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Ernie Miller Nature Center park naturalist garners two awards
POSTED: 02/29/2008
This spring, Park Naturalist Andrea Johnson of the Ernie Miller Nature Center is the recipient of two different awards recognizing her as an outstanding young professional in the interpretive field.

The awards include the Rising Star Award from the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE), and the National Association for Interpretation's (NAI) Region Six Richard Baldauf Award/Outstanding new Interpreter.

"Andrea is exceptional," said Outdoor Education Manager Bill McGowan. "I say that because she's well-versed in all the operations we do. The other thing is she's shown leadership. She's truly deserving."

The KACEE honor will be presented on April 4 at Topeka's Kansas History Museum. The award recognizes outstanding individuals who are relatively new to environmental education but are already making an impact. The NAI's Baldauf award was presented in Tulsa on Feb. 23 during a regional NAI workshop and recognizes individuals who have been in the field no more than five years.

Johnson is the first person from the District to receive any award from KACEE. Former Naturalist Mary Gillespie previously received the NAI's Baldauf award in 1993.

Andrea was nominated for both awards by Senior Park Naturalist Molly Postlewait.

"Andrea is an amazing individual who inspires many of us on a daily basis," Postlewait wrote. "She is truly a rising star in the field of interpretation and environmental education. She understands the full range of the profession and the impact on our youth to be educated and inspired. She is a role model and a mentor to literally thousands who visit our park and participate in the many programs."

Postlewait points out that Johnson can present 26 different interpretive programs ranging from living history to environmental education. She is a certified challenge course facilitator, a summer camp director, and oversees the operations of Ernie Miller Nature Center's Nature's Corner Gift Shop.

"She is a true utility player and can handle any program or assignment within the nature center," Postlewait writes. "Within these responsibilities, she is always mindful of the importance of environmental education."

She has also attended training at NAI regional conferences, became a Certified Interpretive Trainer (CIT), and in turn has trained others for the NAI's Certified Interpretive Guide (CIG) program.

"This is a critical function as our park police officers also present interpretive programs," Postlewait wrote. "The training Andrea provides helps better prepare them for these duties."

For the past four years, Johnson has also been involved with the Kansas City Metro Interpretive Site Coalition, which plans and presents the annual Passport to Adventure event, which the nature center is part of. Andrea is currently the group's president and previously served as secretary.

She has been part of efforts to design new exhibits for the nature center and serves as editor of the center's quarterly newsletter, "Tracks." She was the Park Safety and Interpretation Division's Employee of the Year in 2006 and is among the inaugural class of the District's Quest for Excellence for Leaders program going on now to train potential future leaders.

Johnson has worked for the District since late January 2003. She previously worked for Bridging the Gap and as an education specialist at Powell Gardens. She holds a degree in biology with an emphasis on environmental issues from Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville.

The Ernie Miller Nature Center is owned and operated by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District and is located at 909 North Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe.

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