Miramonte teacher Barbara Denny is the 2011 recipient of the Orinda William Penn Mott Jr. Environmental Award for her extraordinary efforts to preserve our community. This award was created in honor of William Penn Mott Jr., an Orinda resident who dedicated his life to preserving the environment.
Throughout Mott’s career, he led the East Bay Regional Park District, the Oakland Parks Department, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Mott was the first president of the Orinda Association, a non-profit organization devoted to sustaining and refining the quality of life in Orinda. Mott’s award has been presented to outstanding environmentalists since 1993, making Denny the 19th recipient of this award.
As a full time teacher at Miramonte, Denny advocates the importance of being environmentally friendly. She teaches her Environmental Science students about conserving the environment while also volunteering for many eco-friendly organizations. Students work to maintain Miramonte’s gardens and do an annual creek clean up every fall. During this clean up students walk from Miramonte Gardens to the end of the creek.
“We’ve found the backseat of a car, and lots of crazy stuff during our walks,” Denny said.
Her efforts at Miramonte have proved successful through the school’s numerous blooming gardens. Miramonte is home to the Poppy Patch, an organic garden, a garden dedicated to Paul Yriberri, and a garden dedicated to Joe Loudon. The Poppy Patch is located behind the library, near the tennis courts, and was originally an empty plot. Denny and numerous students planted seeds and bulbs in this area, and watched as it developed into a beautiful garden. Miramonte’s Poppy Patch is recognized as a National Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat and a Bay Friendly garden.
An organic garden is also prospering at Miramonte. This garden is located near the Poppy Patch and is full of vegetables and fruits such as grapes, apples, plums, and squashes. Two more gardens around the school have been dedicated to a former Miramonte teacher and student. Paul Yriberri, a former teacher, has a garden located near Sharat Gadde’s room, and Joe Loudon’s garden is located near room 114. These gardens are taken care of by Denny, her Environmental Science students, and other volunteers. Since it is currently still winter, the gardens are not in full bloom, but come spring they will add gorgeous color and life to Miramonte.
Denny volunteers outside of Miramonte as well. She is a prominent member of the Friends of Orinda’s Creeks organization and the Wagner Ranch Nature Area. The Friends of Orinda’s Creeks monitor Orinda’s creeks and work to restore them. At the Wagner Ranch Nature Area, Denny is involved in different environmental education activities.
Denny strives to maintain Miramonte’s impressive gardens, as well as Orinda’s natural habitat.
“It’s not just government and states, it’s what individuals and communities can do to help preserve the environment,” Denny said. Denny adheres to this motto as she works to keep Miramonte and Orinda environmentally friendly.