Meet the 2019–2020 EcoRise Teacher Ambassadors!


As teachers and students begin the school year, EcoRise is excited to announce our 2019–20 cohort of Teacher Ambassadors. 21 outstanding educators from across the country were selected from a competitive pool of applicants to represent EcoRise, inspire change, and empower other teachers in their communities to ignite a new generation of green leaders. The new ambassadors are a diverse group of educators with a strong commitment to the EcoRise mission and core values of being leading-edge, building camaraderie, embracing integrity, practicing resilience, cultivating gratitude, and striving for equity. Our new ambassadors teach grades preK–12 and hail from nine different regions across the United States from New Jersey to New Orleans to the Rio Grande Valley and Sacramento, California.

The 2019–20 EcoRise Teacher Ambassadors are:

EcoRise Education Fellow

  • Denise Ortiz—AP environmental science and aquatic science teacher at New Braunfels High School in New Braunfels Independent School District, Texas 

Third-Year Ambassador

  • Mary Ann Settlemyre—STEAM and outdoor education coordinator at Centreville Elementary School in Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia 

Second-Year Ambassadors

  • Vielca Anglin—Biology, environmental science, and STEM teacher at City-as-School High School in New York City Department of Education, New York
  • Dianna Koon—8th-grade science teacher at E.M.Pease Middle School in Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas
  • Christine Riera—3rd-grade teacher at Brooke Elementary School in Austin Independent School District, Texas
  • David Ward—4th-grade math and science teacher at Joe Lee Johnson Elementary School in Round Rock Independent School District, Texas

First-year Ambassadors

  • Corinne Akins—Garden and Sustainability Coordinator at Belle Chasse Academy in Belle Chasse, Louisiana
  • Isabel Anaya—5th-grade teacher at Kuentz Elementary School in Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas
  • Kathy Bahlman—Texas history teacher at Gilbert Gerdes Junior High School in Luling Independent School District, Texas
  • Allison Bearden—Math and Science Instructional Specialist at Tomball Intermediate School in Tomball Independent School District, Texas
  • Erika Bryant—7th-grade science teacher at Gilbert Gerdes Junior High School in Luling Independent School District, Texas
  • Cherice Green—Urban Ecology Career Academy Lead Teacher at Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy in Washington, DC
  • Jennifer Grolemund—Science teacher at Rumson Country Day School in Rumson, New Jersey
  • Jennifer Humphrey—Science and environmental science teacher at Nimitz Middle School in Northeast Independent School District, San Antonio,Texas
  • Lyndsey Hurley—Math/Science Instructional Specialist at Krahn Elementary School in Klein Independent School District, Texas
  • Sabina Malkani—3rd-grade science and literacy intervention at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School at Park View in DC Public Schools, Washington, DC
  • Aimee O’Brien—4th-grade teacher at Chacon Language and Science Academy in Sacramento City Unified School District, California
  • Denisse Ochoa—Librarian at Cesar Chavez Elementary in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, Texas.
  • Rosalie Patel—Kindergarten teacher at Boone Elementary in Austin Independent School District, Texas
  • Sandy Sanahmadi—5th-grade GATE teacher at Pony Express Elementary School in Sacramento City Unified School District, California
  • Keely Wells—3rd-grade teacher at Lafayette Elementary School in DC Public Schools, Washington, DC

The purpose of the EcoRise Teacher Ambassador program is to recognize trailblazers in sustainability education and cultivate a national community of like-minded individuals. EcoRise is fostering a support network of passionate and talented educators focused on improved environmental issues through social change. The program has more than tripled in size since the first cohort was selected in 2016.

“I am continually inspired by the passion and dedication of these creative, committed change-makers,” said EcoRise Deputy Director, Abby Randall. “Our teacher Ambassadors have a multitude of competing responsibilities, and still they find the time and energy to deeply embed sustainability education into their classrooms, schools, and communities. I especially loved seeing some of our most engaged Ambassadors return to the Institute and leverage their experiences to mentor new Ambassadors. Our rapidly expanding programs and high levels of impact would simply not be possible without them.”

Throughout the 2019–20 school year, Ambassadors will facilitate teacher trainings, support other EcoRise teachers in their communities, present at conferences, and recruit future EcoRise teachers. They will provide valuable ongoing feedback to the EcoRise staff that will drive improvements to EcoRise’s curriculum and school-based program. Most importantly, they will continue to captivate their students in the classroom with EcoRise curriculum, support, and programming.

DC Teacher Ambassadors and District Partner, Joi Ruffin, discussing Systems Change with EcoRise Founder, Gina LaMotte at the 2019 Summer Institute.

To prepare them for this, the 2019–20 Ambassadors, along with EcoRise Partners, convened in Austin, Texas, on Sunday evening, July 28 for the second annual three-day Summer Institute which was made possible thanks to Southwest Airlines, the Lakeshore Foundation, and Love Tito’s. The training provided professional learning opportunities to improve facilitation skills, deepen their knowledge of EcoRise’s resources and support, network with like-minded educators from across the country, and acquire the confidence and leadership skills necessary to ignite a new generation of green leaders. The Summer Institute inducted these educators into a highly engaged and supportive community and prepared them to effect change and empower more students in their respective communities.

In the Institute post-survey, one Ambassador wrote “The EcoRise Summer Institute was an inspiring event that connected me to other educators and professionals who are actively engaged in environmental education within their communities. The educational resources provided by EcoRise will greatly assist me and improve my ability to prepare young people to be responsible social contributors. Thank you for sharing this opportunity with me.” Another Ambassador commented, “I feel fully prepared to support teachers and staff in integrating environmental education in their classrooms, sustainability practices on campus, and empowering students to create environmental change in their communities.”

EcoRise is extremely proud to be represented by such an amazing group of educators. To learn more about each of the 2019–20 Teacher Ambassadors, click here.

Ambassadors attending the 2019 EcoRise Summer Institute with District and Non-profit Partners.