February 1, 2011—Michelle Eckman, Education Manager at the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center in San Antonio, was honored with the Tamar Chotzen Audubon Educator of the Year award during a meeting of the National Audubon Society Board of Directors at Audubon’s Corkscrew Sanctuary in Naples, Florida, January 29. The prestigious award, named for a pioneering Audubon education leader, has been bestowed annually since 2006. It recognizes outstanding commitment, professionalism and accomplishment in Audubon conservation education.
“In four short years, Michelle Eckman has expanded the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center’s fledgling environmental education program into a vital community resource,” said Judy Braus, Senior Vice President for Education and Centers, Audubon, who presented Eckman with the award. “By helping children, families and others in San Antonio connect with birds, wildlife, and nature, Michelle is enriching lives and planting the seeds of future environmental stewardship. She exemplifies Audubon’s commitment to bringing nature and conservation education within reach of people of all ages and backgrounds, whether on the plains of Nebraska or in urban areas like San Antonio.”
By recruiting and leading a network of more than 15 dedicated Volunteer Educators, Eckman has been able to introduce over 5,000 students a year to the region’s diverse wildlife and ecosystem.
“The future health of our natural world depends on our nation’s youth to be educated about and inspired to protect nature,” said Eckman. “Some of the country’s most incredible natural wonders can be found right here in San Antonio, and that makes my job much easier. I strive to make sure that everyone who comes to the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center first of all has fun – and that they realize taking care of nature means taking care of themselves and their future. Ultimately, my goal is that their connection to nature that begins here grows into a lifelong commitment to conservation.”
“Michelle brings creativity and passion to her work that elevates it far above the norm,” says Susan Albert, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center Director. “She is able to convey a sense of wonder, as well as important science concepts into the educational experience. Further, her understanding of the community’s needs has helped her forge crucial relationships with local schools, teachers, and administrators.”
Just south of downtown San Antonio and founded in October of 2004 with the help of the San Antonio Water System, the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center is located on a 1200-acre natural area. Currently in the preliminary stages of an Important Bird Area designation, this unique and beautiful bird haven consists of the 600-acre Mitchell Lake, 215 acres of wetlands and ponds and 385 acres of upland habitat. The Center hosts 10,000 visitors annually.