Advocate of the Year.

“It was such an honor to receive the Advocate award,” Whitenight said. “It is my passion to teach students to care about the earth and this award recognizes that passion.”

The 4-H outdoor club has been in existence for eight years and attracts 50-80 members annually, both current and former Dresden students. Whitenight’s dedication to educating and advocating for the environment extends far beyond that.

Whitenight began teaching in 1990 at Holy Cross Elementary in Marine City and has been with the Utica Community Schools since 1996. Her interest in and devotion to the outdoors started much earlier than her teaching career though.

“I’ve always been a nature lover,” she said said. “I find it extremely peaceful, especially now with continuous access to technology, it’s so nice to be able to unplug.”

With current students having even more access to technology than ever before, Whitenight said she has seen the positive impact some time outdoors can have on the students.

“The different activities offered in the club allow the students to unplug, to reconnect with nature, and, most importantly, reconnect with each other,” said Whitenight.

Whitenight’s peers see the value in what the 4H Outdoor Adventure Challenge Club brings to the students, and the community, which is why they nominated her for this year’s Green Advocate Award.

“She is enthusiastic and lovers to share her knowledge of nature and the outdoors with students,” said Dresden Elementary teacher Nicole Willinger.