Sauk Prairie teacher wins national award for eco-education program

Jenna McCann is one of only 12 teachers to receive the 'Harmony Hero' award

MERRIMAC, Wis.– A lot of people think teaching is something that happens inside a classroom. But Jenna McCann knows some of the most important lessons happen outside.

“It’s hard for kids, especially elementary students, to grab onto that concept of ‘Let’s save the oceans,'” McCann told News 3 Now. “But we can do something right here in our corner of the world, like growing milkweed. Because no milkweed, no monarchs.”

McCann runs the eco-education program at Merrimac Community School and uses butterflies to show her second grade students: You’re never too small to make a difference.

“We do all the same reading and math lessons everyone else does, but I’ve found that teaching kids they can have a positive impact on the environment right where they live is also really important,” McCann explained.

And so, the Wisconsin teacher has committed more than two decades in education to getting her students outside and connected to nature.

Now, she’s receiving national recognition.

McCann recently earned the National Harmony Hero Award, an honor given to just 12 teachers in the country every year. While the educator says she’s flattered to be among the very best, she remains focused on the little things: monarchs and the young minds she’s molding.

“Monarchs only have one generation,” she said. “They’re counting on that next generation to survive and migrate and I think it’s the same for us. I’m counting on the next generation to take this passion, to take this knowledge, and bring it into the future.”

In addition to receiving national recognition, McCann will also receive a line of new, sustainable products for her students to use during future eco-education lessons.

The Harmony Hero Award Program is part of EarthKind’s 2021 Year of the Monarch national initiative. Click here to learn more about the honor and the 12 teachers who received it.