ST. LOUIS – Rend Lake Natural Resource Specialist Dawn Kovarik has become the first employee in the Corps of Engineers to be selected Non-Formal Educator of the Year for 2015 by the Environmental Education Association of Illinois.
The association cited Kovarik’s outstanding commitment to environmental education to the public who visit Rend Lake in Illinois, one of five lakes in the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The award is presented to professional and volunteer educators who teach in non-school settings and exhibit innovative and exemplary effort in providing environmental education opportunities for general audiences.
Kovarik has worked in the Interpretive Services and Outreach Program for the Corps at Rend Lake for over 30 years. She has performed thousands of programs for people of all ages. Most of her programs focus on the importance of environmental education, as well as why water projects are necessary and how to be safe while in and around the water.
“I came to realize early in my career that no matter what your responsibilities are, you are teaching people in some way,” Kovarik said. “My hope is that I am teaching them productive messages that they can build on later in life.”
Kovarik has partnered with more than 20 schools for over 10 years to have Corps employees visit each spring with ‘Seamoor the Water Safety Serpent’ to teach kids the wonders and dangers of water. Her educational impact on visitors is long-lasting.
“I am proud when I see a student in a location away from my workplace, and they walk up to me and say, ‘I remember when you taught us about ...’” said Kovarik.
Good memories of a sound message are Kovarik’s goal. “I give them information about how to make good decisions about what they do in and around the water,” she said. “Hopefully if they are ever put in a water-related situation, something that I said during the water safety program will automatically come back to them.”
The team at Rend Lake takes pride in Kovarik’s award, recognizing her contributions to making Rend Lake one of the most popular lakes to visit across the Corps. Rend Lake ranks sixteenth among all 228 Corps-operated lakes in the nation for largest fees collection, based on 2014 figures.
“Dawn’s passion for providing interpretive opportunities and educating people of all ages on the environment and safety is evident in the numerous programs that she has worked hard to develop and present for the enjoyment of the public,” said Kevin Curran, operations manager at Rend Lake. “I can't think of a more deserving recipient of this prestigious award than Dawn.”
The Environmental Education Association of Illinois has as its mission to maintain a network that supports and advances quality environmental education throughout Illinois. This is the tenth presentation of the Non-Formal Educator of the Year award.
Release no. 15-021