Two Forest Preserve District employees received awards this month from the National Association of Interpretation's Heartland Region.
Lynn Kurczewski, director of visitor services, won the Master Interpretive Manager Award. Suzy Lyttle, an interpretive naturalist, received the Outstanding New Interpreter Award.
The awards were presented April 8 at the 2017 Heartland Region Workshop in Deadwood, S.D.
According to the association's website, "The Heartland Region Awards program recognizes outstanding achievements of NAI members and others working to advance the profession of interpretation."
Kurczewski of Joliet, who has been with the District for almost 30 years, was nominated for her innovative approach to handling the complex demands of her job and also her ability to encourage staffers without micromanaging them.
"Her strong yet calm leadership style allows staff under her care to thrive," the nomination stated.
Kurczewski said the first conference she attended as a newly hired naturalist was an NAI conference in South Dakota. So receiving an award this year from the same organization is very rewarding, and it’s an experience she hopes she can pass along to her own staff.
"I've been fortunate to work with very creative and passionate staff members who believe in the mission of the Forest Preserve and love what they do," she said. "NAI is an important resource, and I've encouraged staff involvement in the organization so they can continue to become empowered and inspired, and one day themselves become leaders in the field of interpretation."
In Lyttle's award nomination, she was described as being motivated, passionate and innovative.
"She works relentlessly figuring out how to improve programs and exhibits at Plum Creek Nature Center," according to the nomination.
Lyttle, who has been employed with the District since 2012 and lives in Mokena, said she was honored to receive the award and she appreciated being nominated by her peers.
"I learn something new every day from them and continuously get inspired by them. I absolutely love my job and hope to keep learning, keep growing, and keep sharing the magic of nature with the next generation!"
NAI's Heartland Region consists of interpreters from state parks, county agencies, museums, zoos, park districts, recreation facilities and many other public and private organizations in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and the provinces of Manitoba and Nunavut in Canada.