7 Local Educators Recognized

 In News


CBEEN’s Awards of Excellence were recently handed out to seven outstanding local educators from across the Columbia Basin region for their efforts in educating students and the public on environmental stewardship and sustainability. These educators were recognized during an awards ceremony at the 2023 Inquiring Voices event held at Blue Lake Camp on October 20.

“The 2023 award winners include early years educators, primary educators, Indigenous educators, and community educators. All are committed to creating opportunities for people to connect with, learn about, and learn from our amazing local environment” said Mia King, Program Manager for the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN). “We are grateful for their dedication to increasing the ecological literacy of students, professionals, and community members throughout the Columbia Basin.”

CBEEN’s 2023 Awards of Excellence in Environmental Education were awarded to:

  1. Indigenous Educator – Alfred Joseph (ʔakisq̓nuk)
  2. Indigenous Educator – Bonnie Harvey (ʔaq’am)
  3. Primary Teacher – Rosalind Chalmers (Castlegar)
  4. Early Years Educator – Jodi Eskelin (Kimberley)
  5. Early Years Educator – Madeleine Arsenault (Nelson)
  6. Community Educator – Jill Jennings (Kimberley)
  7. Community Educator – Shonna Murphy (Cranbrook/Kimberley)

Early years educator, Jodi Eskelin (Kimberley) shared, “I am grateful to receive this award, as being immersed in nature on a daily basis with children is truly a magical thing to witness.  Every rock, stick, piece of lichen or feather becomes a treasured item to share.”

Shonna Murphy, Director of Programs at Blue Lake Camp, said, “Being a recipient of the 2023 Community Educator of the Year award is truly humbling and overwhelming. I am deeply touched by this recognition of my efforts in promoting outdoor and environmental education. It serves as a reminder of the importance of the work we do collectively to foster sustainability. I am sincerely grateful for the support and encouragement from my peers, and I am inspired to continue my journey with even greater dedication and humility.

For more information, contact Mia King, CBEEN Program Manager: wildvoices@cbeen.org

Seven 2023 CBEEN EE Award winners at the Inquiring Voices Educator Gathering October 20, 2023 at Blue Lake Camp. (L-R, Alfred Joseph, Shonna Murphy, Jill Jennings, Madeleine Arsenault, Bonnie Harvey, Jodi Eskelin, Rosalind Chalmers).


Alfred Joseph (ʔakisq̓nuk) is a highly respected Ktunaxa Elder and past chief of the Akisqnuk Nation.  He is an expert in Ktunaxa language and knowledge and an immensely passionate, dedicated and talented educator.  He was a student at St Eugene’s Residential School and graduated from Olds Agricultural College. He is very knowledgeable about and utilizes all aspects of Ktunaxa Culture. He teaches Ktunaxa Language and is very involved with sharing Ktunaxa Traditional Knowledge and encouraging implementation into Ktunaxa Nation Council Programs and Policy. He has led the facilitation of 3 Ktunaxa Language Courses for CBEEN, providing teaching for over 200 educators! Being taught by Alfred, one learns this – his way of listening, speaking and being is embedded with this awareness. The awareness that all knowledge comes from the ancestors and the land itself. The word that one of Alfred’s nominators used to describe him is “Spiderman”!

Bonnie Harvey (ʔaq’am) is the ʔaq̓am Community Governance Coordinator. A champion for the Ktunaxa First Nation, Bonnie is committed to ensuring its language and culture live on. Bonnie supports governance, community and cultural programs as an active volunteer for the past 20 years (in addition to her professional experince). Bonnie is an advocate within the school system, and community. Bonnie shares her knowledge, allowing others to learn more about the Ktunaxa people. Bonnie has built many strong relationships to help support environmental ed. She regularly works with Columbia Outdoor School and Blue Lake Camp as well as CMH to collaborate with other enviro ed companies. The one word that Bonnie’s nominator used to describe her is “¢ǂakiǂ (LOVE) She is so full of love!!!!”

Jill Jennings (Kimberley) has been the Education Coordinator for Wildsight for 5 years.  In this role, she has supported the logistics and coordination of 100s of programs offered to schools throughout the whole region. Besides being an impeccably organized coordinator, she has also delivered amazing programs herself, bringing her background, knowledge and skills in natural history interpretation to infuse drama, music and costumes whenever possible to her Wildsight program offerings (and even to team meetings!).  Being a vital member of Wildsight’s program development team, he has been integral to creating new curriculum. program content and activities, as well as their online teacher resources. The one word that Jill’s nominator used to describe her is “dedicated”!

Jodi Eskelin (Kimberley) is a certified Forest and Nature School Practitioner (FNSP) through the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. Previously a lead educator in Purcell’s Forest Preschool program, Jodi has now switched roles and is working at Small Batch Family Care, a Waldorf-inspired early learning program, based out of the ski hill in Kimberley. Jodi is passionate about play-based learning and is committed to encouraging children and youth to connect with nature. She works constantly on growing and improving her practice, bringing in new and innovative ideas to share with her students, taking CBEEN and other Outdoor Environmental Education and early learning webinars, finding new lessons to try with her young learners. And while doing this, Jodi is constantly growing as an educator, but she is always willing to share her ideas and is always open to others ideas as well! The one word that Jodi’s nominator used to describe her is “passionate”!

Madeleine Arsenault (Nelson) is an experienced early childhood educator offering forest-school/nature-based learning to pre-school children and their grown-ups for over 15 years, through the francophone “Strong Start” free program at École des Sentiers-alpins. In the last decade, she has piloted place-conscious, play-based, Indigenous ways of knowing informed early childhood learning experiences. Madeleine is highly collaborative, generous, dedicated and truly an inspiration to our entire school. She has participated in multiple pilot programs, the “community-partners” committee, and spontaneous dialogue to envision a greener school. She collaborates with the parents who visit the Franc départ (Strong Start) program to help guide them, and their children. The one word that Madeleine’s nominator used to describe her is “luminescent”!

Rosalind Chalmers (Castlegar) has inspired many teachers to take the leap into outdoor education, showing how wonderful it is to connect learning from inside the classroom to the great outdoors. She has spearheaded the Salmon in our School at Fruitvale Elementary School and dedicates a lot of her extra time to making that program successful. Rosalind has been working hard to bring her grade 3/4 students’ learning to life in connection to the outdoors. She is fantastic at connecting the curriculum to outdoor experiences to deepen children’s connections to what they’re learning. The one word that Rosalind’s nominator used to describe her is “Enthusiastic”!

Shonna Murphy (Cranbrook) has worked at Blue Lake Camp for the past 7 years as our Camp Director and then moving into Director of Programs. She has developed, taught and evaluated Environmental Education, Sustainability and Outdoor Recreation and Leadership lessons for thousands of school students and individual youth at Blue Lake and in communities throughout the East Kootenays. EE programs have focused on Trees, Wildlife, Water and soils and the interrelationships between them and interactions with people. She has been instrumental in developing and leading outdoor and environmental science programs for the ʔaq̓am community Gaurdians in Training Program.  She has worked closely with ʔaq̓am Elders and teachers to develop specific ʔaq̓am land-based education programs for the ʔaq̓amnik’ School. The one word that Shonna’s nominator used to describe her is “engaging”!

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