Jessica McCarthy was nominated by an anonymous colleague.
"I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Mrs. McCarthy for a little over a decade," said the nominator. "Her passion and dedication to the profession is unmatched. She returns each school year with a new drive and energy to engage our school’s youngest learners by seeking innovative ways to make learning matter."
A few years ago, Mrs. McCarthy launched a school-wide endeavor known as an outdoor classroom. She brought her architectural talents and dreams of building a place where students could embrace learning in a natural environment: the outdoors. This idea was well-received by the community, and Mrs. McCarthy immediately took action. She sought out resources both within and outside of the community to make this dream come to fruition. She enlisted the help of students, teachers, families, local businesses, administrators, and district personnel. The outdoor classroom enhances and adds to the limited scope of activities confined within physical classrooms by providing hands-on experiences, physical activity, social-emotional growth through peer interaction, and multifaceted approaches to cognitive development that connect children to nature and maximize their learning outcomes.
Mrs. McCarthy has not only transformed the quality of learning experiences for all children, but set the stage for healthy habits. Mrs McCarthy continues to seek ways to grow the outdoor classroom by attending national conferences and providing turn-key professional development opportunities. Most recently, she founded the school's Earth Club when a group of students showed interest in making a difference in the world. She facilitates monthly meetings that allow members of the club to collaborate and engineer solutions to many of the pressing issues facing the environment. Notably, the club partnered with a local organization called "Green United Building" to assess her school's energy use and give recommendations on how to better conserve energy.
"She is an absolute inspiration to the learning community, and she's more than deserving of this honor," said the nominator.