Linda Gancitano, a physical education teacher at Driftwood Middle School in the Academy of Health and Wellness magnet program in Hollywood was honored this month for her development of the ‘How Low Can You Go’ Energy Challenge.

She was named a White House Climate Education on Literacy Champion of Change and was invited to the White House to participate in sessions on protecting the environment. She was honored at special White House ceremony.

“It was a once in lifetime occasion,” said Gancitano. “It was incredible to be honored at the White House. I did not get to meet President Barack Obama but he was at the White House when we were there. I really enjoyed visiting Washington and especially seeing the Lincoln and Washington Memorials.”

In 2008, Gancitano started the Driftwood Middle School Green Team. It connected environmental wellness to the school wide Health and Wellness Magnet program. She created the How Low Can You Go Energy Challenge. The student-run energy team, better known as the “DMS Chillers,” conducts energy audits and leaves a painted paw print on the door saying “You’ve been Chilled!” when classroom lights are found left on. The “DMS Chillers” go into classrooms and make suggestions to teachers and students on how to conserve energy.

The “How Low Can You Go?” Energy Challenge was so successful, that Gancitano expanded it to the entire District through a partnership with the Miami Heat during NBA Green Week. The initiative raised environmental awareness of the effects on the environment of CO2 emissions, and provided education on the potential financial savings through responsible energy consumption. In its inaugural year, 64 schools participated in the challenge, reducing energy use by 380,612 KWH and realizing a savings of over $34,000, for a one month period. The 2014/15 challenge has expanded to 80 schools and an energy reduction period of three months ending this month. The school with the largest energy reduction will be recognized at the March 29, 2015 Miami Heat game and a school pep rally during NBA Green Week.