Keynote Speaker

Andrea Suarez Falken, Director, U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Andrea Podium Ceremony 2014

Andrea Suarez Falken serves as Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and ED’s Facilities, Health and Environment Liaison, advising the Department on matters at the intersection of school facilities, health, and environment.

In 2011, Andrea developed the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award. Working with states, non-governmental entities, and federal agencies, she devised the first coherent, comprehensive, and consensus-based definition of green schools, which has been adopted widely, including internationally. Without new authority, funding, or staff, the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award has united the federal, state, and nongovernmental organization community around a common effort, generated thousands of positive media impressions for the green schools movement, and impacted millions of students across the country as schools become healthier, safer, and more sustainable places to receive a 21st-century education.

In 2013, Andrea expanded this work to include a Green Strides outreach initiative, offering resources, webinars, and honorees’ innovative practices in one place to help all schools striving to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health, and sustainability education. In 2013, she added a District Sustainability Award and an annual nation-wide Green Strides tour. In 2014, she added a Postsecondary Sustainability Award.

In order to bring more environment, health, and facilities resources into schools, Andrea has forged strong relationships at numerous of federal agencies. She cultivates ties with state education agencies’ facilities, health, and environmental education personnel. Andrea also interfaces with over 80 national non-profit organizations in the areas of school facilities, health, and environment.

It is estimated that Andrea has now saved the government millions by leveraging existing federal and non-profit expertise and resources to advance sustainable, healthy schools and environmental education. For her exemplary public service and contributions of local, state, and national significance, Andrea was the 2012 recipient of the U.S. Department of Education Secretary’s Golden Apple Award, the first Golden Apple awarded in over a decade, and a 2014 recipient of the U.S. Department of Education Secretary’s Teamwork Award. She has also earned the Department several awards from the U.S. Green Building Council Center for Green Schools and the Center for Innovation and Environmental Leadership. The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award and comprehensive definition of green schools have traveled as far as the Durbin climate talks, the United Nations Environment Programme and foreign nations’ education ministries.

Andrea earned both of her degrees — a master’s from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s from Colgate University — with high honors and on full scholarships. The native Washingtonian lives in Denver with her infant son Íñigo.

Andrea and Auburn plaque