Stuart finds future in environmental education

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After growing up the daughter of a military father in Georgia and studying geography in college, Jessica Watkins Stuart experienced life at a nonprofit that launched a career in education. Stuart, 29, came to Colorado College in 2012 to further her education and be closer to her now-husband Tyler. During the second year of a graduate program, she received an internship at the Catamount Institute in Colorado Springs that she has since parlayed into a career. Now working as the nonprofit’s education program coordinator, Stuart finds passion in teaching students about environmental science. Stuart spoke to the Business Journal this week about her love of education and the outdoors.

Tell us a bit about your background.

My dad was in the military and we spent a lot of time traveling when I was young, but I call Savannah, Ga., home. After I graduated from high school, I went to the University of Georgia. After I graduated from there, I sort of jumped into environmental sciences and ecological studies, did some internships and took an opportunity to work temporarily in Wyoming, which is what brought me West for the first time. … After that I took on some random environmental education positions in Georgia, Nevada and Costa Rica. That’s when I decided that teaching was something I really enjoyed.

How did you end up in Colorado?

I decided that I love teaching and it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I struggled with the decision of what I was going to do to enhance my skill set. I ultimately decided to get my master’s degree, which is what brought me here. I went to Colorado College for the Master of Arts in Teaching program and focused on secondary science education. I also decided to come here to be closer to my now-husband Tyler, who is from Manitou Springs.

How did you begin working for the Catamount?

I had a spring internship at Catamount and then they had a job opening that I applied for.

It’s an opportunity that allows me to spend time outside and be able to share the importance of that with youth, which is awesome.

Tell us about your role with the organization and what that entails.

My position is E3 program coordinator. E3 stands for “elevate environmental education,” which is a school-day program we have right now with kindergarten to fifth-grade students in the Woodland Park school district. It’s neat, because with that program I’m helping with the coordination and development of the curriculum and communications with the administration. … I feel like we all get to wear so many different hats at different times, and that has been fun for me.

Do you enjoy Colorado Springs?

I think Colorado Springs has really grown on me and I really find that there is a lot for me to do here. One of the things I really enjoy is being outside, and there are so many great public spaces and parks here for that. I also think there is a great network of young people here, and I think there is a lot going on in terms of opportunities for people our age.

What are your personal and/or professional goals?

I really do love what I do at Catamount Institute and the field of environmental education. I believe each of us are stewards of the environment and that it is our job to take care of our natural resources. So I see myself continuing to work in environmental education in one way or another. Who knows what that looks like at this point?

Do you have a personal mission statement?

I think it’s just to keep tripping forward. I think it is hard to grow up until you experience a certain amount of failures and realize that life goes on.