Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
Dr. Melinda Wilder
Higher Education Educator of the Year
In 1983, Dr. Wilder began her career in environmental education (EE) as a middle school mathematics and science teacher, where she developed her school’s outdoor classroom and began using the environment as a context for both subjects. Her love of the environment, teaching, and learning led her to obtain her Ph.D. in science education. She began teaching in the College of Education (COE) at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) in 1994 preparing preservice teachers to enter the classroom. Melinda became the Director for the Division of Natural Areas (DNA) at EKU in 2005, continuing as a Professor in the COE. Melinda recently retired from EKU. Throughout her time as the Director of the DNA, Melinda led and oversaw many research projects that have a direct impact on the field of EE.
In 2006, Melinda led the development of an EE endorsement program at EKU accredited by NAAEE. In 2009, Melinda led the effort to get the EE program nationally recognized and accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. Melinda and her colleagues at EKU worked through the rigorous process of accreditation and continue to host one of the nation’s premiere EE endorsement programs.
For the past 10 years, Melinda has partnered with Ecology Project International (EPI). Her work with EPI connected teachers to wildlife biologists to conduct on the ground, real-time research and experimental methods of learning. She has led groups to the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Baja, and Belize. In 2017, during her sabbatical, Melinda lived and worked in Yellowstone for three months helping EPI improve its curriculum and establish a teacher fellowship program.
One of the longest-standing members of the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education, Melinda has worked with KAEE to ensure its continued success and growth. She served on the Board of Directors from 2006 - 2010 and the governance committee from 2015 - 2019. She has been an instructor in the Professional Environmental Educator Certification Course, an NAAEE accredited program, for 13 years. In 2015, Dr. Melinda Wilder was awarded the KAEE Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding commitment and service to EE.