updated 3/11/2011 10:46:28 AM ET 2011-03-11T15:46:28

TORRANCE, Calif., March 11, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Know an inspirational teacher who is making a difference for our environment?

Throughout the month of April, the Wyland Foundation and its environmental education outreach partner, Toyota, will recognize teachers who are encouraging students to work toward a sustainable, healthy planet with $20,000 in cash awards.

Thirty teachers — one a day for thirty days — will be honored in celebration of Earth Month, April 1-30, 2011. Winning teachers from Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Grades K-12, will each receive a $500 cash prize for their classroom, with a chance to win a $5,000 grand prize to support their environmental education efforts. Additionally, the winning teachers, aka "Earth Month Heroes" will be recognized in their communities and honored at a special Earth Month Kickoff Event on March 31st by internationally renowned environmental artist, Wyland. The grand prize winner will be further recognized at a public reception at the Los Angeles County Science Fair on April 16 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

"Instead of focusing on one activity for Earth Day, we want to celebrate the teachers out there who are changing attitudes year round about the environment," said Wyland, an environmental artist best known for his monumental marine life murals. "These are selfless, dedicated, and extremely talented people who year after year invest their own personal resources to enhance the educational experience for their students."

The thirty winning teachers will be chosen based on their ability to foster interest in environmental studies in any academic subject (science, math, art, general education). Among the criteria for nominees include the teacher's ability influence their students in a positive manner, spark interest in environmental awareness, and persevere in spite of growing cuts to school budgets. Nomination forms and complete rules are available at www.wylandfoundation.org . Deadline for submission is March 15, 2011. Other sponsors in the initiative include AES Corporation and KCAL / KCBS.

About the Wyland Foundation

Founded in 1993 by renowned environmental artist Wyland, the Wyland Foundation helps children and families around the nation discover the importance of healthy oceans and waterways through public art programs, classroom science education, and live events. The foundation gives children the tools they need to become more creative, positive, and solution oriented. Visit www.wylandfoundation.org

About Toyota

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. is the marketing, sales, distribution and customer service arm of Toyota, Lexus and Scion. Toyota directly employs more than 35,000 people in the U.S. Since 1991, Toyota has donated more than $500 million to U.S. philanthropic organizations, with an emphasis in education, environment and safety. www.toyota.com .

CONTACT: Steve Creech
         Cell: 949 436-2489

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