Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2023) – National Park Trust is pleased to announce that Raul Toscana, a 4th-grade teacher at Gaithersburg Elementary in Montgomery County, Maryland, has been awarded the 2023 National Educator Award for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship. The annual award – also known as “The Buddy,” in honor of the Park Trust’s wooly mascot Buddy Bison – recognizes an educator who has made a significant impact on their students’ understanding of the natural world and the importance of protecting our nation’s treasured parks, public lands, and waters.

Toscana has demonstrated his passion for introducing students to public lands through his work with National Park Trust as a Buddy Bison School Program lead teacher for six years. He works inside and outside of the classroom to connect more than 130 4th-grade students annually with our nation’s parks, public lands, and waters. During his tenure, he has personally championed outings to local parks such as Black Hill Nature Center (MD), Rock Creek Park (DC), National Colonial Farm (MD), and Watkins Nature Center (MD). As an innovative educator at one of the largest Buddy Bison schools, Toscana pivoted to utilize new virtual programming opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that students could continue to connect with rangers at parks across the country.

The May 11th presentation of the award by the executive director of the National Park Trust, Grace Lee was a surprise for Mr. Toscana, who was on a trip he had organized for the 4th-grade students to Watkins Nature Center in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The students enjoyed being part of this special celebration as part of their memorable day outdoors.

“On behalf of the board and staff of National Park Trust, we are delighted to honor Raul Toscana with our National Educator Award for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship during Teacher Appreciation Week. Raul understands how important it is to engage his students and fellow teachers with the wonders and benefits of the great outdoors. Today’s 4th graders will be our future stewards and caretakers of our parks, public lands, and waters.”

Grace Lee, executive director of National Park Trust.

“The Buddy Bison program has become such an integral part of our fourth graders’ school year! Each year the students begin the school year by asking when they will be able to meet Buddy Bison and where he will take us. The Park Trust has such a special place in my heart as it allows many of our students to become connected with nature for the first time. The students are given opportunities to have new experiences, explore the natural world, and begin understanding their role in caring for it. From dissecting owl pellets to visiting National Parks, the students become invested and encouraged to take an interest in the great outdoors.”

Raul Toscana, 4th-grade teacher at Gaithersburg Elementary.


Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2023, National Park Trust’s mission is to preserve parks today and create park stewards for tomorrow. Since 1983, the Park Trust has acquired many of the missing pieces of our national parks, benefiting 52 national park sites. Our national youth education and family initiatives, including our Buddy Bison Programs and National Kids to Parks Day, serve hundreds of Title I schools annually and cultivate future park stewards. We believe that our public parks, lands, and waters should be cared for, enjoyed, and preserved by all for current and future generations. Find out more at

To learn more about our National Educator Award, please visit

Media Contact: Ivan Levin at 540.818.5818 or