Alum Honored for Taking Education Outdoors
June 17, 2016
When Trevor Hance of Austin decided to uproot his life as an attorney to become an elementary schoolteacher, he turned to Angelo State for the tools he needed to make the transition.
Those tools proved effective as the fifth-grade teacher and outdoor learning specialist at Laurel Mountain Elementary in Round Rock has received a 2016 Texas Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He was honored for creating and directing an outdoor student program called The Legacy Project.
“It’s humbling to be provided with this platform,” Hance said, “but it’s also affirming that this work makes a difference and that we’re on the right path.”
“The school is geographically in an amazing space, next to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in Austin,” he added. “A teacher who had been here for a number of years had done some work in the buffer space between the school and the preserve.”
The Legacy Project allows Laurel Mountain’s 150 fifth-graders to expand on the work of previous students. They select a project that interests them, which helps create a sense of ownership and a desire to learn. Hance then uses their projects to help them develop math, science and social studies skills.
“I grew up outdoors in Louisiana and Texas and I wanted to give that experience back to the students, to give them a sense of the connection between that wild space and the classroom.”
A recent project called The Bike Shop had the students refurbishing and donating bicycles. Along the way, they calculated the emission savings from riding a bicycle over riding in a car. Other projects have included a rainwater-harvesting collection system and wildlife research.
“I grew up outdoors in Louisiana and Texas,” Hance said, “and I wanted to give that experience back to the students, to give them a sense of the connection between that wild space and the classroom.”
For Laurel Mountain Principal Jan Richards, the Texas Environmental Excellence Award is a well-deserved recognition of Hance’s work.
“Through their outdoor learning experiences, students develop an understanding and attachment to the space in which they live,” she said. “You see their eyes light up and the smiles on their faces—and those tell you powerful and meaningful learning is happening.”
Hance, who had earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and a juris doctorate from South Texas College of Law, decided to pursue his youthful ambition to teach children after marrying his wife, Diane, a librarian.
“My work as an attorney was busy and required a lot of travel,” he said, “so to get on a family schedule, my wife encouraged me to follow this dream.”
To get the training and credentials he needed, he chose ASU’s online Master of Arts in curriculum and instruction program.
“The online platform allowed me to maintain my family life and to do substitute teaching and probationary teaching in the district where I wanted to work,” Hance said. “I consider ASU a big part of my journey, and I’m very grateful for the good work that the university does and the foundation and opportunities it has provided me.”
He started working at Round Rock ISD’s Laurel Mountain Elementary in 2011 and earned his ASU master’s degree in 2012. He is currently completing a principal’s certification at ASU but is still enjoying being a teacher.
“I don’t really have a desire to leave the classroom at this moment,” he said. “When this opportunity opened up, it was really the right fit for me.”