This Miamian promotes environmental education in the community and the classroom

As we head into another school year, Dream in Green is looking to increase environmental education in schools and local communities. For more than a decade, the organization has been working in the education sphere while also focusing on topics like food security in underserved neighborhoods and helping locals find jobs in green careers. 

We chatted with Dream in Green’s executive director Barbara Martinez-Guerrero about what the organization hopes to accomplish. We also discussed how she transitioned into her leadership role after spending more than a decade as a teacher, thanks in part to the Radical Partners social entrepreneurship bootcamp.

HOW SHE GOT STARTED: Barbara is a Miami native who graduated from Florida International University, and said she wanted to be a teacher since she was a kid. After getting her degree in elementary education, she taught English in Eastern Europe as a member of the Peace Corps.

She eventually came back to the 305 to teach, and then moved to New York for about eight years to continue her career. That experience inspired the work she does now.

“Science was treated like an elective back then, students only had science once a week at the elementary level,” Barbara said. “That’s when I kind of started creating my own lessons and incorporating current events that were happening into my science lessons.”

BACK TO MIAMI: Barbara came back to continue teaching, but she then got an opportunity to join the environmental education team at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. She worked there for about eight years, including working with Fairchild’s Million Orchid Project, but still wanted to do more. 

“Fairchild is such a strong institution but their focus is really on plants and conservation, and after working with the schools, I realized there was a need for more than that,” Barbara said.

MOVING TO DREAM IN GREEN: In 2018, Barbara joined the Dream in Green team and serves as the executive director.

The organization focuses on six topics: energy conservation and efficiency, water quality and efficiency, waste management, alternative transportation, green living, and food security.

Through Dream in Green’s Green Schools Challenge,  the organization has worked with more than 110 schools to help students understand their six main topic areas, learn about how resilient their school buildings are, and to promote science and technology-focused lessons plans.

HER BOOTCAMP EXPERIENCE: Barbara said the Radical Partners bootcamp was useful for her as she moved into an administrative role on a smaller team, especially coming from Fairchild where there were about 100 employees, and 10 people in her department.

She said that beyond providing help with things like powerful messaging or time management, the bootcamp helped her find community.

“The support that they provide to people like me just starting out in an administrative role, it was really like creating a support system,” Barbara said. “I could have somebody to call on to give me honest feedback and advice.”

Interested in Radical Partners’ social entrepreneurship bootcamp? Head here to see if you’re a good fit and to apply for the latest cohort. Applications are open through Aug. 25.