Freeman Tilden Award

The interpreter who creates a whole, pares away all the obfuscating minor detail and drives straight toward the perfection of his story will find that his hearers are walking along with him - are companions on the march. At some certain point it becomes their story as much as his.

- Freeman Tilden

The Freeman Tilden Award is the highest award presented to an individual National Park Service interpreter. Since 1981, the award is presented annually and recognizes outstanding contributions to the practice of interpretation and education by a NPS employee. The award was created to stimulate and reward creative thinking that results in positive impacts upon the preservation of the parks and the visiting public. The award is named for Freeman Tilden, who has inspired generations of interpreters across the world and whose Interpreting Our Heritage continues to be a definitive text for the discipline. The next call for nominations is open July 1–August 31, 2018.

The 2017 award recipients are:

a smiling woman in ranger uniform
Holly Lynch

NPS Photo

Hollie Lynch (National Capital Region) is an education coordinator at C&O Canal National Historical Park. Hollie is being recognized for her lead role in the C&O Canal Classroom Education Program.

Through her ideas and grittiness, as well as best practices, she has helped mobilize a network of people to support and implement the program. The program is now a sustainable and scalable, curriculum-based education program that serves K1-12 grade students in communities along the 184.5 mile park by providing relevant and experiential learning opportunities.

Her research and pursuits in collaborative work have earned the respect of her peers and helped her park unit to be more relevant and serve as a model for parks as dynamic learning landscapes.

portrait photo of a woman in ranger uniform
CJ Rea

NPS Photo

CJ Rea (Alaska Region) is an Education Specialist at Kenai Fjords National Park. She is a special combination of hard work and innovative thinking, a selfless educator who works tirelessly to bring underserved youth audiences to the park. She is being honored for the development of the curriculum titled: The People of the Park: Native Alutiiq (Suqpiag).

The robust program focuses on the way people used to live on the land that is now a national park. There is a great cooperative effort to co-create the program that eventually led to a new exhibition at the park. CJ keeps her finger on the pulse of the target audience. She asks interesting questions and most important, listens to the answers. Her contributions will continue to propel Kenai Fjords forward for years to come.
A ranger and a stuffed bear
Jason Bordelon

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Jason Bordelon (Pacific West Region) is the chief of interpretation at the National Park of American Samoa. He is being recognized for contributions at his previous park, North Cascades National Park. Jason helped to implement the Hands on the Land Citizen Science Program, Summit to Sea at North Cascades. The STEM-based water quality monitoring program brings together many formal and informal education partners including the NPS, US Fish and Wildlife Service, State of Washington, the Lummi Nation Tribe, and the Lummi and Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Groups.

Jason not only takes an innovative approach to his work, his unique partnership skills result in sharing the program concepts and the benefits with as many as possible. Through Jason’s leadership, there were several occasions where other park divisions joined and lent their expertise to this project creating a cohesive park collaboration that truly demonstrated how a park can and should work together.

a man in ranger uniform
Christopher Bentley

NPS Photo

Christopher Bentley (Intermountain Region) is a Park Ranger at Coronado National Memorial. Christopher has a long history of involvement with the National Association for Interpretation, including serving on the Board of Directors and as a speaker on numerous occasions and session presenter at the 2017 NAI International Conference on Interpretation in Mexico.

He is being recognized for his successful implementation of the Borderlands Festival. The NPS 2016 Centennial presented Coronado with a unique opportunity to reflect on the complex relationship between the US and Mexico. This festival promoted understanding and stewardship of the shared natural and cultural resources between the two nations. Christopher spearheaded the festival idea to facilitate discussions with colleagues and partners, allowing everyone to connect and learn from each other.

a woman in ranger uniform
Pat Schmidt

NPS Photo

Pat Schmidt (Midwest Region) is a park ranger at Fort Smith National Historic Site. Pat’s vision and ongoing insights toward special day-long partnership event titled: Accessing Your Park's: Connecting Families of Kids with Disabilities to National Park and Federal Public Lands have advanced the park’s offerings.

She creates effective and customizable tools to dramatically improve the park’s engagement with children with disabilities and their families. She has helped transform and promote the many wonderful ways in which family can choose to participate together regardless of special needs.
a woman in ranger uniform
Yvette Cano

NPS Photo

Yvette Cano (Southeast Region) is an education specialist at Everglades National Park. She has proven ideas and solutions and through her work with Zoo Miami. Yvette has been instrumental in helping new audiences recognize and make lasting connections with Everglades. A product of the education program she now serves, Yvette recognizes the value of becoming more relevant in the local community.

She has developed and nurtured the park’s new partnership with Zoo Miami and creation of the park’s new exhibit “Florida: Mission Everglades.” Yvette has helped the park understand, in a practical and relevant way, the problems that exist in every unit of the need to go beyond park’s boundaries to engage new audiences. Offering simple and actionable methods for addressing these problems like putting uniformed ranger at the zoo on busy weekends, she has advanced the team to meet audiences where they are.

Read about previous award recipients: