Local teacher named 2021 Secondary Environmental Education Teacher of the Year | Announcements

Hanover-Caroline County Soil and Water District recently named Robin Didlake District Teacher of the Year. The agency is pleased to announce that she has also been selected as one of two teachers of the year for environmental education in Virginia.

Didlake worked as a teacher in Virginia for 32 years. For the past 26 years she has taught at Caroline High School. In 2018, when Caroline County schools added an environmental study program for ninth-graders, Didlake, a teacher of Earth sciences, began leading the program. Using the recommendations of the Virginia Department of Education in Environmental Science, she created a new curriculum from scratch, providing plenty of resources out of pocket.

The 2020-21 school year was particularly difficult for all educators due to the effects of the coronavirus. Teachers and students at Caroline have adapted first to virtual learning, then to hybrid learning. Despite facing these challenges with limited resources, Didlake continued to focus on his goal of developing young environmentalists.

Her plans included the study of plants and animals native to Virginia, the negative impact of human activities on the environment and the importance of local tree species. In the summer of 2020, she organized a program that gave local tree seedlings to students of all Caroline classes. In addition, Caroline High School students and staff planted 25 local trees in the new tree landscape, which now serves as a classroom for fieldwork and civil science as students monitor biodiversity, tree growth and bud burst.

In addition to using educational resources provided by the Hanover-Caroline County Soil and Water District, Didlac has collaborated with other organizations to increase his influence. Through Rappahanak’s friends, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Chesapeake Bay National Estuary Preserve, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the Virginia Department of Resource Management, she expanded the significant educational experience of her students by including paddles on Rappahanak. River, water quality testing, tree planting projects and interdisciplinary professional development for her fellow teachers. Didlak also self-founded an after-school environmental club that is part of the Dominion Energy Envirothon team.

Didlake is an adaptable and sympathetic teacher. She spent many hours exploring the forests and streams surrounding high school to gain opportunities for outdoor learning. She creates lessons and hands-on experiences that are inclusive and engaging, expanding the scope of environmental literacy in Caroline and managing historically underrepresented populations to fall in love with them and become stewards of their watershed.

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