Gary Keehn, Science Teacher, Jackson Heights High School, Holton, KS (PreK-16 Education)

Jackson Heights High School teacher Gary Keehn is no stranger to the world of environmental education. In fact, he’s been involved for several decades. He began his career right out of college, working for a YMCA Outdoor Education Camp where he managed two nature centers, writing, and teaching outdoor education curriculum. For the past 30 years, he has been a dedicated public-school teacher who has brought his passion for environmental education to his classroom. Gary goes above and beyond for his students by teaching them through hands-on learning so they acquire real-life experience in stream and aquatic studies, water chemistry and biotic studies of water quality to manage the streams and ponds on the school property at Jackson Heights.

In his Wildlife Management class, Gary has the students practicing wildlife management skills on the 40 acres of wildlife area that the district acquired over the years. His students conduct studies similar to those conducted by wildlife biologists and then charges his students with making informed decisions about how the wildlife on the property should be managed, giving them real world experiences. Gary also has his students help teach ecology units covering animals, aquatics, and leadership. Again, this gives his students real world experiences which help to not only create a generation with the knowledge and skills to be good stewards in their communities, but also sparks interest in careers in the field.

Beyond his contributions at school, Gary has also taken his passion for environmental education to the community. Extending many of his teaching practices and programs to others, Gary has experience in every facet of environmental education. He’s led guided float trips down rivers in 3 states where he undoubtedly spent some time educating participants on the ecology of the area, provided programming to scout troops and as a certified hunter education instructor, helping the public become more educated on safe, ethical, and responsible hunting practices.

He's a teacher of teachers and through that he has impacted the lives of thousands of students. For over 10 years, he was the lead teacher for the Illinois Rivers Program. There, he helped develop curriculum and was an author on several books to help teachers in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Geography, Math, and Language to help students learn about rivers and streams around the world

Lyndzee Rhine from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks had this to say, “Gary’s positive and happy attitude have been nothing short of a bright light during darker times. He has always cultivated a friendly, welcoming, and safe environment for all his students and strangers alike. He is constantly bringing out the best in people and encouraging them to put their best selves forward. Never would he allow a student to feel marginalized or less cared about than another student. He has established a solid foundation from which students can go forth and build upon.” For Gary’s exhaustive work in environmental education, in and out of his classroom, KACEE is pleased and proud to present the 2022 Award for Excellence in Conservation and Environmental Education to Mr. Gary Keehn.