Nilson selected as finalist for PA Teacher of the Year

Mrs. Abbey Nilson

Mrs. Abbey Nilson

Julia Barbati

Shaler Area sustainability teacher Mrs. Abbey Nilson was recently nominated for 2023 PA teacher of the year. Unsurprisingly, with Nilson’s passion and hard work, she has made it to the final round of the competition, being one out of twelve finalists. Initially she was shocked about the news, but is very appreciative of her nomination and this opportunity.

“I feel so honored to be nominated and to reach this point. I never would have expected this, but I’m so grateful,” she said. “This process has pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to grow as a person and as an educator.”

She gives most of her credit to her students as they have shown their enthusiasm and have helped advocate for sustainability. With the passion from her students, she has been able to create opportunities to support the community and take steps to help the environment.

“I am so proud of the students. They have done amazing thing, such as advocating for the protection of Girty’s Woods and becoming accomplished botanists with all of the plants we grow,” she said. “They have applied for and received grants to help fund projects right here in our community such as a new green playground and solar panels for a community building.”

Nilson continues to prove why she deserves to be a finalist by continuing to plan for the future of her class and the environment. Her sustainability class this year has truly accomplished a lot and Nilson is proud of the efforts that have been made.

“Students just worked on a big native species project for the Allegheny Land Trust. They identified and located over 50 native species that hadn’t been identified in Girty’s Woods before. Knowing which native species exist on the property allows the Allegheny Land Trust to properly manage and care for the land. Students will continue to work on this identification project in future years as well. We have recently adopted a street tree in Millvale and have plans to adopt another one,” Nilson said.

Nilson has created many opportunities for her students to protect the planet and through this she is able to share the love for sustainability that she has always had. She plans to continue to give hands-on experiences and take action into saving the environment.

“Sustainability and environmental advocacy are things that have been part of my life for a long time. I’ve always been a plant-based composting nerd.  Before the Sustainability class was developed, I would try to weave environmental topics in with my biology and earth science classes. When the opportunity arose to teach a whole class dedicated to this topic, I was so excited! I’m absolutely thrilled to teach a class with a primary focus of protecting our planet and doing environmental work with students in our community,” she said.