Amherst Junction, Wisconsin
M.S.: Education with Experiential / Holistic / Environmental emphasis (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)
Teacher Certification Program (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)
B.S.: Biology (Northland College, Ashland, WI; Minor in Outdoor Education)
Victor Akemann, with a 27- year career at Stevens Point Area Public School District (SPASH), has been teaching and developing innovative programs in environmental and biological sciences with an emphasis in outdoor education and ecological literacy. The critical importance of connecting students with the natural world is not a new concept for Vic. He has been in the field long enough to remember historical events of leading pioneers in the field when the term “sustainability” in the late '80s was formally defined. His professional reaction to sustainability and enacting change through education began in the late '80s when he worked as a marine biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Subsequently, he served as an education program developer for wolf recovery efforts in Wisconsin at the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute (SOEI), in Ashland, Wisconsin; and hosted and produced the nationally syndicated National Public Radio monthly environmental news radio program “Listening Points.” For 12 years, Vic honed a love for and saw the connection of communication through commercial and public radio as a form of education.
Keeping on the tradition of innovation in education, in 1992, he collaborated on the development of the first public charter school in Wisconsin at SPASH, along with programs for at-risk youth to include a district-wide Adventure Based Program. During this time, one of the seminal experiences was an 18-day place-based, experiential learning and ecological sciences trip called, “SPASH Summer Field Studies.” This annual program spanning 17 years, co-created and taught with Tim Corcoran (UWSP faculty), took students through Wisconsin from glacial pathways, to river headwaters, into the Lake Michigan watershed, and to the drift less regions – backpacking, climbing, canoeing, water studies, geology, ecology, caving, hiking, sailing, soloing. Answering the call for sustainability education in K-12 schooling, in 2002, Vic developed and led the first dedicated “Education for Sustainable Development” charter high school program in the nation.
Vic, honored to connect with students in innovative ways, has proven honors in teaching and leadership through earning numerous prestigious awards over the decades. Some of the awards include the “Excellence in Science Teaching Award” from the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers, the Izaak Walton League Bill Cook Chapter “Conservationist of the Year Award” for his 21-year “Save Our Streams: Little Plover River Project,” from Lawrence University the “Wisconsin Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award,” the “Herb Kohl Educational Foundation Fellowship Award,” from the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences, the “Outstanding Science Teacher of the Year Award” and from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point Biology Department, the “2001 Biology Teacher of the Year Award.”
In his own backyard of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Vic is thrilled to formally explore educational sustainability at UWSP, and connect all that he has practiced and awaits putting it into theory. In his doctoral studies, he plans to study ecological literacy and sustainability and study what has been done and how he can contribute to the advancement of the connection to learning as a unified theory of sustainability – a way to live and be in the world.
An autobiographical account of his journey was recently (2013) chronicled in the book "Letters to Michael: Reflections on Life by Students of Michael Frome..." -- the chapter is called "Connections." Vic, himself, can be found living and being in the world on his beautiful glacially erratic land east of Stevens Point outside of Amherst Junction, Wisconsin. His wife Beth, and four sons Forrest, River, Nico, Leif, dog Marley and cat Igamoo sustain each other through love, exploring, travel, running, food, land, water and love of our Earth.
Michael Aprill has always been interested in our connection with nature, but through a series of events, he gradually became more and more intrigued by climate change - most notable with his work with sea turtles. While completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP), Michael spent time in Costa Rica and Hawaii where he studied sea turtle depredation, making recommendations for sustainable education initiatives including research on predator control that he presented at the 14th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. In 1998, his research on safe, effective, and humane forms of field euthanasia was published to assist educating National Park Service (NPS) staff. Each night he stepped onto the beach, it would be reshaped by the weather. Michael saw first-hand, the effects of severe weather events and the fact that a species could potentially go extinct from one climate related event. Ever since this seminal moment in his life, he has been studying and working in the field of science and climate education with a focus on how human impact changes the physical world. More significant to this complex, “wicked” problem emerged when he became critically conscious to how much climate change is a social justice problem, affecting people everywhere, including his hometown of Plymouth and the city of Sheboygan where he has taught the last two years.
Michael is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) that has been teaching earth science courses for 17 years – integrating climate education along the way. He has spent thirteen years as adjunct faculty at Lakeshore Technical College (LTC). In the rural school District of Random Lake, he devoted his time to transforming the students, school, and community into an eco-friendly environment. He obtained grants, lead the district’s energy committee, and secured a 50-kilowatt wind turbine. He organized a recycling program that educated students on climate change and kept over 20,000 items out of landfills. He coordinated several fairs in which his students presented interactive projects illustrating the connections of green living and health/wellness. It is his calling to enact change in the world one student at a time and through engaged citizenry.
In a program coordinated with the Global Environmental Teachers (GET) and the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education program (WCEE), Michael traveled to Taiwan to educate teachers of Taiwan about energy education. In 2011, he was named “Formal Energy Educator of the Year” by the K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) at UWSP. In 2013, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) named him one of Wisconsin’s educators of the year.
Michael plans to focus his Educational Sustainability doctoral studies through leadership and education in climate change, climate change policy, and on marginalized populations. The "wicked" problem of climate change must be addressed locally to solve globally. In 2016, after observing a huge housing shortage, he and his spouse started a company that now focuses on helping revitalize the city of Sheboygan and helps marginalized families obtain affordable housing that is sustainable and efficient. He realizes social justice and climate change are inextricably linked. His ultimate goal is to help students, families, and communities become resilient to climate related events and to foster active citizenry for all people.