Making difficult choices is hard. Chocolate or vanilla? Thick crust or thin? Paper or plastic? Lake Highlanders have a tough choice to make this week, because two fantastic LH elementary teachers have advanced to the finals as nominees for the WFAA Project Green Eco-Educator Award. Finalists include educators from Birdville, Aledo, Haltom City, and other metroplex schools, so it’s an honor for LH to have two strong options.

Sheridan Stringer is the Outdoor Learning Coordinator at Merriman Park Elementary, and she is teaching kids the importance of water conservation and recycling. The idea was based on necessity, she says, because RISD cost-cutting measures forced her to find creative ways to water plants in her outdoor classroom. She invited neighborhood Boy Scouts to install rain barrels, and her lesson in resource conservation was born. The PTA paid to design and build the OLC, and Sheridan schedules student groups and teaches everything from the life cycle of the butterfly to the properties of fertile soil.

And Sheridan knows a thing or two about good soil. She is also a master gardener, a designation she earned via rigorous training from the Texas A&M Extension Service. In addition to learning advanced horticulture skills, master gardeners donate many hours of community service, volunteering and inspiring their neighbors around them. “My master gardener training comes in handy when I’m trying to keep the kids engaged,” she told me. “This week we are celebrating Red Ribbon Week by planting tulips, and into the hole with the bulb they place a promise to be drug free. When the flower blooms, they’ll remember their pledge.”

"I like how Mrs. Stringer teaches us how to grow things using the rain water and then teaches us games to help us learn even more," said Travis West, an MPE sixth grader. Second grader, Treyson, agreed with his big brother. "Mrs. Stringer shows us how to plant seeds, then we see what grows from the seeds, then she lets us eat some of the fruits & vegetables that grew from the seeds."

“I have the best job in the world,” Sheridan reports, “and I absolutely adore the kids.”

Tomorrow, I’ll focus on Moss Haven’s nominee, Kim Aman, and her Recycling Rangers. Winners will be determined by the most online votes, and, luckily, you may vote for both. Click here to vote as many times as you wish (you’ll have to log off and log on again each time).