Friends Awards 2019 Educator of the Year

Kristen Turgeon, a science teacher at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center on Chicago’s north side, has been named Friends’ Educator of the Year for 2019 for her efforts using the Chicago River as a teaching tool. Turgeon has helped her students learn science and instilled stewardship for the waterway as well. The veteran teacher is an active participant in Friends’ Chicago River School Network (CRSN).


 “The CRSN program allows me to connect with my students in a positive way that I cannot do with my traditional curriculum in the classroom,” said Turgeon. “My students leave the CRSN activities with a new appreciation of their local ecosystem.” Turgeon teaches biology and chemistry at Von Steuben. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in Teaching Science at the Secondary Level from the University of Iowa.


At Von Steuben, she sponsors the Environmental Club where she supports students in recycling efforts and sustainability both at the river and elsewhere in the school community. While getting in the river with her students is her favorite activity, Turgeon also participates in her school’s learning garden. Turgeon accepted the award on February 29, 2020, at the Chicago River Student Congress, Friends’ annual conference.


At the Congress, 350 students taught and attended workshops and viewed displays created by their peers and by professionals from local colleges, nonprofits, and government agencies. The CRSN provides K-12 teachers the training and personalized assistance they need to immerse their students in the history, evolving ecology, and improving health of the Chicago River, impacting 24,000 students last year.