A Gahanna Middle School West sixth-grade science teacher has been recognized as the 2018 Environmental Educator of the Year.

Najib Kamagate received the honor from the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District for his dedication to providing a supportive learning environment for his students.

Linda Pettit, the conservation district's environmental education specialist, said Kamagate was recognized because he has worked with the Franklin County Soil and Water education team the past two years. She said the team was impressed with his engagement of and his good rapport with his classes, and the general attitude of caring he conveyed.

"Mr. Kamagate is also currently working with our education team to schedule a field trip to Highbanks Metro Park in the spring that we are looking forward to being a part of," Pettit said. "His goal for this field trip is to enhance the learning by providing the opportunity for his students to see and experience firsthand the concepts described in their geology unit."

Kamagate said he was surprised to receive the award on Sept. 27, during the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District's 72nd annual meeting at its Columbus office.

"Working with my students and fellow teachers is gratifying in itself, so being recognized by Franklin Soil and Water was extra special," Kamagate said. "Receiving this award speaks volumes about the entire sixth-grade science team in Gahanna. Everyone has worked hard to create a supportive learning environment that connects students to the world they live in."

For the past two years, Kamagate said, the Gahanna team has worked closely with Pettit and Katie Phillips from Franklin Soil and Water to expand on soil and conservation lessons.

"They bring interactive materials, such as local soil samples, to Middle School West, East and South," he said. "This allows the students to fully experience the content. I really value their environmental expertise."

Kamagate said it's important for students to see and interact with professionals in their specific science fields.

Gahanna West Principal Aaron Winner said Kamagate is very deserving of the award.

"He always puts students first and is constantly looking for ways to provide interactive, real-life activities that provide high-quality learning experiences for our students," he said. "He is highly respected by our students and staff, and I look forward to all that Mr. Kamagate will continue to accomplish in his professional career."

The Educator of the Year Award is presented to either a formal or non-formal educator whose willingness to go the extra mile helps students appreciate nature and understand environmental interactions, according to Kristin Hilson, marketing and public outreach coordinator.