Scott Cronin wants to do more than introduce youth to the outdoors as hobby or weekend getaway. Cronin wants his students at Muhlenberg County (Ky.) High School to know that the outdoors can be a way of life, complete with a paycheck.

And he does all he can to see that happen. Cronin’s commitment to encouraging students to pursue conservation careers is a major reason why he was selected the NWTF 2012 Educator of the Year.

Each year, Cronin and his students take a chartered bus to the NWTF National Convention and Sport Show in Nashville, Tenn. There, his students meet with game wardens, outdoor industry representatives, state fish and wildlife staffers and members of the USDA Forest Service. Cronin said several of his former students have gone on to careers in the outdoor and wildlife management industry.

“The average person doesn’t see the convention as a career day, but our students see for the first time the size and the scope of the hunting and fishing industry,” said Cronin.”It opens their eyes to a lot of possibilities.”

Muhlenberg County School District assistant superintendent of instruction Matt Perkins, the principal at Muhlenberg County High through the 2011-12 school year, said he’s impressed with the leadership shown by students in Cronin’s program through projects they’ve completed and career opportunities they’ve pursued.”

As the NWTF Educator of the Year, Cronin will receive a $1,000 grant for a conservation project in his classroom and an expenses-paid trip to the 2013 NWTF National Convention and Sport Show, Feb. 14-17 at Gaylord Opryland Resort.“We expect some of our students to matriculate to job opportunities in the outdoors. They are taught to go out and track people down and market themselves,” said Perkins. “Scott’s program has really taken on a life of its own. It’s a big part of our student education.”

The NWTF — a national nonprofit organization — is the leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America. Founded in 1973, the NWTF played a pivotal role in the restoration of the wild turkey throughout the continent – one of the world’s greatest conservation feats.

The NWTF has invested more than $412 million in conserving 17.3 million acres of wildlife habitat for wild turkeys and many other wildlife species. For information on supporting the NWTF, contact the NWTF at (800) THE-NWTF or

For Cronin, his wildlife management program at Muhlenberg begins with fundamental conservation knowledge gained from NWTF Wild About Turkey Education Boxes, which are filled with fun conservation education materials.

Teachers and NWTF local chapters can order the boxes through the NWTF.

Cronin’s students work on some wildlife management projects off school grounds. A recent example was the construction and placement of duck boxes along a local waterway.

Cronin makes sure his students know the importance of conservation. Each day, 6,000 acres of wildlife habitat are lost in North America.

Cronin’s program turns full circle when he sends his students down to a district elementary school to pass on the knowledge they’ve learned. Cronin calls it a kind of “mini NWTF Convention,” complete with more than 30 booths and instruction in firearms safety, shooting, archery and turkey calling.

“For the older students, it’s the highlight of their year,” Cronin said. “The younger students have such an enthusiastic reaction to it.”

Teaching in a rural school district in west-central Kentucky, Cronin has many farm kids interested in wildlife management. So Perkins and other district administrators encourage the development of his program, allowing occasional off-campus trips for projects during school hours.

“The best part is the feedback from parents who tell us it’s the best thing their kids did in school,” Cronin said.

Image courtesy National Wild Turkey Federation

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