Environmental educator honored with Northfield Citizen Stewardship Award

  • Jay Loubris, who has taught sixth grade at Northfield Elementary School for 28 years, was recently presented with the 2019 Citizen Stewardship Award. His name has been added to this plaque in Northfield Town Hall. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/4/2020 12:46:43 PM
Modified: 9/4/2020 12:46:31 PM

NORTHFIELD — As he looks to retire after 28 years teaching sixth grade at Northfield Elementary School, Jay Loubris said he’ll always remember the excitement and wonder on students’ faces during various science lessons and field trips.

The Northfield Open Space Committee recently recognized Loubris for his years of service, presenting him with the 2019 Citizen Stewardship Award. Committee member Julia Blyth said the award was first given in 2007, and is presented to those “who engage in or promote stewardship of our natural resources, helping to achieve the goals of the Northfield Open Space and Recreation Plan.”

“We are delighted to present the award to Jay Loubris for his work teaching science and fostering love and curiosity for the natural world among his students,” Blyth said.

She said the Open Space Committee was especially interested in Loubris’ work providing field trips for students. Trips include visits to the Boston Museum of Science, whitewater rafting, and programs raising and releasing trout, to name a few.

“We can see that your students and our local ecosystems benefit from your passion for science and care of the natural world,” Blyth said. “The values you work to instill in our young residents is just what we need.”

Loubris was presented with a certificate, and his name was added to a plaque displayed in the lobby of Northfield Town Hall, listing past honorees.

Loubris, 62, is retiring at the end of the coming school year after 28 years teaching sixth-graders at Northfield Elementary, where he also leads the 20-week-long after-school STEM RAYS (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Research Academies for Young Scientists) program for students in grades four through six.

He said the purpose of the STEM RAYS program is “to get students outside as much as possible” to interact with their local environment. As part of STEM RAYS, students annually attend a science program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

A regular classroom program sees students raise and release brook trout. Loubris said the school gets trout eggs from the McLaughlin Fish Hatchery in Belchertown, and students learn to care for the fish and study them as they grow up. Students then release the fish in the Mill Brook, which connects to the Connecticut River.

“They’d learn about the Connecticut River and habitat that’s literally in their backyard,” Loubris said.

Loubris has also organized many adventure-based, educational field trips. He recalled one year when a student asked him why students needed to have their parents sign waivers for the trips, to which Loubris replied “the waiver is the sign of a good trip.”

“I’ve got former students who are now in their late 30s and they still remember a lot of the things that we did,” Loubris said.

He thanked the past and current members of the school administration for allowing him to conduct the field trips, and the students’ parents for chaperoning.

“This is my last year, but they’ve been very supportive, and I couldn’t have taken the kids to some of the places we’ve gone without the parents coming,” Loubris said. “Going in caves, whitewater rafting, things of that sort. It’s been an adventure for the students and also for them.”

Selectboard Chair Alex Meisner and member Barbara “Bee” Jacque thanked Loubris for his years of educational service. Jacque said the experiences likely have had a lasting impression on the youngsters. Loubris noted one his son’s friends has become a biology teacher in Winchendon, and he’d like to think he had an influence on other former students who have begun science careers of their own.

Loubris said he “got a late start” and didn’t begin teaching until he was 31 years old. He earned his bachelor’s degree in fisheries biology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and spent five years working in Gloucester. Loubris then went back to UMass Amherst, where he earned his master’s degree in education and an elementary certification.

When asked what he might do in retirement come the end of the school year, Loubris said he will keep busy gardening and scuba diving. He also plans to stay active by biking and cross-country skiing during the winter.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.



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