Heath Keirstead Awarded 2014 OCEAN Employee of Year

by Jason Faucera

OCEAN Employee of the Year Award

OCEAN Employee of the Year Award

Every year OCEAN’s awards committee gets together to read through nominations for Employee of the Year, and every year the difficulty lies in only being able to choose one recipient. Applications this year were fantastic, but Heath Keirstead from Benton SWCD in Corvallis earned this year’s award. Her commitment to furthering the cause of conservation in Benton County is commendable, and we are honored to have her represent district employees throughout the state as OCEAN’s Employee of the Year.

Her are a few accomplishments and words of praise by her peers at Benton SWCD:

“Heath Keirstead’s driving persistence and devotion to excellence has raised the bar for education and outreach at Benton SWCD”

As a trained Master Recycler, Heath has been active on the Oregon Green Schools Association Board for several years. She provides hands-on educational activities during the Oregon Green Schools Summit and was instrumental in securing stable funding for the group, improving the organization’s policies and procedures and supporting the network of regional coordinators that work directly with the schools.

Heath works year-round with local schools and watershed councils to deliver hands-on activities and field studies to children of both urban and rural Benton County communities. Each year, she recruits and trains volunteers who join her to teach thousands of K-12 students about natural resources during events that include: 4-H Wildlife Stewards Summit, Oregon Green School Summit, National Get Outside Day (focused on underserved audiences and first time visitors to the Forest), Forest Camp, Outdoor School and Spring Field Day.

With a special interest in the delivery of conservation education to underserved communities, Heath adapted her adult Weed Spotters course to create the Teen Weed Spotters program in small rural towns in Benton County.

Since 2012, Heath has worked with 4-H faculty and a local Environmental Science teacher to develop and deliver an invasive-based curriculum to 16-24 students in grades 10-12 each year. During classroom lectures and field trips the students are immersed in an integrated study that includes plant identification, invasive awareness, GPS and mapping, soil health, community service and weed pulls. Students provide public outreach by creating brochures, educational displays and public presentations as well as delivering original educational activities to over 400 younger students each spring.

Heath led a successful campaign to advance the BSWCD’s initiative to become a more visible conservation partner in the community, and to expand and strengthen the collaborative projects we’re involved in. She maintains a rigorous schedule for the website’s blog post, The Dirt, and publishes two of our newsletters, the fun-filled news for teachers, Making Ripples for Educators, and Benton SWCD’s electronic issues of Horizons.

“Heath passionately and creatively embodies the mission of the Benton SWCD: To provide leadership to Benton County residents through education and technical assistance for conservation and responsible use and management of soil, water and related resources. She is an exemplary employee and an invaluable member of the BSWCD team.”

Please join us in congratulating Heath for her achievements, and in welcoming her as the 2014 OCEAN Employee of the Year!