Science teacher Barry Guillot was awarded the St. Charles parish Rotary Club’s Citizen of the Year at a ceremony March 23.
Guillot is a resident of St. Charles and a National Board Certified teacher at Harry M. Hurst Middle School in Destrehan. Hurst is no stranger to awards, having been named Hurst’s teacher of the Year in 2006, but it’s his efforts above and beyond the call of duty that made him the choice for the Rotary Club’s most prestigious award.
He is the creator and coordinator of the LaBranche Wetland Watchers, a nationally recognized service-learning project that has helped nearly 8,000 students volunteer over 40,000 hours since the project’s inception in 1998.
Guillot’s students help organize community trash clean-ups and tree plantings yearly, while also coordinating the annual Wetland Celebration, which involves over 1,000 people. Through his and the student’s efforts, over 1,500 bags of trash have been collected and 2,500 trees have been planted in St. Charles. Under Guillot’s direction, Hurst students lead over 800 fifth and sixth graders from five other schools on wetland trips each year.
Guillot has spoken at conferences in 11 states, most recently as a guest speaker at the Rotary International Conference. His students have been guests on Radio Disney and twice on the Global Worldwide Radio Network.
His LaBranche Wetland Watcher Program has been featured in six nationally aired video documentaries on major stations such as CNN, ABC, TBS and one produced by ‘Star Wars’ creator George Lucas.
For his efforts with the wetlands, he has been honored with awards from the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, EPA’s Gulf of Mexico Program, The Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts, The Louisiana Wildlife Federation, The Louisiana Urban Forestry Council, State Farm, The National Youth Leadership Council, The National Service Learning Partnership, The American Association of School Administrators, and Teen-Ink Magazine.
The Wetland Watchers project was chosen by the Post Foundation as one of the top five innovative biological science education projects in the southeast United States.
The success of the project has paved the way for the program to expand, introducing more students to the values and challenges of their local wetlands, while also allowing them to experience what it feels like to be a positive, productive citizen in their community.
In her speech presenting Guillot, Rotary member Shelly Schonekas spoke for the students he’s helped and for the Rotary club in saying, “Barry, while your students believe if the plants and animals could talk, they think they would say that the students are their heroes. The St. Charles Parish Rotary believes that you are the hero, showing our students what it means to be a GREAT citizen.”
“I love working with the students and I do this to help them,” Guillot said. “Who would have thought all I’ve done would come full circle back to me with this award. It’s truly an honor.”