Sharon Keller: Remembering a Roots & Shoots Champion and Friend

Written By: Anna Muir, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: Our Champions


Sharon Keller

An educator who inspired students for more than 30 years to excel, explore and appreciate the natural world, Sharon Keller passed away suddenly on November 23, 2017.

One of the many young people touched by Ms. Keller’s enthusiastic love of learning was Julia Labricciosa, a student at E.L. Crossley Secondary School in Fonthill, Ontario, where Ms. Keller taught.

“When Ms. Keller got excited about a new idea, she would get this sparkle in her eye and excitement in her voice and you couldn’t help but smile and join her. She was fearless and she believed that she could change the world.”

A teacher’s teacher, Sharon routinely sought out opportunities to engage and motivate her students to make a difference for people and planet.

Her drive to encourage young people to become involved in their community led her to Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots in 2014, and she quickly became an ardent champion of the program.  According to Roots & Shoots Canada manager, Jen Duffy, “Sharon embodied Roots & Shoots – she was a beautiful human who was mindful of her impact on the world around her and used her gift and voice as an educator to nurture and encourage those around her to do the same.”

Sharon Keller at Launch + Link with JGI Staff and supporter

When the Grade 11 and 12 classes at E.L. Crossley wanted to help declining bee populations and preserve the beautiful orchards surrounding their school, Sharon worked tirelessly to support students in creating two flourishing pollinator gardens.

Sharon also played a key role in JGI Canada’s Launch + Link initiative as a mentor to participating high school students.  As a Launch + Link participant, Colton Tew remembers that, “Ms. Keller quickly took an interest in my project to save the woodlot in Grimsby, Ontario from development. She was a huge support to me and the cause.”

For the past two years, Sharon worked with the school’s environmental club to host VegFest—their annual vegan festival. The four-day event served smoothies, salads and vegan popcorn and raised awareness of the environmental benefits of adopting a plant-based diet.

Sharon’s boundless curiosity, devotion to her students, and love of the natural world guided students for many years. Says Tori Gilbert, who also took part in Launch + Link, Sharon’s passing “brought our large community to its knees” and she will be sorely missed.

No one captured her outlook better than Sharon herself through words that continue to move and humble us:

 “I have always found the minds of young people to be fertile ground for sowing the seeds of sustainability. High school students are at a pivotal stage in their lives, open to possibilities and searching for real opportunities to make a positive contribution to their world.  My opportunity to affect change is to share my love of learning and my passion for the environment with my students and colleagues. I am convinced that the success of our many green initiatives can be directly attributed to our students sharing their ideas, developing their leadership skills, demonstrating the power of collaboration and showcasing their hard work to inspire similar efforts by their peers. We see our students as the stewards of the future who, with support and encouragement, can focus the energy and ingenuity of youth to make the world a better place.”

Sharon's students at the Launch + Link reunion Sharon Keller with Jane Goodall at Launch + Link

Photo Credit: Ophir Sarusi, Sharon Keller, Allison Tremblay