St. Mary’s Middle School (Alton) Science teacher Rebecca Harper (center) stands with Principal Mary Rivera (left) as she is presented with a Certificate of Recognition for being the Green Schools program “Coordinator of the Year” by Madison County Green Schools Program Coordinator Lisa Rogers.

EDWARDSVILLE — Madison County recognized an educator for her leadership and creativity in helping to keep her school “green.”

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The Madison County Green Schools Program recognized St. Mary’s Catholic Middle School Science Teacher Rebecca Harper as “Coordinator of the Year.” The award is presented to an educator who demonstrates outstanding leadership and encouragement on how to be wise stewards of our land, air, and water to students and staff.

Green Schools Program Coordinator Lisa Rogers presented Harper with a Certificate or Recognition on Wednesday. The award also included a $500 gift card for Harper and a $500 stipend to be used on environmental-related programs.

“I’m honored to be the teacher who won this award,” Harper said.

Harper, who’s taught sixth, seventh and eighth grade science at St. Mary’s for the past three years, shows her passion for environmental education by teaching students how to be “green.” Under her supervision, students took part in several Green Schools collections and contests and winning the Clean Air Bookmark Contest, the used tennis shoe collection and the Fantastic Plastics collection, which students collected more than 485 pounds of plastic bags to recycle.

The plastic bag program works to educate students and staff about the impact of plastic bags on the environment. By collecting and bringing the bags to school to be recycled, students and staff help to keep them out of single stream recycling where they contaminate other recyclables such as cans, glass, plastics and paper. The plastic bag program allows the students and staff to participate in an effort to divert the amount of waste entering landfills while promoting the action of recycling right.

“We decorated two large refrigerator boxes to put bags in throughout the year,” Harper said.

She said weighing the bags at the end of the contest was also a learning process.

“Students converted the weight of the bags from grams to pounds,” she said.

The Shoe Recycling program sends gently used shoes to Haiti. The purpose is to ship shoes directly overseas where they are given a second lease on life. These shoes provide a hand up, not hand out, to individuals in countries like Haiti where 85 percent of the population relies on shoes as their main mode of transportation.

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“My principal Mary Rivera asked me to represent our school with the Madison County Green Schools program and at first I was hesitant,” Harper said. “It was fun, and the kids really loved it. They are already talking about the challenges next year and how to win them.”

The 2023-2024 school year was Harper’s first year as the school coordinator.

Colleagues and parents commended her for her efforts on helping to preserve the environment one step and one day at a time.

Rivera said she was a great fit for the coordinator role and that is why she nominated her for “coordinator of the Year.”

St. Mary's School Secretary Chrissy Certa said Harper’s efforts contribute to promoting greener habits and confidence among the middle school students.

"Mrs. Harper is invested in teaching the kids the benefits of recycling and reducing waste,” parent Jessica Hamilton said. “We enjoyed doing it as a family and the lessons were also passed on to my younger children. It was eye opening how much we were able to send to school. Mrs. Harper involved the kids in every step."

Fellow educator Karen Crites said Harper not only participates in the contests mentioned above, but she uses her science lessons to create excitement among the students about recycling and keeping the planet clean. She said Harper supports a successful recycling program and a bottle cap collection that she began years ago.

"Rebecca has gotten the students, faculty, parents and parish excited about the programs we have participated in,” Crites said. “The students have learned so much that they will be able to pass on from year to year.”

Rogers thanks Harper for her dedication to improving St. Mary's Middle School and for teaching future generations the value of taking care of the environment.

To find out more about the Green Schools Program visit the county’s website at

 Madison County Green Schools Program Coordinator Lisa Rogers presents St. Mary’s Middle School (Alton) Science teacher Rebecca Harper with a Certificate of Recognition for being the “Coordinator of the Year” as she stands with her students.

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