Audubon Rockies Educator Receives Prestigious National Award

Jul 29, 2015 | Member News

Jacelyn Downey, Senior Regional Community Naturalist & Education Programs Manager for the National Audubon Society, was honored with the Tamar Chotzen Audubon Educator of the Year Award. This award is given to one Audubon educator each year, whose primary responsibility is connecting people to nature through on-the-ground education. The award was presented during the bi-annual Audubon Convention, which was held in Leesburg, Virginia this past weekend.

Downey was recognized for her development of a new concept of conservation education, based on the model of place-based learning. Audubon Rockies’ unique Community Naturalist Program has educators developing education resources and traveling to classrooms and communities, providing in-class and field experiences that focus on local wildlife and habitats.

“Here in the Rockies we are fortunate to be surrounded by truly amazing landscapes and unique wildlife. Why should our kids learn about the rainforest when they could be learning about our own riparian areas and sagebrush ecosystem?” asked Downey. “It means more when you can go outside and experience it for yourself.”

The program has made a difference throughout Wyoming and Colorado, where more than 12,000 school children and adults have attended hands-on education activities. In addition, Downey has developed and instituted a unique Teacher Training Program that provides credit for Professional Teaching Standards Board (PTSB), college credit and Continuing Education Units, enabling teachers to grow professionally. Along the way she has built relationships with not only teachers, but principals, community groups, other NGOs, state and federal agencies and Audubon’s chapter members.

Jodi Feck, long-time elementary school teacher in Sheridan WY, was excited to hear of Downey’s recognition. “I have had her coming to my classroom for about nine years now. She always does an amazing job of bringing enthusiasm to first grades with hands-on science activities. The kids talk about her lessons long after she is gone, which is saying a lot.”

This comes after a series of local and national awards:

  • Outstanding Service to Environmental Education by an Organization at the Local Level, awarded by the North American Association for Environmental Education (2011)
  • Environmental Educator of the Year (2011 Honoree) by Project Learning Tree, award-winning national environmental education program for teachers and other educators
  • Recognized as an Education Hero by Wyoming State Parks (2010 and 2011)

Audubon Rockies is a regional office of The National Audubon Society, with dedicated staff work in Wyoming and Colorado. The National Audubon Society works to protect birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at

CONTACT: Alison Holloran, Executive Director, 970-416-6931, [email protected]