INTERNATIONALLY-RENOWNED GREEN EDUCATOR & INNOVATOR; FOUNDER, GREEN BRONX MACHINE; BEST-SELLING AUTHOR
Stephen Ritz is South Bronx educator and innovator who believes that students shouldn’t have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into unprecedented spheres of personal and academic successes—while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx—Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown more than 60,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance. Stephen was named a Top 10 Finalist for the prestigious $1m Global Teacher Prize in 2015.
Stephen helped earn his school the first ever Citywide Award of Excellence from the NYC Strategic Alliance for Health and directly attributes these results to growing vegetables in school. To reclaim his own health and model good behavior for his students, he lost 100 pounds by eating what he and his students grow. In 2013, The United States Department of State and New York Foreign Press Corps toured representatives from 40 countries across Stephen’s work-sites and classrooms. He was selected as a delegate at WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) and as a national Green Apple Education Ambassador for the US Green Building Council and Center for Green Schools. In 2014, Green Bronx Machine celebrated a Best of Green Schools Award—one of only ten recipients across the United States and The National Association of Secondary School Principals cited Stephen’s work and Green Bronx Machine as one of five national exemplars of service learning.
That same year, Stephen’s fourth and fifth grade students accepted a personal invitation from White House by Chef William Yosses to visit the White House and exchange ideas about food literacy. Consequently, Stephen and his students began hosting Chef Yosses in the Bronx on a regular basis. Stephen’s Bronx classroom featured the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE, which routinely generated enough produce to provide healthy meals to 450 students while training the youngest nationally certified workforce in America.
Affectionately known as "America's Favorite Teacher," Stephen has moved attendance from 40% to 93% daily, helped provide 2,200 youth jobs in the Bronx and captured the United States EPA Award for transforming mindsets and landscapes in NYC.
In 2016, he worked to develop a ground breaking, internationally certified curriculum which embeds concepts of sustainability, food, energy and environmental justice aligned to STEM content areas for elementary schools. Stephen and Green Bronx Machine also brought to life the first ever independently financed National Health, Wellness and Learning Center in a 100+ year old reclaimed school library in the South Bronx at Community School 55. Soon thereafter, he partnered with LoyaltyOne in Canada to launch "The Good Food Machine" in 10 elementary schools, modeled after his programs in New York. The U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. erected a model of his classroom as an example of successful urban agricultural integration into academia. He presented twice at The White House—once for the “State of STEM” event and again for the first annual South by South Lawn event. His debut book, The Power of a Plant (May 2, 2017 / Rodal Publishing), debuted as a #1 best-seller on Amazon.
To date, Stephen’s work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, TNT, Disney, and NPR, as well as internationally from Colombia to Dubai. His TED talk boasts more than 1 million views, he was featured in the film adaptation of Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, In Defense of Food, NPR’s All Things Considered, ABC’s The Chew and The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food for Thought. Heroes in the Classroom featured Stephen as one of the top fifty teachers in America.
THE POWER OF A PLANT: A TEACHER'S ODYSSEY TO GROW HEALTHY MINDS AND SCHOOLS
In this inspirational presentation, Stephen Ritz shares the unlikely stories of how he and his students farmed their way from the poorest congressional district in the country all the way to the White House and beyond. Through the integration of green technologies aligned to STEM content areas, coupled with innovative solutions for inspiring healthy habits, Stephen teaches audiences how he improved test scores, attendance rates, and graduation rates, as well as how he lost more than 100lbs. himself! In a community with 25% unemployment, Stephen has partnered towards the creation of more than 2,200 jobs and shares with audiences the practical stories and actionable advice about how they, too, can affect great change in their communities.
FARMING PEOPLE: PLANTING SEEDS WITH TODAY'S YOUTH
Stephen Ritz considers himself a farmer, but he doesn't consider the fruits and vegetables he and his students plant in the South Bronx as his main crop. As a teacher and CEO of Green Bronx Machine, Stephen grows people, by planting seeds of change in the youth and communities he works with. In this talk, Stephen shares the story of how he has been educating children through agriculture. Stephen encourages audiences, through his example of urban farming, to find ways to improve health and educational outcomes for students, ensuring equity and opportunity for youth within their own communities.