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Two educators honored at Bays and Bayous

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Dec 11,  2018

The 2018 Alabama-Mississippi Bays and Bayous Symposium took place late last month in Mobile, Alabama. The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program organized and hosted the event that drew about 110 presenters.

About 45 of the presentations at the event received Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant support or participated in Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported programs. The presentations focused on living resources, habitats, oil spill impacts, water quality, resilience and outreach and education. You can see photos from the event on our Flickr page

Student Matthew Virden of Mississippi State University presents his poster on a Sea Grant-supported effort to develop a low-cost pressure gage.
Student Matthew Virden of Mississippi State University presents his poster on a Sea Grant-supported effort to develop a low-cost pressure gage.

 Also at the symposium, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant had the opportunity to recognize two educators with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Excellence Awards. 

MASGC recognized the late Jenny Cook, a longtime educator at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Discovery Hall Programs, for her dedication to environmental education. We also recognized Desireé Bishop, who retired earlier this year as the director of the Mobile County Public School System’s Environmental Studies Center. I would like to share what was said in their honor at the symposium.

Jenny Cook

Jenny passed away last month. She had recently retired as a marine science educator at Dauphin Island Sea Lab's Discovery Hall Programs. 

Jenny was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, and was renown in the marine education community for her Southernisms.

The late Jenny Cook, an educator with Dauphin Island Sea Lab's Discovery Hall Programs, was honored recently at Bays and Bayous. (Photo courtesy of Dauphin Island Sea Lab)
The late Jenny Cook, an educator with Dauphin Island Sea Lab's Discovery Hall Programs, was honored recently at Bays and Bayous. (Photo courtesy of Dauphin Island Sea Lab)

She graduated from the University of South Alabama with an undergraduate degree in secondary education and a Master’s in biology. After teaching in the classroom for a year, she floated down the bay to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and worked there for more than 30 years. 

Jenny was active in teaching, developing new and innovative programs for K-12 students and was instrumental at integrating Sea Grant focus areas into Discovery Hall Programs activities. 

For decades, she generously shared her activities and ideas with countless others in marine science and environmental education at professional meetings. And, she maintained her classroom certification and therefore her professional development until her retirement. 

Jenny mentored generations of students who participated in Discovery Hall Programs’ activities and had a significant impact on STEM field retention: a couple of her students are working at the Sea Lab today. 

Her passion, enthusiasm and knowledge exemplified the best qualities of a Sea Grant educator, and we are pleased to recognize her for her decades of exemplary work.

You can help honor Jenny's memory by contributing to the Jenny Cook Memorial Scholarship Fund to help a high school student attend a monthlong residential class at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.  

MASGC Director LaDon Swann, left, presents Amy Bridges with a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Excellence Award that honors her late sister, Jenny Cook.
MASGC Director LaDon Swann, left, presents Amy Bridges with a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Excellence Award that honors her late sister, Jenny Cook.

Desireé Bishop

Desireé Bishop was born in Mobile, Alabama, where she fell in love with teaching and the salty air of the Gulf Coast.  She spent her career sharing that passion with others, determined to make our coast a better place.

Desi, as she’s so affectionately called, retired in July after 38 years in education. 

She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of South Alabama in 1980 and a Master’s in Education in 1987. Desi spent 23 years teaching middle and high school science. 

Her summers were busy – in Belize participating in dolphin population research or working on chlorinated organics in the Tennessee River.  She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Environmental Educators Association of Alabama and the Alabama Science Teachers Association. 

MASGC Director LaDon Swann, left, presents Desireé Bishop with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Excellence Award.
MASGC Director LaDon Swann, left, presents Desireé Bishop with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Excellence Award.

Desi has been inducted into the Alabama Teacher Hall of Fame and named the Alabama Biology Teacher of the Year.  She was also awarded the Presidential Award in 1993 and represented Alabama in Washington D.C.

Desi became the marine education resource teacher in 2003 at the Environmental Studies Center.  She developed and implemented the award-winning SEA ICE program that connects Sea Grant principles and concepts with Mobile County Public School teachers and students. 

She became the director of the Environmental Studies Center in 2011. Desi made many contributions to the success of the Mobile County Public School System and to the Environmental Studies Center.  Her commitment to her students, her staff and her beliefs are steadfast.

To know Desi is to know her laugh and her humor – but most of all, her love of turtles. One would only have to walk into her office to realize her obsession with them. Although she has retired and moved on, her memories are sitting around the center as a reminder of her passion and love of the ocean and the environment. 

Her legacy lives on through the countless students that have followed in her footsteps, whether in teaching or a marine-related field. 

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