Preserving a Legacy
Knox County Teacher Wins Marian E. Oates Teacher Enrichment Award
Jamie Stapleton, a sixth-grade teacher at Whittle Springs Middle School in Knox County, is the 2012 recipient of the Marian E. Oates Teacher Enrichment Award from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The award, which includes a scholarship for professional development, will allow Stapleton to spend the summer collaborating with Professor Mike McKinney, director of environmental studies in UT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Stapleton and McKinney will study the mechanics of composting and recycling in order for Stapleton to implement similar programs at her school this fall to use as educational vehicles for teaching environmental science.
The Marian E. Oates Teacher Enrichment Award, now in its fifth year, provides outstanding East Tennessee middle-school science teachers the opportunities to make new discoveries in the environmental sciences so they can impart their knowledge to students and ensure others continue advocating for environmental conservation.
Throughout her life, UT Knoxville alumna Marian E. Oates championed the stewardship and conservation of natural resources. She lived on Bluff Mountain in Sevier County and aggressively campaigned to restore the area’s ecosystem. When she died, she donated her 510-acre back yard as permanent easement to the Foothills Land Conservatory, ensuring the east end of the Chilhowee Mountains would remain untouched.
Oates, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in mathematics from UT Knoxville and subsequently served on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences, established the Marian E. Oates Teacher Enrichment Award as a gift to the College of Arts and Sciences in 2007.
“Now and in the future, the study and practice of environmental sciences are going to become more and more important,” Oates said when announcing the gift two years before she died. “Through this award, I hope to enable middle school teachers to enrich their knowledge, which will, in turn, equip them to boost their students’ interest in taking care of the natural world.”
Stapleton said she is grateful to have the opportunity to learn about environmental conservation and bring her knowledge back to the classroom.
“As I encourage my students to learn new things, I also encourage myself to be a life-long learner in order to stay current on the ever-growing body of scientific knowledge,” Stapleton said. “By enriching my knowledge this summer, I can help my students find even more ways to help our planet and ensure our natural resources are protected. I tell my students that I want them to appreciate and protect the natural world as a legacy for their great grandchildren, so that future generations can know what it is like to experience nature and sit beneath a tree and read a book.”
Composting is a way to recycle food waste from cafeterias, and it can be used as high quality fertilizer in landscaping and plant and vegetable gardens, McKinney said.
“Composting is also is a great way to promote student involvement and instill a sense of social responsibility in students, a value they will carry with them throughout their lives. The school will benefit from lower costs to landfill its waste and gain an educational ‘laboratory’ for the study of decomposition and recycling.”
Stapleton has taught at Whittle Springs Middle School for the past two years, where she already advocates for recycling, supervising sixth graders every Friday as they empty classrooms’ recycling bins into the larger recycling bin outside the school. She hopes to engage students in composting efforts when she returns to school in the fall. She also contributes to the Whittle Springs’ After School Academy program, giving writing tutorials to students. Stapleton received her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Mississippi.