December 3, 2018 Duc Tinh

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WINSTED, CT –  December 3, 2018 – Tara Jo Holmberg, Professor of Environmental Science and Biology at Northwestern Connecticut Community College (NCCC), was named the New England Formal Environmental Educator of the Year by the New England Environmental Education Association (NEEEA). This award recognizes educators who encourage students to make informed decisions about environmental issues, promote environmental responsibility and inspire student involvement and action. The award was presented during the 2018 NEEEA Annual Conference in Vermont in November.

Tara Jo was recognized for the way she has woven citizen science/service-learning labs and projects involving students in data collection of both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems throughout the curriculum. The data collected by her students is shared with local, state, national, and global organizations. Her ecology students are in the rivers and forests, using the same tools, techniques, and analyses as professional ecologists, gathering quality-controlled data for organizations and future students to use and analyze.

Her students reflect deeply and often on the interrelationships between environmental and ecological problems and how course material is directly relevant to their lives.   This excerpt from one of her student’s reflection pieces captures the impact that Tara Jo has on her students and their views of the environment: “From everything I have learned this semester, it is fair to say that I have definitely changed some of my opinions and thoughts on environmental topics. I cannot stress how much this class made me realize the serious issues actually going on and how much some people don’t know of the danger we put ourselves and this planet in.” 

In addition to her teaching role, Tara Jo serves as the Program Coordinator for the Natural Resources program and the Department Chair of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math at NCCC.

In 2009, with the help of grants and local community partners, Tara Jo started the Native Gardens Project which converts modified riparian habitats on the NCCC campus back to rain and buffer gardens. Through the botany course, students research watersheds, collect baseline data, and research suitable native plants. The course then culminates with two weeks of planting in the spring.

Her impact and reach extends beyond the college and into the community. She is involved with creating environmental and conservation education programs for the community at large: volunteering to speak at different community events; courses through Continuing Education/Workforce Development; or through partnerships with local organizations, such as the Northwest Conservation District, Farmington River Watershed Association, and the Highland Lake Watershed Association.  Tara Jo also regularly presents at national science conferences bridging the communication between different scientific disciplines.

For more information on Tara Jo Holmberg or her work in and out of the classroom, please email

About Northwestern Connecticut Community College

Northwestern Connecticut Community College was founded in 1965 by a committee of local residents and came under the jurisdiction of the State of Connecticut later that year, becoming one of twelve colleges in the newly formed State of Connecticut Regional Community College System governed by a Board of Trustees. In 2011, that system was merged with the Connecticut State University System to form one organization, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU), now governed by the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Northwestern continues to take pride in offering excellence in teaching, promoting life-long learning, as well as high quality student services, state-of-the-art technology, and cultural activities for both students and the community. Northwestern Connecticut Community College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).