President of the Maritime Alliance, Michael Jones said Walters received the award to honor his "tireless efforts to promote marine science and ocean literacy in the San Diego region."
Teaching for 30 years, the last 12 at MBHS, Walters' work with his marine science students includes joint projects with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, raising white sea bass for restoration into the ocean, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment and CLEAR Program, which engages students in learning about the chemistry of aerosols, climate, and the environment. Walters also works with the Southwest Fisheries/California Fish and Wildlife, raising red abalone for natural replenishment.
Under his mentorship, his students have competed in the National Ocean Science Bowl, developed marine-based virtual reality games, formed and regularly volunteers through the MBHS Eco Club, and teaches at local elementary schools with Ambassadors for a Clean Ocean for Climate Kids California Science Alliance.
Always looking for new ways to clean up the environment, Walters led his students through a two-year project to reduce plastic pollution on the MBHS campus by addressing single-use plastic items in the cafeteria resulting in a 50 percent reduction of campus plastic pollution through policy change, installation of a reverse osmosis system, and becoming a pilot project for all San Diego Unified Schools to reduce single-use plastic waste on all campuses.
A believer in hands-on experiences, Walters provides opportunities to students to work locally in the MBHS marine lab, in the field, and through a program sponsored by Mares when students spent a week in Dr. Brice Semmens’ laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography performing research and field work. He and his students have also gone on the road with their projects presenting at Monterey Bay Aquarium at the Teen Summit and twice at the Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit, as well as at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
He and his students are working with UC Davis/Bodega Bay Marine Research Center on an abalone research project and locally with Cabrillo National Park creating a virtual-reality tour, removing invasive marine plants and restoring native species, and creating "Art in the Park" using trash found on local beaches and waterways.
“There are many ways to help the environment through science, technology, education, and art. I am happy to receive this award, but really can't accept it without acknowledging all of my dedicated and passionate students," Walters said.
Ciara Gray, a senior at MBHS, said: "I am grateful for my three years spent with Mr. Walters as my teacher at MBHS. He has inspired me to accept the challenge of taking care of the earth through science and communication and has taught me and countless other students the importance of our roles in the environment."
The award will be presented at the ninth annual Maritime Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 8, aboard the Inspiration Hornblower.