EcoRise Teacher Ambassadors are experienced EcoRise teachers who have demonstrated a strong interest in and commitment to the EcoRise mission and core values. Teacher Ambassadors regularly and effectively implement EcoRise curriculum, Eco-Audits, green-school projects, and microgrants, in addition to leveraging EcoRise support services and connecting with community partners and the larger EcoRise teacher community.
Meet the 2020–21 Education Fellows
& Teacher Ambassadors
Sustainability Education Fellows
David Ward teaches fourth-grade math and science at Joe Lee Johnson STEAM Academy in the Round Rock Independent School District in Texas. He also leads the school’s EcoTrailblazers enrichment cluster. Throughout his career, David has served as a math and science coordinator and has been integral to the development of science curriculum within the districts he has served. Having spent two years as an EcoRise Ambassador, David will assist EcoRise this year with project planning and teacher training as an EcoRise Teacher Fellow. His goal will be to strengthen the Ambassador Program as well as to strengthen EcoRise programs across the country.
David’s advice to EcoRise teachers is to be brave! The best learning experiences come from teaching on the edge where we push ourselves to experience new things and conquer our fears. Just take a deep breath and take that first step! Reach out for support, and you will find many helping hands to guide you.
Connect with David on Twitter, @davidw4rd.
Denise Ortiz has been teaching at New Braunfels High School for 22 years. She has taught advanced placement environmental science for 19 years, with aquatic science as a recent addition. Denise has also taught biology and integrated physics and chemistry. For the last five years, she has taught dual enrollment in the environmental science course.
Denise just completed her coursework for a certification in administration, which she plans to utilize in the fall of 2021. Denise has been married to her high school sweetheart for 21 years, and they have a daughter, who will be married on January 2, 2021. Denise enjoys working on curriculum and working out at the gym.
Denise’s advice to other EcoRise teachers is just to jump in and try one lesson. Don’t feel obligated to incorporate multiple lessons into a unit. Keep it simple, and gradually explore as you go.
Vielca Anglin has been teaching science in New York City public schools for 18 years, the last five of which have been at City-As-School High School. In those five years, she has become very involved in the school community as a teacher, academic advisor, learner, and teacher leader.
This past year, Vielca served as a Teacher Ambassador for EcoRise and is looking forward to building on her work in the upcoming year. Some of the most impactful activities in the last school year involved leading her students through projects based on the air and water lessons in the Sustainable Intelligence curriculum and cofacilitating teacher professional development with EcoRise Staff.
Vielca’s advice to other EcoRise teachers: Yoda said it best, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Commit to introducing even just one small aspect of sustainability to your students, and you have planted seeds of change.
Aimee O’Brien grew up in the Bay Area and moved to the Sacramento area 32 years ago. In the summer, her father would take her and her sister backpacking through Glacier and Yosemite National Parks, where she developed a deep respect for and connection to nature. Aimee has been teaching for over 20 years in the Sacramento region. She has taught fourth through sixth grades as a credentialed teacher, and she taught preschool prior to graduating. Her school is one of the first charter schools in the country and one of the few dependent public charter schools. As a teacher, she has championed Integrated Thematic Instruction, embedding true art instruction in the elementary classroom. She values stewardship and believes charter schools can be an agent of positive change in education.
When Aimee is not teaching, you can find her attending music festivals, creating art, working in her garden, or enjoying her tiny Forest Service cabin near Lake Tahoe.
Allison Bearden is the math and science instructional specialist and coach for Tomball Intermediate School. She has been a teacher for 10 years and has spent her entire teaching career in the Tomball Independent School District. This year will be her second as an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador. She has been a math and science teacher in grades four through six.
Allison loves to provide real-world experiences for her students through project-based learning (PBL). She is very excited to continue her journey with EcoRise to promote more awareness about the environment and to help other teachers see their full potential as PBL teachers.
Connect with Allison on Twitter, @ARBearden.
Anthony Allard is a graduate of Howard University with a degree in civil engineering. He is going into his eighth year of teaching at Dunbar High School in Washington, DC.
Anthony believes it is important that future engineers become acquainted with alternative means to building and design. If they are successful, they will preserve our amazing world for many years to come.
Cherice has a passion for helping scholars learn and advance in education. She has been in the field of education for 20 years.
Cherice currently teaches sustainable intelligence and LEED Prep at the premier STEM school Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy in Washington, DC. She is the lead teacher for the Urban Ecology Career Academy. The career academy focuses on the importance of scholars sustaining their environments and being strong advocates of saving our planet.
Connect with Cherice on Twitter, @cherice_r.
Christine Mederos has been teaching for four years and will start a new position in South Austin for the 2020‚Äì2021 school year. She has worked with the EcoRise curriculum in kindergarten and third grade and loves producing Eco-Audit grants with her classes. She is looking forward to working on her new campus to earn the green flag.
Christine teaches environmental education because she believes there is more to education than just what is found in books. Real-world conversations and experiences are paramount to the education of well-rounded kids who are willing to fight for themselves and their world.
Connect with Christine on Twitter, @mrskindergarden.
Denisse Ochoa is a librarian at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD. She has been in education for over 16 years and has taught Pre-K, second grade, third grade, fifth grade, and library classes. Her two favorite subjects to teach are reading and science.
Denisse’s hobbies are reading and gardening. She is also a mother of two amazing daughters and has a very supportive husband and a super spoiled boxer named Cowboy.
Earl Gray is the sustainability coordinator at Harlem Renaissance High School in New York City. Being appointed as a sustainability coordinator led him to learn more about sustainability and the impact that it has on our lives. Earl’s students are now more aware of environmental justice, climate change, healthy eating, and the importance of practicing sustainability within their families as well as their communities.
Earl is excited to be selected as an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador because he believes it will help him find and create sustainable solutions for his students and colleagues.
Ed Yoo is starting his 10th year as a science teacher at Codman Academy, a small charter school located in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where he first started off as a 10th-grade physics teacher. He now teaches ninth grade biology, and he taught 10th grade AP environmental science for the first time last school year.
Ed has been using the EcoRise curriculum for several years and believes that the sustainability projects using Eco-Audit grants are invaluable to students’ engagement in authentic learning experiences. He is excited to be an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador to fully integrate Eco-Audits into the AP environmental science curriculum.
Connect with Ed on Instagram, @educationalontogeny.
Born and raised in NYC, Geoff Hockert is a city guy, but he also loves the outdoors and spends time during the summer in upstate New York. A passion of Geoff’s, beginning when he was in high school, is studying history and civics. He eventually went on to become a history/social studies teacher. Geoff also started an environmental club in high school and has been passionate about environmentalism ever since.
Geoff’s current focus is on marrying his passions and really concentrating on educating and inspiring others to take action in regard to the environment. Aside from work, Geoff loves sports, fitness and recreation, and travel.
Isabel Anaya earned her bachelor’s degree with a Spanish endorsement from Ball State University in 1999, and she obtained her master’s degree in education in 2005. This year marks her 19th year of teaching with Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, currently as a fifth-grade teacher.
She sponsors several after-school clubs, including FLL LEGO Robotics, Solar Cars, Theater for a Cause, and EcoFriends. Her students have responded to the drastic decline in monarch butterfly populations by taking the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Monarch Pledge and creating a Monarch Heroes garden. Her heart is in making a difference to the environment and igniting that passion in others. Isabel teaches students to understand the impact they are making on their environment on a daily basis. Her students have conducted several Eco-Audits, including those for waste, water, and public spaces.
Isabel also serves on the board of directors for Keep San Antonio Beautiful, empowering the citizens of San Antonio to take responsibility for improving the environment in their communities.
Connect with Isabel on Twitter, @Isabel_Anaya1.
Jennifer Humphrey has been teaching in some way, shape, or form for the last 18 years. She spent her first six years as an instructor teaching outdoor environmental education in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Texas.
Jennifer is married and has one daughter, who is about to turn 5. She loves to travel and has been to over 23 countries as well as 48 of the 50 states. She also loves to camp, hike, play sports, and read.
Connect with Jennifer on twitter, @SosStem.
Kelly Knight is a science instructor at Katy High School in Katy, Texas, and serves as an adjunct astronomy professor at Houston Community College. Kelly earned her Bachelor of Science in geology from the University of Northern Iowa, her Master of Science in geoscience from Penn State University, and her Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston-Victoria. She worked for eight years in the oil and gas industry before transitioning back to academia. She currently teaches environmental systems and is a founding coordinator of the Tiger Prairie Restoration Project (www.tigerprairie.org).
Kelly is excited to join the EcoRise Ambassador team and help other educators incorporate sustainable ecology in their classrooms!
Kendra Heffelbower has been teaching kindergarten through fifth grade in DC Public Schools for 17 years. She started her career teaching all subjects, slowly transitioned toward teaching all subjects through the focused lens of STEM and math, and eventually became a math/STEM coach. She is a lifelong learner who loves learning and teaching through integration and project-based learning.
Kendra started with EcoRise about six years ago and, after a slow start, she has now supported students and teachers through the audit, grant-writing, and showcase presentation process for the past several years. She was awarded the Legacy Award by EcoRise during the 2018–19 school year.
Connect with Kendra on Twitter, @MightyStem.
Lyndsey currently supports teachers and students at Krahn Elementary as the Math/Science Instructional Specialist in Klein Independent School District in Spring, Texas. Lyndsey is a member of her district’s annual Girls in STEM Conference Committee and she has served on the district curriculum team to help design and restructure the curriculum to fit students’ needs and build their engagement. She also previously taught second, third, and fourth grade at Ehrhardt Elementary and Kaiser Elementary in Klein ISD.
During the 2018–2019 school year, more than 60 students in Lyndsey’s writing and science classes took ownership over discovering ways to express how they could each make an environmental impact on their campus and work together to come up with grant proposal ideas. Her students received three Eco-Audit Grants totaling $1,347.64 to purchase indoor plants for each classroom to improve air quality, multiple rain barrels for their outdoor garden to conserve water, and reusable snack containers and water bottles to reduce waste for each student. The three student teams had the honor of presenting their projects at the first annual Houston Student Innovation Showcase at Houston City Hall. Their projects were then published in the Houston Chronicle!
Connect with Lyndsey on Twitter, @LyndseyHurley2.
Marisa Varalli’s preferred pronouns: she, her. BLACK LIVES MATTER.
This is Marisa’s 20th year as a teacher in San Francisco. Marisa is currently a Spanish teacher at Balboa High School. She feels extremely lucky to work and live in the same neighborhood she grew up in. Marisa is always looking for resources and tools that will help students gain an appreciation of the impact and repercussions of consumption decisions. That is why she is excited to have the opportunity to partner with EcoRise and other educators working to provide quality curriculum that will create a more sustainable and equitable world.
MaryAnn Settlemyre has been teaching for 31 years. She has experienced many trends, ideas, students, states, and countries. She believes it is important for all learners to connect with the world around them. Learning about the environment is authentically project-based learning, STEAM, and 21st-century skills all rolled into one. It is real-life, hands-on learning that impacts students at home, at school, and globally. The thing she loves the most about this approach to teaching is the “got it” moment for her students.
MaryAnn grew up in Niagara Falls, New York. She has lived in New York, North Carolina, and‚ for the last 20 years, Virginia.
Mylene Garcia teaches chemistry and environmental science at Benjamin Banneker High School in Washington, DC. She has more than 20 years of teaching experience, and this will be her sixth year in DC Public Schools. She is excited about moving to the district’s new school building in 2021. The new school site will not only house the students, but it will be a learning lab where students can apply principles of sustainability and promote environmental awareness.
Mylene teaches environmental education because she believes it is the key to motivating students to care for the earth.
Nicole Nicholson is a native Houstonian. This coming school year marks her eighth year as a certified educator teaching high school science: biology, environmental systems, and AP environmental science. She came to the field of education with a background in childcare and record keeping. She continues in education because she strives to change the world one student at a time.
In addition to being an educator, she is the mother of two wonderful young men, 11 and 14 years old, and is a youth leader at her church.
Connect with Nicole on Twitter, @MsNicoleYvette.
Octavia Wolf is the fifth-grade English language arts/social studies teacher at West Elementary School in Ward 4 in Washington, DC, where she has been teaching for the past seven years. She received her undergraduate degree in family studies from Longwood University and is currently enrolled at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, where she is pursuing her Master of Education. She came to education after being selected for the Teach for America 2014 DC Corps and is dedicated to issues of equity and justice in the education field.
Octavia is excited to be an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador because she believes in erasing and dismantling all forms of environmental racism and cannot wait to empower other teachers and students across the country to make a difference within their own communities.
Connect with Octavia on Instagram, @west.mrs.wolf.
Rosalie Patel currently teaches prekindergarten at Boone Elementary in Austin, Texas. Her students are dedicated young scientists who have been participating in EcoRise grant projects for the past three years. Her student-led projects include a classroom air quality improvement effort using plant distribution, a campus-wide energy reduction campaign, and a paper-waste reduction plan that put compost bins in each classroom.
Rosalie loves encouraging a passion for nature in her students and works to spread citizen science and environmental stewardship through teaching. She is also a leader of the school Eco-Club—a club with student, teacher, and community involvement, dedicated to making the campus green through student-driven projects and learning opportunities.
Connect with Rosalie on Twitter, @RosaliePatel17.
Sabina Malkani was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and she started teaching in 1999. She teaches environmental education because she loves teaching children how to get up close with nature. She loves to see that “Aha!” moment when they realize how important air and water are to their own lives.
Sabina lives in Maryland and has a 6-year-old son. She spent the summer teaching her son how to bake, choreographing and teaching Bollywood dancing to young girls in her neighborhood, and working out at a boot camp!
Connect with Sabina on Twitter, @teacher_terra.
Steven Morris is in his sixth year of teaching and will be a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Martin Middle school in Austin, Texas, in the 2020–2021 school year. He has previously taught first, third, fourth, and fifth grade, and is a Texas Education Agency recognized teacher for his students’ academic achievements. Students in his class have enjoyed outdoor learning with incorporated sustainable gardening lessons as well as hands-on collaborative learning.
Steven is currently working on his master’s degree in educational technology and leadership at Lamar University.
Connect with Stephen on Twitter, @brookerobotics.
Sunshine Roque (she/her) is a biology teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, California. She believes that environmental education is rooted in teaching and that land is life. She hopes to perpetuate the brave work of environmental defenders around the world!
Sunshine is Filipino, and so she comes from a people whose lush lands have been stolen, mined, and militarized. She teaches environmental education because she knows the lands of many of her students’ ancestors have similar stories. Environmental education and activism are intertwined and integral to dismantling global systems of oppression.
Tracy Joseph currently teaches fourth-grade math and science at the Martin Luther King, Jr. K-8 school in Boston, Massachusetts. Her passion for education was originally ignited while volunteering as a tutor at a community organization. That passion has evolved over the past 20 years, and she is currently directing it toward preparing students to fearlessly lead, problem solve, and embrace ways to change the world.
Last year, she and her students designed an affordable housing plan in response to a very real-world shortage of affordable housing in Boston. An eventual introduction to EcoRise inspired an enhancement to that plan and has resulted in an exploration of ways not only to provide affordable housing but also to provide options with clean air, energy efficiency, and climate resilience. Tracy’s EcoRise introduction also inspired her to continue to engage students in sustainability education.
Tristan Holyoke is an elementary school life skills teacher in Austin, Texas. He is committed to addressing issues of equity in education through thoughtful exploration and intentional relationship building. Teaching is a lifestyle! Tristan is excited about the growth in environmental education programming offered in East Austin and the social consciousness that underpins the transition. Even 10 years ago, when he started teaching, red worms, bees, chickens, rabbits, fruit forests, and vegetable garden beds being part of the daily routines at school were not the norm. Now, they make up our urban school farm that provides produce, eggs, and honey to the cafeteria!
Tristan is a proud father, husband, brother, and son who enjoys spending time in the garden or at the river with the family dogs.
Victoria Galvan-Garcia currently teaches world geography at PSJA Early College High School in San Juan, Texas. She is passionate about teaching students about sustainability and issues related to climate change. In her classroom, Victoria focuses lessons on renewable energy, pollution, public health, global goals for sustainable development, and how students’ lives will be affected by each. She understands that today’s youth will determine the environmental conditions our future generations will endure. Victoria knows she gets one year to plant the seeds of change with each of her students, and if each one of her students influences just one other person, the ripple effects of environmental transformation will have begun.
Victoria is ecstatic to be a part of the EcoRise team of Ambassadors. She looks forward to working with members of her community to promote appreciation of the earth and all the biological systems within it.