John Dillon, a teacher at Minden High School in Webster Parish, has been honored as the 2022 Conservation Educator of the Year by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation. Dillon’s achievements in natural resources conservation were recognized during the 57th State Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet held in Baton Rouge on Friday, June 9.
Dillon, who serves as the immediate past president of the Louisiana Ornithological Society, has demonstrated a commitment to conservation education throughout his career. As an American and British Literature teacher, he has successfully ignited the interest of his students in the outdoors by establishing the Minden High School Nature Club. The club’s primary objective is to promote nature conservation and appreciation among the students, engaging them in various field trips and outdoor experiences without interrupting regular school days.
One notable excursion organized by Dillon for the Nature Club involved a trip to coastal southwestern Louisiana, where he and the students joined the Louisiana Audubon Society’s Black Rail Program team. Together, they embarked on a quest to locate and study the elusive and endangered black rail species. This effort was featured in the 50th-anniversary edition of the American Birding Association’s magazine “Birding” in an article titled “Saving Rails, Serving Kids: How a High School Nature Club in Louisiana is Making the Next Generation of Conservationists.”
Dillon’s dedication to conservation extends beyond the classroom. He has led numerous groups on field trips to deepen their understanding of cryptic birds, serves as a regional reviewer for Cornell University’s eBird database, and contributes monthly to KTAL-TV’s website feature, “Bird of the Month.”
Rebecca Triche, Executive Director of the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, said, “John Dillon’s commitment to conservation education is helping introduce the outdoors to not only high school students but also to the general public. With his innovative approaches and hands-on experiences, he is inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards.”
The Conservation Educator of the Year award is bestowed upon individuals who demonstrate outstanding performance in conservation education, whether as professionals or volunteers. The category encompasses instructors of hunter safety and outdoor ethics, teachers of natural sciences, fish and wildlife management, environmental design and management, and various aspects of environmental education. Emphasis is placed on teaching and engaging students or the public, rather than on research or administration.
LWF also acknowledged other conservation recipients at the event, including:
Charles Allen, Ph.D., of Pitkin – Conservationist of the Year
Lisa Lewis of Pineville – Professional Conservationist of the Year
Jane Patterson of Ponchatoula – Volunteer Conservationist of the Year
Jerome “Zee” Zeringue of Houma – Elected Official Conservationist of the Year
Kelby Ouchley of Rocky Branch – Conservation Communicator of the Year
Acadiana Native Plant Project – Conservation Organization of the Year
These awards, represented by unique wildlife statuettes, were jointly presented by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation. LWF also recognized the 2019 award recipients at the banquet. Winners from 2019 include:
Ryan Lambert, Volunteer Conservationist of the Year; Wendy Rihner, Conservation Educator of the Year; Giant Salvinia Control Patrol, Conservation Organization of the Year; Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Archery in Louisiana Schools (ALAS) Program, Youth Conservation Organization of the Year; Eric Vanbergen, Youth Conservationist of the Year; Emma Reid, Conservation Communicator of the Year; and Edison Chouest Offshore, Corporate Conservationist of the Year.
Established in 1940, Louisiana Wildlife Federation is a statewide nonprofit organization that represents 19 affiliate organizations and more than 8,000 members dedicated to the conservation of Louisiana’s wildlife and natural resources. Louisiana Wildlife Federation is an affiliate of National Wildlife Federation and together forms a powerful network for conservation locally and nationally.