Educator of the Year

Wayne Soil & Water Conservation District 

Teacher/ Educator of the Year Award

Each year a teacher or remarkable individual in the community is chosen and honored at our Annual Meeting and Banquet. The individual is chosen for their outstanding work in conducting and teaching or promoting environmental education and conservation. Wayne SWCD believes it is important to honor those that have such a powerful and lasting impressions on the future care-takers of the land. We believe these individuals do the selfless work and dedication and their significant work deserves our recognition and admiration. Please take a moment to reflect and perhaps get inspired by these leaders and educators in the field of environmental conservation! 

Ed of Year AwardWinners (1)

This award was first presented in 1983.  The  past year award winners can be viewed by clicking on this link.  

Wayne SWCD encourages nominations of individuals for the Conservation Educator of  the Year. If you know of someone deserving of recognition, please contact our office or Kelly Riley for more information.  

Whether it was in their school, community, work,  or some or all of the above, these amazing people have inspired and helped make our world a better place and touched the lives of many individuals for the good. We cannot thank them enough and we know there are so many more out there. So THANK YOU for your good deeds and whatever small  or large scale projects you have done to help protect our planet and encourage others to do the same. From reusable plastic bags, to recycling, planting native flowers,  to using rain barrels and water saving measures to the habitat creating homes of toads, and wildlife... we can all inspire each other and make a difference!

Listed below is a photo gallery of some of our past award winners  from 2004 to the  present.  

2023 Educator of the Year: Stephen Heppe, Smithville FFA Advisor

ROAD TRIP! Students are all smiles, as the lucky ones get to travel to the FFA National Convention. Stephen also involves his students in many other competitions, contests and events and they get real life experience and get to travel!  Lesson they will never forget! 

Stephen is all smiles while making the rounds at the Wayne County Fair, where he checks on his students and supports all of them in 4-H and with FFA projects.

We appreciate Stephen as a role model and leader!

THE GREENHOUSE - a HOT place to be if your in    MR. HEPPE's class! There is a lot going on here. From seed selection, germination, soil study and then learning about  plant care.  Plants are cared for until fully matured species are sold during the FFA plant sales.  This seems is a growing trend!

Learning about conservation and plant health is vital to our future generations.

Parfitt’s Paradise 50 year Celebration.pdf

CELEBTATING  50 YEARS!  1973 ~ 2023  

Parfitt's Paradise, a 3 acre outdoor educational area owned by Chippewa Local Schools, was created by Mr. Dave Parfitt!

We want to look back on his impact and thank all those involved in maintaining this wonderful "Paradise" for students to enjoy! 

Please click on the powerpoint or or this link... and you can also view the pamplet created by Mr.Parfitt as well.

In 2022, Mr. Parfitt was awarded the Educator of the Year award by Wayne SWCD. 

2022 Educator of the YEAR ~ Dave Parfitt

Long overdue,  retired Chippewa High School teacher Dave Parfitt was awarded  the 2022 Conservation Educator of the Year.  Honored for his project that began in 1973, when Parfitt and his students successfully transformed a three-acre cow pasture into an outdoor science lab now known as Parfitt’s Paradise.  Students and community members continue to benefit from what has now become a beautiful and mature forest setting.  To view the pamphlet and explanation of Parfitt's Paradise, please click on this link for the cover, and this link for the inside pamphlet.

“I am very gratified that students can still come down to it and learn about nature,” Parfitt said. “I come down here many times and run into former students and meet their kids. It is really a joy.” Although he is 81 years young, Parfitt still enjoys serving as the unofficial caretaker of the wildlife area of Parfitt’s Paradise.  We are very thankful for his vision, passion for conservation, education and the legacy that he has left for future generations to enjoy! It truly is a paradise to visit...hidden behind the baseball diamond and a lucky gem for the Chippewa Local School students! 

Dave & Kelly at Parfitt's Paradise with a group of young students. 

Dave Parfitt with his wife Janeen, and three sons: Jon, Chris and Jeremy. 

Kelly Riley with Wayne SWCD presented Dave his Educator of the Year Award. 

Dave Parfitt with his plaque after the award presentation. 

 2021 Educators of the Year ~ Norwayne FFA :  Catie Noyes and Abbey VanTyne

Congrats to Norwayne FFA's outstanding Advisors Miss Catie Noyes and Miss Abbey VanTyne. Both ladies help promote soil conservation, plant and animal welfare and help in the community. Abbey has launched and inspired a beekeeping unit, and Catie loves to teach about energy and real world practices. The school has a greenhouse which enables the FFA students to do a variety of projects.  They received a NASA Grant,  which lets them research radishes and a "Grants for Growing " let them purchase a FarmBot;  and now they are growing strawberries!  Students at Norwayne FFA participate in a  wide array of competitions, travel to various farm shows, national conventions, animal challenges, and community fund raisers.  These leaders inspire their students and promote natural resource conservation every day to the next generation and our future! We are thankful to have them!

 Duane  can offen be found - near a soil pit or testing soils...When he's not hiking, fishing or hunting!  


For anyone whom is familiar with Wayne Soil and Water, Duane is a familiar face, having served 23 years with Wayne SWCD and retiring in 2016 as the DPA . But Duane's commitment to conservation and his love of soils has continued well beyond retirement, and many students are thankful for his ability to share his vast knowledge.  Being a Certified Soil Scientist, and giving up his time - from his busy schedule in his business as a soil consultant, Duane is willing to teach others - from 5th graders to FFA  students, about the importance and complexities of soils and how they relate to our world.  We are thankful to have him in our conservation community!

2019 ~ Denny Jordan 

With 2016 Winner Carole Van Pelt, & Kelly Riley , Wayne SWCD

Denny Jordan 

A  longtime Wooster HS Science  teacher, now retired,  Denny is passionate about conservation  at Barnes Preserve Park  in Wayne County! Doing what he LOVES and is wonderful at ~ inspiring and educating others in the meadows!(Pictured with 2005 Ed of Year winner- Angela Diotte & her students). He is well known to share is vast knowledge  and  love of all things in nature, especially at Barnes Preserve. 

Click here to see a brief power-point from Denny's Award . 

 2018  ~  Pastor Paul Bartholomew

Pastor Paul is well known in his community as outdoor education enthusiast! KIDS flock to him for his kind words and to learn about the ways of the woods and the wonders of wildlife. He is a truly a kindred spirit and an inspirational soul for all of those in his presence!

Heidi helping the 2nd graders in their school garden.

Conservation is an everyday observance in  Heidi's classroom with recycling and composting.  Kids love Henry Yertle, the turtle,  in her classroom as well as bins full of nests, seeds and other interesting things from nature. Kids get to learn with outdoor school gardens, a mini-wetland and bird feeding stations with bird houses. Heidi  brings the outdoors indoors if she can, and truly inspires the love of nature in our younger generation. She is kind and compassionate and Hazel Harvey is lucky to have her as a such a great role model!

Carole leads students - she is an  OCVM... Ohio Certified Volunteer  Naturalist - in  education learning stations.

We are so thankful to have passionate leaders and dedicated individuals that love ,promote and care about others and the outdoors like Carole. She is a true blessing! 

2016~ Carole Van Pelt

If you know or have been to Barnes Preserve ...

Carole is the spirit and voice behind the massive project to get Barnes Preserve to be a fully functioning 76 acre park. But she didn’t stop there. What is so special about this park is that the pavilion, deck, parking lot and access drive were all built to the Americans with Disabilities Act standards, as with the trails…so that it is completely wheelchair assess able. Named after an inspiring young Wooster student that doesn’t let his disability hinder him, Casey’s Trails are the pride of Carole’s and Barnes Preserve.

The ADA trails  meander through a beautiful native meadow, overlook an observation deck of a wetland pond, and stroll through magnificent hardwoods. 

2015 ~ Marge Forbush

Wooster City Schools kids may have had the pleasure of have Marge Forbush in 4th grade if they attended Wayne Elementary or Melrose Elementary, and boy did they get the treat of an amazing science teacher!  A  passion of Marge’s is getting children outside to explore and enjoy nature. Marge loves teaching about plants and animals and their unique adaptations. She ties in fun with her learning standards by partnering with the College of Wooster Physics and Geology department whom present a variety of programs to the students. She schedules field trips centered on science and conservation. Trips to the Wayne County Historical Society and to Shreve's  Brown’s Bog allowed students and their parents to hike and study real plant adaptations.  She appreciates and showcases our own wonders of nature in our own backyard! 

2014 - Jeff Harmon  (with Fred Myers, Wayne SWCD)

In 2009, when approached by Ray & Allyson Leisy (2011 Award Winners) it was Jeff Harmon, a Senior Wayne County Fair Board Member that rose to the challenge and did not say NO.... to the thought of recycling. forward...if it wasn't for Jeff and Ray & Allyson and a few select group of people....the Wayne County Fair wouldn’t be one of the first county fairs to recycle and compost food waste. This was the brain child of Jeff Harmon. Jeff consulted with other key players and individuals.  Without Jeff’s passion and caring, thousands of children, adults and vendors would not be able to have the opportunity to recycle their plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, or compost their food scraps during the Wayne County Fair. We thank him for keeping tons of recyclables out of landfills, and for making our community a better place.  We know it takes teamwork, and leadership! 


2013 -  John Sprunger & The Kidron Auction  ~ R.A.P.P.

(John was unable to attend for his award)

2013 - Town & Country    Co-op   ~ R.A.P. P.  

Al Holdren & Jean Bratton with Fred Myers, Wayne SWCD

R.A.P.P.  is the 

Recycling Ag Plastic Partnership.

Plastic film on the farm and the difficult means by getting rid of it has been an issue for a long time. Up until recently there has not been an environmentally friendly way to dispose of the tremendous amounts of plastic film waste generated on farms. Thankfully, that all changed this year.  With many individuals, organizations, and team work, there is now an option producers have to recycle. 

These drop off locations allow farmers to bring their full Super Sacks to the business, and then employees at the location help the recycling customer unload the sacks. The sacks could weigh anywhere from 300 – 600 pounds, and also require a large location to keep them until there is enough for a pick up.  They put out literature, advertise with posters and signs, and help promote RAPP.  These businesses support the program so much that Town & County      Co-op created an entire web page about recycling ag plastic, and at Kidron, they constructed a frame holding a Super Sack so the public can also recycle feed sacks and film. This just proves they also believe in the cause. They are leaders in our community and we thank them for the support and being conservation minded! 

NOTE>>> Sadly, this program ended 6/1/2016

2012 ~ Becky Franck

Teaching 3rd grade at Melrose Elementary in Wooster for over 19 years, Becky is a model not only to her students, but to conservation itself.  Besides going to parks and hiking, Becky has incorporated as many hands on activities into her science curriculum as possible, and uses every opportunity to stress the importance of conserving our earth’s resources.  Another passion of Becky’s is getting children outside to explore and enjoy nature.  Each summer Becky and another teacher conduct a summer science camp at a farm which has acres of primitive woods, a pond and a stream. Students get to learn science and explore the wonders of nature there. Because of her enthusiasm, passion for the outdoors, and outstanding education efforts about our natural resources, we are delighted to honor Becky Franck as our outstanding Educator of the Year. 

We are thrilled to honor these two as our Outstanding Conservation Educators for all of the environmental education and promotion they have done in the community. Thank you Ray and Allyson! You inspired us!

Please visit Sonnenberg Village in Kidron - anytime to see some of the work they have done! 


Ray & Allyson Leisy

This dynamic duo can really get things done! As a Wayne County Juvenile Court Judge, Ray started in 2009 by getting grants for bins on downtown events. Three years ago they began recycling at the Wayne County Fair and, with the help of so many volunteers, have gradually increased the tonnage from the Fair diverted from the landfill. Many of you may have noticed the green recycling barrels (now green-folding and clear stands) and at the fair. This massive effort all began because these two individuals spear-headed the idea, met with the right people, and made it all happen!

Both Ray and Allyson are also involved with the Historical Society and the newly formed Sonnenberg Village in Kidron. They have promoted the environment through Sonnenberg Village by establishing heritage garden (non-pesticide, heirloom plants), a butterfly habitat and a rain garden.  Also recycled products are used on all the buildings. Besides recycling old buildings themselves, eco-slate and eco-shakes have been used in roofing. 


2010 - Dan Fulk and Heather Tegtmeier

The passion that these two FFA teachers have for conservation and the environment is what shapes and influences our future farmers and leaders. This is evident in their years of service, and through the young adults that remember what Dan and Heather taught them. We are very fortunate to have these two educators here, teaching in Wayne County at Northwestern High School.  They have taught State Winning Teams in the areas of Parliamentary Procedure, Ag Sales, Dairy Cattle Judging and Dog Obedience.  And... on a side note... DAN and HEATHER teamed up with our 2011 and 2014 winners  - with their FFA students to help the WC Fair recycling team - and their kids work to gather the bins & cardboard at night! What a community service that provides! Thank-you leaders!

2009 - Tony Stoller

Tony has  gotten the Smithville Agri-science Program involved with the OARDC-Ohio State and National Science Foundation K-12 Sugarcreek Watershed Education Grant program for the last 3 years.  In addition to his many activities within the FFA Chapter, Tony has worked with us by helping host the Wayne County Land Judging Contest 2 times. 

2008 - Jane Braddock

As the Fredericksburg Librarian, Jane took her own love of nature and shared it with others. She helped established the outdoor learning lab at the Elementary School, and then formed an after school program called the Explorers. Jane is a leader in conservation and has done many other inspirational  deeds in her community. We thank her!

2007 -Linda Lang

Northwestern 5th graders would be delighted to have Linda Lang as their science teacher! Her passion and love of birds (particularly bluebirds) lead to a school blue-bird trail that kids get to go outside and hike on.

 Together with staff and community members they have created an area which includes a butterfly garden, Bluebird trail, Eastern Box turtle area, and a wooded nature trail area behind the school. Linda’s fifth graders monitor the 12 boxes on the bluebird trail every spring as part of the Cornell University Nest box survey project. 

Linda  is also very instrumental in organizing  the popular Outdoor Education event at nearby Inspiration Hills Campground for the 5th grade.

Linda likes to think that each year she is giving her students the "gift" of a sense of wonder and excitement about the natural world. Her hope is that they will carry their passion for nature with them through life and appreciate nature enough to work to protect it for future generations.


2006 - Melissa Arko 

Parkview Elementary should be proud to have Melissa as such an energetic and positive influence on their students. Melissa believes in hands-on education, so whenever it’s possible, Melissa takes the 3rd graders outside to experience nature.  This upcoming spring will be the 4th year traveling to Shreve Swamp and Brown’s Bog. The children enjoy  learning about birds, creating paper- mache birds and taking hikes.   

 2006 ~ Neil Topovski -OFSWCD State Ed of Year

Pictured with Neil are his Mother, Shirley - that also won the  ED of Yr award in 1993! - 

Neil is also with his wife, Dawn and father Steve.

2005 - Aaron Arnold - Norwayne HS

2005 - Neil Topovski - Wooster City Schools

Norwayne FFA is well known - and for a good reason - it's strength and respected students...and for this man... Aaron Arnold.  He is an enthusiastic educator that cares about the environment and conservation efforts. He has led several FFA teams and individual students to the top of the competition in the Soils contests, as well as in a variety of other competitions. Aaron is very active in the community and demonstrates his responsible citizenship to all of his students. We are thrilled to have him!

Wooster City Schools - have the gift of Neil Topovski!  Neil organized a field trip for his 4th graders and held at his parent’s own private homestead. The students went to 6 different learning stations, getting hands on learning about stream ecology, erosion, aquatic life, woodland creatures, plants, geology, and other environmental issues. Neil has a wonderful enthusiasm about the outdoors, and the children really soak up everything he has to say. It has been such a hit, it has expanded to include 3 other schools.  Neil has also organized field trips to our local wildlife areas, namely the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area and Brown’s Bog.  His never ending enthusiasm and passion for nature and the outdoors in everlasting, and we applaud his efforts!

2004 - Don McConnell

For the past 24 years, Don has been teaching Agricultural Science at Waynedale High School. Don has incorporated soils, forestry, wildlife, water quality, and environmental issues into his agriculture classes – and as a result, Waynedale had increasingly become more competitive in the Envirothon competition. This year Waynedale FFA won the Area II Envirothon competition and finished sixth in the State contest, as well as winning top rookie team honors and top soils team honors. 

The area of soil science has long been a strength in Don’s teaching. Don has trained rural and urban soil evaluation teams every year that he has been teaching, and his teams have consistently done quite well.  Don has had at least  40 teams qualify for the state competition and have had over 15 place in the top ten in the State contest, including one state champion team and two runner –up finishes.  In all, Don McConnell has trained over 10 state champion teams or individuals in the various areas of agriculture and environmental competitions. 

Don has also worked on several community service projects at Waynedale with the most recent being a joint effort with the Art Department to build and maintain a small pond area with waterfalls and a natural area behind the school. Don, thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to conservation, and for educating the younger generation!

If you would like to see the entire List of winners... please click here.   Click to Return to the Education Page !