Director of Education
Jonathan joined the Youth Education program at its inception in 2005 and began serving as the Director of Education early in 2020. He holds a master’s degree in park, recreation and tourism management, a bachelor’s of arts in ecology and an associate of applied science in recreation and wildlife management. Previously, Jonathan worked for the National Park Service, North Carolina State Parks, Trout Unlimited and several Boy Scout summer camps. A certified Environmental Educator and Eagle Scout, Jonathan has been recognized by the North Carolina Science Teachers Association for his exceptional service to science education. He has also served on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina as President, and received the organization’s Outstanding Newcomer award for his service.
One of my favorite summer moments is participants return year after year. We’re now working with high school volunteers who began coming to the Arboretum for programs as second graders and even have former campers work with us as staff. I’m very proud we’re able to offer experiences that families look forward to year after year.
Teacher Education Coordinator
Michelle brings a wealth of experience in outdoor and environmental education to the Arboretum’s Youth Education team. She has delivered nature and outdoor recreation programs for the past twelve years, including work at Blue Jay Point County Park, Green River Preserve and YMCA Camp Thunderbird. Michelle earned a bachelor’s of science in biology, is a certified North Carolina Environmental Educator and has recently completed her Master’s degree in Science Education. She has served as President on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina and is currently an ad hoc chair for their Equity and Inclusion work. Her enthusiasm for the outdoors and plants and animals is contagious, and she encourages everyone around her to be excited about the outdoors.
I LOVE getting kids outside and getting them excited about a bug or mushroom or animal scat. My belief is, if you’re not getting dirty, then you’re not having FUN!
Project EXPLORE Coordinator, OAK Co-Coordinator
Trudie is an alumni and current supervisor of the Arboretum’s AmeriCorps Project Conserve program. She holds a bachelor’s of arts in environmental studies from UNC Chapel Hill and has spent the past seven years working with dogs, reptiles, raptors and of course, kids! During her previous work at education centers in Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina, she led puppet shows, tracked box turtles and shared wildlife with campers. Trudie completed her Environmental Education Certification and partnered with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture to create an activity guide for their annual high country farm tour. A natural educator, Trudie genuinely enjoys sharing the joys of the outdoors with students. Trudie serves on the board for the North Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers and as a Project Leader for the Box Turtle Connection.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child’s eyes light up with excitement after discovering a bug and that they actually like it!
Libbie grew up visiting her local arboretum near Cleveland, Ohio where her mom worked as an environmental educator. Libbie began her career in the environmental field by working for a wildlife rehab center and education center in northern Wisconsin while completing her bachelor’s of arts in environmental studies. Libbie then completed AmeriCorps service in Mobile, Alabama where she did environmental work and public outreach. After AmeriCorps, Libbie moved to New Hampshire to pursue a master’s degree in environmental studies and her master’s capstone project consisted of designing a place-based environmental education programs in an after school program in Boston. Through this experience, Libbie became passionate about empowering urban youth to discover nature within their own neighborhoods. She recently joined the Arboretum’s Youth Education team.
I am passionate about connecting with nature, and it is so fulfilling to help children enjoy and appreciate the natural world. I love helping kids get dirty while exploring the forest, and when I see a child become excited about a tree, bird, or bug I know it’s a been a good day!
OAK Co-Coordinator, Evaluation Specialist
Rich hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he grew up fly fishing, backpacking, and playing outside. Through college and beyond, he has worked conservation jobs, led backpacking trips, and taught environmental education across the US. Most recently, he graduated with a Master’s in Environmental Studies from Antioch University, focusing on place-based learning and environmental education. He worked at the Arboretum in 2014 and could not be more excited to be back!
ecoEXPLORE Creative Coordinator
A western North Carolina native, Jenna has a deep appreciation for nature, which inspires her to share her enthusiasm and knowledge of the outdoors with others. Jenna taught environmental education as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador, urban ecology in New York City and academically in Upward Bound Math and Science at Western Carolina University, and environmental science at UNC Asheville. She received her undergraduate degree in environmental studies and her master’s of science degree in environmental education at Southern Oregon University. Previously, she was a middle school science teacher.
Having been a classroom teacher I really enjoy the opportunity to spend so much time teaching in an outdoor setting. It’s a great way to relay and reinforce concepts students learn in their standard course of study.
Environmental Education Specialist, OAK Instructor
Lianna was a 2018-2019 AmeriCorps Project Conserve member at The N.C. Arboretum and is now a seasonal staff member. She grew up in Mankato, Minnesota and first experienced Western North Carolina as a student at Warren Wilson College. She has always valued time spent outside and studied Environmental Education in the hopes of inspiring others to appreciate nature. Since graduating in 2016, she has hiked a large section of the Appalachian Trail and worked as a Naturalist in northern Minnesota and Colorado. Lianna is excited to return to Asheville and help establish some young scientists by teaching citizen science programs to groups of students.
Teaching citizen science is rather rewarding, as kids learn at a young age that anyone can be a scientist and contribute to learning more about our natural world. It establishes a positive relationship with nature, which is something I have always valued in my life.
Environmental Education Specialist, OAK Instructor
Joshua is an advocate in educating others about the characteristics and benefits of the environment and how people should cherish the environment in which they live in. Joshua attained a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Education from Warren Wilson College located in Swannanoa, Asheville. Besides serving as a CTNC AmeriCorps member for the NC Arboretum, Joshua has also served in AmeriCorps as an assistant teacher and counselor engaging and ensuring well-being of youth members through core and artistic classes. He has also served in CitiSquare AmeriCorps: Food on the Move as a Community Server where he traveled around East Dallas and provided free nutritious meals along with engaging with youth of diverse cultures and backgrounds in summer activities. These activities focused in taking advantage of the outdoor environments while gaining an appreciation of the outdoor environments with which the children thrive in.
I am constantly seeking knowledge and skills that will enable me to become a more positive and influential environmental educator within the community. I believe individuals must gain an understanding the environment in which they live in. Doing so will allow one to develop a respect of an environment that deserves respect.
ecoEXPLORE Creative Specialist
Joanna is native to south Texas where she graduated with her Bachelors in Animal Biology and Chemistry from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Her passion for ecology and conservation grew alongside her involvement with the environmental education and outreach organizations during her undergrad. She began as a volunteer for vet clinics, the wildlife rehabilitation center at the Texas State Aquarium, and the Western North Carolina Nature Center under the Educational Herpetology department. She moved to Asheville in 2018 to work for American Conservation Experience (an Americorps partner) doing trail work and invasive species removal at numerous National Parks along the east coast. Joanna then worked as an instructor for Mountain Trail Outdoor School teaching a variety of ecology courses and outdoor programs.
I love teaching kids because of their innate sense of curiosity and spark. Creating positive outdoor experiences and ‘A-HA’ moments towards nature are the most rewarding for me.
Meghan grew up in a small town outside of Philadelphia where she spent countless hours in the woods and streams of her backyard. This admiration for the outdoors led her to Clemson University, and she graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental and Natural Resources. During this time, she assisted with teaching at a local high school and worked as a gardener at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens. Over the past few years, Meghan has worked in environmental education across the United States, from the shores of North Carolina at the Bald Head Island Conservancy to the mountains of Jackson, Wyoming with the Teton Raptor Center. She returned to western North Carolina to share her passion for the environment with this amazing community and has lived in the Asheville area for the past two years now. Meghan is super excited to join the North Carolina Arboretum team, specifically with the EcoExplore program.
As a lover of all things science, the environment, and education, Kimberly is excited to join the talented team of Youth Educators at the North Carolina Arboretum. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, Kimberly had to be creative with finding nature time. She was fortunate to have woods in her backyard, where her parents encouraged free play. This is where Kimberly’s love of the environment trickled in as she began to realize the inherent relationship between people, nature, and the other organisms ranging from the forest floor to the top of the canopy. This drive for environmentalism led Kimberly to enroll at Warren Wilson College, where her first class was “Connecting People to Places through Environmental Education.” From this class, Kimberly solidified her belief that we must personally reconnect with the earth before we can truly be its stewards. Throughout her undergraduate career, Kimberly worked at W.D. Williams Elementary School, Bell Elementary, Oakley Elementary, Evergreen Community Charter School and Community High School having taught ecology, Earth science, and environmental science. As Kimberly’s final capstone thesis, she devised a fully-functional program for educating underserved female high schoolers science and agriculture at Warren Wilson College. After graduating in the fall of 2018, Kimberly became the lead STEM teacher at a private school in Candler, North Carolina, where Kimberly created programming in biology, botany, zoology, and environmental history and practices. Kimberly is honored to work with the North Carolina Arboretum’s youth education team, and to specifically collaborate with the ecoEXPLORE program.
We are all environmentalists at heart. To me, Environmental Education is the unearthing of the intrinsic relationship that we have with the natural world and its diverse inhabitants.
AmeriCorps Environmental Educator
Originally from New Jersey, Kristin has always loved spending time outside looking at all of the plants, animals, rocks, and fungi she could find. She moved to Asheville in 2013 and has fallen ever more deeply in love with the mountains and all of the organisms that call them home. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Studies from University of North Carolina at Asheville while volunteering with WNC Nature Center and Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. While serving as the first Student Board Member of Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society, she helped establish and was the founding President of UNCA Audubon, one of the first student-run campus chapters affiliated with the National Audubon Society. Kristin is an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member serving as a Citizen Science Educator at the N.C. Arboretum.
AmeriCorps Environmental Educator
After growing up in the San Francisco Bay area of California, Shannon was drawn to the Blue Ridge Mountains by the incredible plants and animals that call this region home. Shannon attended the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where they obtained a B.S. in biology with a second major in studio art. During their time at UNCA, they served as a herpetology research assistant, as co-director of UNCA’s Student Environmental Center, and as the first UNCA McCullough Fellow to carry out a visual arts based sustainability education project. This is Shannon’s second year in AmeriCorps, after spending the 2019-2020 year serving as an environmental educator at Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, TN.
“I believe that we all have a connection to nature, we just need to find it. Sometimes we can do that through art, sometimes through science, and a lot of the time through play!”
Environmental Education Specialist
Rebekkah grew up with Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Loons on coastal Long Island, though has called Asheville and Appalachian ecosystems home for 14 years. She earned her bachelor’s in biology and creative writing, as well as a certificate in publishing, from the University of North Carolina Wilmington—where she also spent two years researching Least Terns and working as an ornithology collections assistant. She previously volunteered at the Arboretum with environmental education—after attending its programs herself—and in the summers, has taught writing and biology to gifted youth through Johns Hopkins. When she’s not out birding or in the field banding, she’s at work on a collection of poems about both of these, and more generally, the necessary meeting of science and the arts.
Karen D. Chapman
Environmental Education Specialist
Karen has served on the youth eduction team for over ten years. During the academic year she works as an assistant teacher at W.D. Williams Elementary School and is working on her dance certification with 5Rythms Global Organization. Karen holds a masters degree in art therapy and a North Carolina teaching license. Her work has included experiences in Outward Bound and several public school systems. Apart from sharing the outdoors with young people, she enjoys hiking, listening to music and exploring the beauty of the mountains.
Everyday is different. Every group is different. The one thing they all have in common is that a kid gets to experience nature in a way they probably never have before. And I just love seeing the switch that happens when students go from feeling like nature’s not for them to wanting to tell everyone they know what they just learned about it!
ecoEXPLORE Creative Specialist, OAK Instructor