Ferris State University Biological Sciences instructor Cindy Fitzwilliams-Heck was honored by the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education for her efforts to train the next generations of educators.
Fitzwilliams-Heck received the Bill Stapp Award from the Lansing-based organization at its annual conference in Alpena.
Fitzwilliams-Heck is an alumna of Ferris State’s Biology Education program and has been teaching in higher education for nearly 20 years. Her affiliations include the Alliance, the Academy of Natural Resources within Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly, sponsored by Ferris State and other entities.
“It was an honor to receive the award,” Fitzwilliams-Heck said. “I feel this is my biggest professional accomplishment, as being associated with someone of Bill Stapp’s stature is rewarding, inspiring and invigorating.”
The Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education lauded Fitzwilliams-Heck for a decade of leadership and service in their environmental educator certification program. She worked collaboratively to create what is the fourth program receiving international accreditation from the North American Association of Environmental Education.
Fitzwilliams-Heck has also been a co-facilitator and planning leader in more than a dozen ANR programs.
“This is a large umbrella of learning, which includes outdoor education,” Fitzwilliams-Heck said. “There is a movement to embrace and support environmental education, with people ready and willing to contribute. Educators have an important role in collaboration that can lead to a sustainable future.”
In her coursework at Ferris State, Fitzwilliams-Heck strives to present connections in nature and natural resource conservation to the students.
“I think students become more aware of and develop a greater understanding of natural processes through their studies, which builds on their willingness and ability to make a difference in environmental outcomes,” Fitzwilliams-Heck said. “I collect data throughout my involvement with my classes to learn about their growth in this regard, which includes a willingness to become environmental stewards.”
She also noted that many of her students at Ferris State are already inspired to learn the material and become agents of change.
“The answers they give in class show they appreciate the magnitude of seeking a sustainable environmental future and are ready to be engaged in positive change,” Fitzwilliams-Heck said. “There is an awareness as they arrive, so their previous educational experiences and the media have played their part in building a strong foundation.”