Highlights from the 22-23 Teacher Leadership Institute for Sustainability (TLIS)

We are excited to share impacts from the first year of our Teacher Leadership Institute for Sustainability (TLIS) and look ahead to 2023-24.


Purpose: The Teacher Leadership Institute for Sustainability (TLIS) builds the capacity of TK-12th grade teachers to integrate environmental sustainability, outdoor learning, and student-driven environmental action projects into their core curriculum. The program is building a countywide network of Teacher Leaders with a shared vision for environmental literacy and sustainability education that represents schools in every one of our county’s 10 school districts, a strategic choice that is part of a plan to ensure that inspiring, student-centered environmental action experiences will reach all students in Santa Cruz County.

2022-2023 TLIS Impacts:

  • 39 teachers represented grades TK-12th in the inaugural 22-23 cohort
  • Over 1400 students engaged in environmental action projects
  • Produced 39 TK – 12 Green Classroom Profiles now shared at https://teacherleadershipinstitute.santacruzcoe.org/
  • Content areas integrated during implementation of action projects included:
    • Multiple Subject elementary
    • Science
    • English
    • English Language Development
    • Health
    • Library Media
    • Technology
    • Special Education


Student impact highlights:

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can make a BIG change!” 2nd grade student

“I had no idea we could create something that would do so much good in our community.” – 4th grade student

“We’re the ones making the food forest that is going to directly benefit us and serve our community.” High School Student

“Spending time outside has really helped my mental health.” High School Student

Teacher Impact highlights:

“My highlight was definitely seeing the engagement and focus of the students significantly increase as we transitioned from energy investigations to applying what we learned to the project of creating an alternative energy plan for our campus.”

“This program gave me what I have been looking for in the field of sustainability, a way to give students hope and empower them to make change. I felt in the past I was the teacher of doom and gloom with no real empowering solutions that students can be inspired by to make real change in small and big ways. I also feel more confident in reaching out to non profits and other teachers for support and ideas to help make my curriculum more engaging and increase the hands-on action we can create within our lessons and our schools.”

“I feel inspired! This has helped me feel more resolved to focus on change-making and action in classroom projects, as well as make more connections between the classroom and greater community.”

“I was amazed by the enthusiasm and commitment by students and staff to engage in proposed sustainable projects. The goal of having projects student lead and manage has created agency and purpose. And, hopefully, a new culture in the classroom, at school, and in their home.”