The call went out over the intercom. All student campers, visiting parents, and staff at the Sly Park Environmental Education Center were to come to the gymnasium for a big announcement yesterday afternoon. Outdoor science teacher Austin Roughton brought his students inside, but didn't know he was about to be the center of attention.
As more than 250 students watched, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon shouted, “Timber is the Sacramento County Office of Education Teacher of the Year for 2020!”
Roughton, whose height has earned him the camp nickname “Timber,” said, “It’s so huge for me to work in a place where I get to be outside and reach so many kids. It’s a huge honor, and I can’t say I’m thankful enough for it.”
Students cheered, and Roughton grinned as he shook the superintendent’s hand and accepted a gift of a small redwood tree from Sly Park Director Brett Nelson, who said Roughton is very deserving of the honor. “Every week he gets a group of kids and is able to…introduce them to this beautiful environment, the forest, connect that with science, and build a sense of community,” Nelson said.
Sly Park is a residential environmental education school in the Eldorado National Forest, operated by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE). Roughton started there as a substitute outdoor science teacher in 2015 before being hired full time two years later. He plans and teaches outdoor science lessons—aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards—for fifth and sixth grade students in a week-long residential program. In addition to his morning, day, and evening responsibilities, he trains fellow staff members on technology at the Sly Park campus.
“His calling is here in the forest, to teach young people about science and about the environment, and it’s important for them to care about both,” Superintendent Gordon said of Roughton.
Roughton will be honored, along with teachers representing other Sacramento County school districts, at the annual Teachers of the Year Awards dinner, which will be held this August. During the ceremony, two teachers will be named the Sacramento County Teachers of the Year 2020 and will become eligible to compete in the California Teachers of the Year Program.