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.
2022–2023 EcoRise Teacher Fellows
Isabel Anaya is entering her 22nd year of being an educator with Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. This year she has the honor to be part of the district’s Curriculum and Instruction Team as the Elementary Science Instructional Support Teacher. Isabel is dedicated to making a difference in the environment and helping others understand the impact they can make. She also serves on the board for Keep San Antonio Beautiful and works with her team to empower the citizens of San Antonio to take responsibility for improving our communities environment.
Connect with Isabel on Twitter, @isabel_anaya1.
Kendra Heffelbower has been teaching or coaching kindergarten through fifth grade in District of Columbia Public Schools for 18 years. This year she is transitioning to a new role as the STEM instructional coach at Langley Elementary in Washington, DC. For the past six years, Kendra has worked with EcoRise, and this is her second year as an Ambassador. She loves watching students learn through making connections, considering different perspectives, and applying what they have learned.
2022–2023 EcoRise Teacher Ambassadors
Aimee O’Brien teaches fourth grade in Sacramento, CA, at Bowling Green, one of the country’s original public charter schools. She has been teaching intermediate grades for 23 years, all at the same Title 1 school. She has always had a deep connection to nature, which led her to EcoRise. She is inspired and honored to be a part of the EcoRise Teacher Ambassador team again this year.
Aimee Quinn is a high school biology teacher in Tempe, AZ. Her real-world experience includes working at an aquarium and at a pet hospital. She is excited to become an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador and to inspire students to embark on the life-long journey of learning about and caring for this planet.
Alaine Fowler is a born-and-raised Austinite who is passionate about the environment in school as well as in her own day-to-day life. She graduated from Texas State University with an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Elementary Curriculum. She is currently a fourth grade math and science teacher in the Austin Independent School District (ISD). She aims to help young students learn more about how they can help the Earth. Alaine decided to become an EcoRise Ambassador to help spread her love of being green.
Alexandra Dowd is currently an aquatic science teacher at New Braunfels High School in New Braunfels, TX. She returned to her alma mater three years ago and is proud to be a Unicorn again! She is returning for her second year as an EcoRise Ambassador. While she anticipates many exciting things as a returning Ambassador, she is most excited about the community of educators she is able to learn beside and the opportunity to share valuable resources with teachers in her region.
Connect with Alexandra on Instagram, @al.dowd.
Amelia Cook is a member of the Chickasaw Nation; a high school Earth science, biology, and AP environmental science teacher; and a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma. Amelia’s research interests focus on indigenous science education and Native American storytelling for methods to teach climate science and build community resilience. With over 10 years of experience as an educator, Amelia has experience as a teacher leader, informal educator, professional learning facilitator, and science education instructor and researcher in higher education. She sponsors her school district’s Native Youth Science Club, in which students from grades 2–12 engage with their Native American culture through environmental educational experiences. Last spring, the Native Youth Science Club planted a native pollinator garden on campus in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Planet Stewards program for their “Keepers of Turtle Island” project!
Amelia loves teaching environmental science because of the opportunities to nurture the “whole child,” to help students learn about and understand nature, and to inspire students to ask meaningful questions about the world around them and their role in it. She is passionate about joining the EcoRise community, where she can connect and work with other educators to foster students’ participation in evidence-based discussions of socio-ecological systems.
Cherice Greene has a passion for helping scholars learn and advance their education. She has been in the field of education for 23 years. Cherice currently teaches two EcoRise courses—Sustainable Intelligence and Green Building Lessons for a Sustainable Future—at Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy, a premier STEM school in Washington, D.C. She is the lead teacher for the Urban Ecology Career Academy, which focuses on the importance of scholars sustaining their environments and being strong advocates for saving our planet.
Connect with Cherice on Twitter, @cherice_r.
Chris Donnelly is the lead teacher for the Environmental Science Career and Technical Education program at Boston Green Academy in Boston, MA. Chris received his Bachelor of Science at the University of Rhode Island and then moved to Santa Cruz, CA, to chase waves. Surfing has helped instill in Chris a deep appreciation for the natural systems that drive our climate and support life on Earth. He returned to Massachusetts to pursue a Master of Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston in order to learn how to teach and share his passion for the environment with the next generation. Chris is excited to learn from other EcoRise Ambassadors about the work they are doing to help teach and support the future stewards of our planet.
Christy Mederos has been an educator in Austin ISD for five years, teaching kids in the Dual Language program from kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. She has found innovative ways to incorporate environmental awareness and stewardship into multilingual projects and campus-wide improvement plans. Her goal is to keep showing teachers how easy it is to give their students the power to change their communities through EcoRise!
Connect with Christine on Twitter, @ms_mederos.
Denisse Ochoa has been an educator for 18 years at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD in Texas. For the past six years, she has been a school librarian. She has also served as an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador for three years. Denisse is excited to be here at the Institute to learn and gather ideas from other educators, continuing to learn more about sustainability and making a difference in her community.
Connect with Denisse on Twitter, @psjabookraiders.
Earl Gray is the sustainability coordinator at Harlem Renaissance High School in New York City. As his career path has expanded, he has been blessed with the task of establishing a sustainable school environment through the implementation of sustainability initiatives in schools. His excitement for being an EcoRise Teacher has provided him with the tools to bring about positive change within his school community.
Garth Marchant is moving into his sixth year of teaching. He currently teaches STEAM at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the South Bronx. When he was growing up, Garth noticed a scarcity of black teachers in school, so he decided to become a teacher. After working with students and receiving EcoRise Eco-Audit Grants two years in a row for a school rooftop garden, Garth learned about the EcoRise Teacher Ambassador Program. He is very excited to be an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador because he knows the takeaways will bolster his vision for his students having the best educational experiences and successes in and out of the classroom.
This year is Jennifer Humphrey’s 19th year in education. She currently teaches eighth-grade science as well as seventh- and eighth-grade environmental science at Nimitz Middle School in San Antonio, TX. Jennifer spent her first six years as an educator teaching outdoor environmental education in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Texas. She has spent the last 12 years teaching at Nimitz Middle School’s STEM Academy.
After graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in Bioenvironmental Education, Jennifer Humphrey spent six years teaching outdoor environmental education in Wisconsin, Michigan, and in Texas. She also spent summers taking kids on outdoor trips to Maine and New York. She has spent the last 14 years teaching sixth- through eighth-grade science at the STEM Academy in San Antonio, TX. She now teaches eighth grade science and has a seventh-/eighth-grade environmental science elective that focuses on sustainability and ends each year with an Eco-Audit Grant project.
Connect with Jennifer on Twitter, @SosStem.
Kadie Grant Goodwin
Dr. Kadie Grant Goodwin has an extensive chemistry and biology background by way of a pharmacy degree. The science team she currently works with had an opening for an environmental science educator, and her desire to constantly learn and grow provided a push in this unexpected direction. She is excited to be an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador because of her passion for learning and sharing knowledge with others, with an emphasis on exciting activities and illuminating thought and ideological processes.
Kathryn Jimenez is a fourth-grade general and special education teacher in San Antonio, TX. She graduated from Texas State University in 2004 and has been teaching in Northside ISD for 18 years. Kathryn is looking forward to working on her certification to become a Texas Master Naturalist starting in the fall of 2022. She enjoys being an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador because of the wonderful support the organization provides for student projects focusing on sustainability.
Kelly Knight is an environmental science instructor at Katy High School and serves as adjunct faculty for Houston Community College’s Department of Astronomy and Physics. She earned her Bachelor of Science in geology from University of Northern Iowa, her Master of Science in geoscience from Pennsylvania State University, and her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction (Secondary Science Emphasis) from the University of Houston. She is excited for the opportunity to be an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador and to work with other like-minded colleagues on bringing sustainability and environmental justice to the forefront of every classroom!
Laura Berenguer is an enthusiastic special education teacher at Robert Renick Educational Center in Miami Dade County, FL. In 1993, Laura obtained her Bachelor of Science in Emotional Handicap from Florida International University (FIU) and went on to obtain a Master of Science in TSOL and Special Education from FIU. Since beginning her career in 1993, She has always been passionate about providing engaging learning experiences to her students with diverse learning and behavioral needs. Laura prides herself on seeking out resources and experiences to optimize student outcomes and help develop the next generation of citizens. The opportunity to be an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador gives her a platform to encourage participation and engage other teachers, especially special education teachers, in EcoRise projects. She is excited to use this opportunity to show teachers that students at all levels with any kind of diverse needs can access EcoRise projects and help save the planet.
Micah Stover is a Tsalagi (Cherokee) Nation citizen going into her fourth year as an OKC Harvest Garden Educator through OKC Beautiful. Micah primarily teaches organic garden-based lessons within Oklahoma City Public Schools, covering multiple core subjects aligning with state academic standards with an emphasis on environmental education, science, and nutritious food systems. Prior to becoming a Garden Educator, Micah earned a degree in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma in 2018 and developed a background in social advocacy and public park activation through event planning and community engagement. Micah is thrilled to be an EcoRise Ambassador this year because EcoRise is passionate about the lives of our children and has a deep understanding that for kids to have bright and healthy futures, they deserve to be empowered agents of change and environmental stewardship.
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 eighth year in DC Public Schools. Last year, Mylene started the EcoRise Student Ambassador Club at her school, where the students used the Sustainable Intelligence Curriculum to promote environmental awareness and sustainable practices.
Nicole Nicholson is a native Houstonian who is entering her 10th year of teaching science at Klein Forest High School. She enjoys reading, drawing, and of course science. This is her third year as a teacher ambassador for EcoRise. She is excited to be part of the collaboration that takes place among educators and other professionals from across the country.
Connect with Nicole on Twitter, @msnicoleyvette.
Nina Acevedo lives in New York City and works at the NYC Department of Education. She received a master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from Long Island University, and she received a Master of Science in Education of Students with Disabilities from Brooklyn College. At a young age, Nina attended Colombia’s Colegio Alejandro de Humboldt, which promoted the importance of caring for the environment. Since then, she has had a passion for participating in projects that foster appreciation for the environment. Nina is currently the Sustainability Coordinator at her school and continues to work with the San Lorenzo Project in Colombia to coordinate school gardens, incorporate environment awareness into the curriculum, and support extracurricular events that promote sustainability.
Connect with Nina on Instagram, @NinaMAcevedo.
Octavia R. Wolf
Octavia R. Wolf (she/her) is an eighth-year public educator in Washington, DC. Over the course of her career, she has served in Ward 4 Title I schools as both a middle school special educator and a fifth-grade general educator in multiple subjects. She graduated from Longwood University in 2011 with a Bachelor of the Arts in sociology (with a Family Studies concentration) and received her Master of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University in 2022. She currently teaches fifth grade at Barnard Elementary and is excited to be a third-year Ambassador because of the impact EcoRise has on her students.
Connect with Octavia through her website, https://sites.google.com/view/octaviawolf/.
Sabina Malkani is a DC Public Schools educator and returning EcoRise Teacher Ambassador. Her students have successfully implemented several EcoRise grant projects that have led to school-wide systemic change, including a school gardening program, a program promoting the use of nontoxic Eco-Lab cleaners, and a program enabling a switch from single-use plastic utensils in the cafeteria to silverware. Sabina is enjoying her summer break by gardening, hiking, and doing science experiments with her 8-year-old son, Nikhil.
Tasha L. J. Messer
A conduit of change, Mrs. Tasha L. J. Messer is a passionate educator unapologetically advocating for the greater good. This ever-evolving description is dictated by the needs and circumstances of the Now. It requires unrelenting curiosities and care for others, which Tasha intentionally demonstrates in her daily walk-through of life, both personally and professionally. Exemplifying qualities of a consummate learner herself, and purposefully wielding these unique characteristics, attracts people to her like the melodic vocalizations of a beautiful songbird. All of this, and then some, is what makes her continued EcoRise Ambassadorship matter.
Now in her 21st year of teaching, Tina Coba currently supports teachers, students, and the school community at Volma Overton Early College Prep as the math instructional specialist in Austin ISD in Austin, TX. Tina earned her Master of Education Administration from Texas A&M University in 2010. She currently sponsors several afterschool clubs, including National Elementary Honor Society, Coding Club, Drill Team, and Gardening Club. Tina loves being an EcoRise Ambassador and helping other educators incorporate the EcoRise curriculum in their classrooms!
Connect with Tina on Twitter, @coachcoba.
Toni Brooks is a teacher in Durant ISD in Oklahoma. She teaches sixth-grade math but didn’t always want to be a teacher. Toni used to teach environmental education as a Camp Director for the YMCA. As an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador, she is excited to create a spark in the community for wanting to make cleaner and safer choices.
Victoria Galvan-Garcia is a world geography teacher at PSJA Early College High School in San Juan, TX. She thinks it is essential to provide students with an intellectual foundation in sustainability that will help them thrive as adults. Ms. Galvan-Garcia is excited to be an EcoRise Ambassador and looks forward to promoting sustainability within her classroom and community.