Empowering Your School: A Comprehensive Approach to Sustainability with Ruth Lisha

Sep 22, 2023 | Community News, Educator Spotlight

Wayfinder Society is for environmental educators who believe in the power of collective action. It is an online platform hosting a robust offering of classroom and teaching resources that makes it easy for educators to create a fun, dynamic, and engaging classroom and to inspire their students through environmental awareness and action. Every other month, we highlight an educator in our network.

Educator photo

Ruth Lisha is a parent and Community Teacher on Special Assignment who has championed sustainability at her school site in Long Beach, CA through school-wide initiatives that empower students to take action. Ruth has been with LBUSD for 30 years – 7 years as a college aid and 23 years as a teacher. Throughout her tenure, Ruth has made great strides in making her campus greener and more sustainable through efforts like starting a recycling program on her school’s campus over 20 years ago. Thanks to her work, Franklin Middle School is now a Silver Level Green Ribbon School and the only Green Ribbon school in downtown Long Beach. 

Each year, she strives to add a new piece to her school’s environmental efforts. This past year, she encouraged the principal to require all students to eat lunch in the cafeteria. This change has drastically reduced the amount of plastic pollution that ends up littering the school yard and blowing into nearby environments. This year, with the help of Generation Earth, Ruth’s goal is to plant California native plants throughout campus with the help from the growing number of eco-minded students at her school.  

At Franklin Middle School, Ruth advises two environmental clubs: The Eco Club and The Garden Club. The Eco club meets every Friday after school and currently consists of around 15 students who help empty blue bins and separate cans and bottles. In addition, they also collect batteries and printer cartridges for recycling! Their Garden Club meets weekly on Tuesdays and receives support from the local Long Beach nonprofit, Ground Education. Approximately 25 students partake in cooking lessons, planting activities, art explorations, and of course, gardening! On top of all of this, Ruth takes about 10 gallons of Compost to Farm Lot 59, a Long Beach urban farm and nonprofit, and brings back finished compost to use in the school garden. Originally started with the help of Grades of Green 9 years ago, Ruth is proud to carry on this program for her students. 

Ruth also started a waste sorting station in the cafeteria. The sorting station includes five steps: a compost bin, a share table area, a bin for liquids, a trash can, and an area to stack trays. The school partners with Food Finders to collect excess food from the after-school program, Saturday school and field trips, and donates it to the community. 

Ruth has always dreamed of starting her school’s first Green Week, but she admittedly never had the energy or time to do so when she was teaching 5 class periods a day. Luckily, that changed when she became a Teacher on Special Assignment. Since then, she’s had more flexibility and time to put in extra activities, including Green Week. This event has been held for two years now and she hopes to continue it this school year. Because of her school site’s high need for school supplies, hygiene products, and clothing, Ruth integrated a “Reuse-An-Item” event as a part of Green Week where students and staff can donate what they no longer need or want, while also making sure the items do not end up in a landfill. This event now happens multiple times a year for students and their families.  Luckily, Ruth has been fortunate that all her principals have been supportive and encouraging of her green efforts through the years. Her work was recently highlighted by staff and students in this awesome video from LBUSD. 

We are so excited to award Ruth Lisha the Wayfinder Society for Environmental Education’s September Mini-Grant. She is a shining example of an educator creating positive change in the lives of her students and in her community. We hope her work inspires other educators to get creative and green their school too!

students drawing, outdoor activity

Students paint ceramics inspired by nature for an engaging activity outdoors led by Ruth.

Students in garden

Students harvest lettuce and herbs in the garden.

green week promotion in a library

Student artwork in the library promoting Green Week.