EcoRise Teacher Ambassador Denise Ortiz

Currently Teaching: Grade 11 and 12 AP Environmental Science and Aquatic Science at New Braunfels High School in New Braunfels, Texas

EcoRise Teacher Since: 2016

Eco-Audit Grant Recipient: While dissecting albatross boluses during the 2016–17 school year, Denise’s students were stunned to find plastic waste among what the sea birds were consuming. From their 27 submitted applications for grants, they received $1,335.87 to fund their campus’ plastic waste reduction system and recycled art shows.

But Denise doesn’t just teach environmental science at a high school level—she’s a launchpad for her students’ pursuit of science as a career, and holds her expectations high. Last year, Denise organized a powerful seminar for her school’s science classes with Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a developmental endocrinologist from UC Berkeley. In collaboration with Texas State University, Dr. Hayes shared his adventures in biology—from his findings on the effects of atrazine in leopard frogs, to his work as a National Geographic researcher—with Denise’s students.

Denise was recently appointed to be a member of the Advanced Placement Environmental Science Testing Development Committee. She is a table leader for the scoring of free response questions for the AP Exam. She’ll be presenting on behalf of the College Board at the July 2018 AP Annual Conference in Houston, Texas, where she recently presented at the November 2017 CAST conference on her experiences with EcoRise classroom implementation, alongside EcoRise Program Director Abby Randall.

Advice to EcoRise Teachers: “I would encourage EcoRise teachers to modify lessons, questionnaires, and Eco-Audits to suit their needs. The EcoRise program is very flexible and the staff are willing to provide any assistance necessary to provide students with the best pathway to fit their problem-solving needs. Most importantly, enjoy the launching of your students’ solution to promoting sustainability for their campus, and watch them take a different approach to learning.”

Her Favorite EcoRise Lessons: “My students really enjoyed the Ideatoon activity [from Design Studio] because it really helped them visualize how they would approach implementing their sustainable solution. Very often students don’t think to provide specific details that administrators or stakeholders may ask. The Ideatoon activity helped them think through the details to better prepare them for approaching the administrators and stakeholders involved. Secondly, the Eco-Audits [Sustainable Intelligence] are definitely the most eye-opening for students. I feel my students gained ownership of their problem-solution making process when they conveyed their findings to staff.”