Chicago Public School Teacher Pat Jonikaitis is one of 25 educators across the nation to receive the Ambassador of Education Award, honored for getting her students excited about learning how to save the environment. The award also earns her school, the Kate S. Kellogg Elementary School in Beverly, a $5,000 grant from the MetLife Foundation.
"When she is not at school you can find her serving dinner to the homeless, teaching youngsters how to swim, picking up the trash along the beaches of Lake Michigan, cleaning up a neighborhood forest preserve of invasive plants, walking in the Breast Cancer Awareness walk or just helping an elderly neighbor," one parent wrote of Jonikaitis.
Her students helped design, plant and tend the school’s community gardens.
"I can attest to how she has taken an ordinary city block campus and transformed it into an urban oasis. Her school garden has become a model for all the other schools in the area," wrote a colleague.
“We value the hard work and commitment of teachers like Pat Jonikaitis who exemplify dedication in the classroom and, obviously, to the community,” said CPS Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman. "We congratulate Pat on the recognition she has earned.”"
At the school, her seventh grade students are composting, building earth boxes, and they have started an outdoor environmental club where they are exchanging recipes using vegetables grown in the school’s community garden.