EUSTIS, Fla. – Hidden behind ancient oaks and a pine tree forests, Trout Lake Nature Center has become a destination for school children on field trips and adults looking for a quiet escape.
For volunteer Trina Raether, it’s also become a second career. For 18 years, Raether has been the department chair for educational curriculum at the center. It’s been an easy transition for the former school teacher.
“I enjoy teaching and this fits me to the tee,” Raether said as she sorted butterflies for a new collection. “This is going to go on our touch table,” she said pointing to a large table filled with everything from sea shells to a mastodon fossil.
Raether has made it a priority to emphasize interactive learning. The natural history museum is filled with objects children can touch and feel. Raether also serves as tour guide, taking classes down the many trails and boardwalks to explore the natural world.
“I always thought it was very important for kids to be outside doing stuff,” she said. “It was always important to do activities that kept them active.”
Executive director Eileen Tramontana said Raether has influenced so many students over the years.
“She’s been a guiding light for so many,” Tramontana said. “I’ve seen children in tears going into the woods. Then later they’ll say, ‘This is better than Disney World’ because they’ve gotten so excited about learning.”
When Raether announced she would be stepping down as education director, fellow volunteer Jeanette Kelly thought she deserved recognition. Kelly nominated her for the News 6 Getting Results Award.
“I sent you and email hoping we could do something to honor Trina to show her how much she has done for Trout Lake,” Kelly said.
Raether said it’s time for someone else to have an opportunity to guide the program but she’ll continue to volunteer regularly.
Kelly said Raether’s knowledge and enthusiasm will be missed.
“She’s an amazing woman. Irreplaceable, really,” Kelly said.
Trout Lake Nature Center is located at 520 East County Road 44 in Eustis.