The EcoRise Teacher Ambassador Program seeks to recognize leaders in sustainability education and strengthen our relationship with these inspiring educators. EcoRise Teacher Ambassadors are experienced EcoRise teachers that 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 micro-grants, in addition to leveraging EcoRise support services and connecting with community partners and the larger EcoRise teacher community.

Meet the 2019-20 Teacher Ambassadors!

Corinne Akins


As the Garden & Sustainability Coordinator at a prekindergarten-through-eighth-grade primary school, Corinne is passionate about the issues of environmental and societal stewardship. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in environmental science and policy to further her own awareness and better serve the educational needs of her students.

Isabel Anaya


Isabel earned her BA with a Spanish endorsement from Ball State University in 1999, obtained her master’s in Education in 2005, and is pursuing a doctoral degree in education. This year marks her 18th year of teaching with Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas. As a fifth-grade teacher at Kuentz Elementary, she is responsible for the academic, emotional, physical, and social development of students before they transition to middle school.

Isabel’s heart is in making a difference in the environment and igniting that passion in others. She teaches students to understand the impact they are making on their environment on a daily basis with the simple act of recycling. Her students conducted several Eco-Audits throughout the school year, including waste, water, and public spaces. Because of their hard work, perseverance, and creative innovations, her students were awarded five Eco-Audit Grants, which helped fund the first water-filling station at any elementary school in her district. The grant will also be used to beautify public spaces around the school’s existing gardens.

Isabel serves on the Board of Directors for Keep San Antonio Beautiful, empowering the citizens of San Antonio to take responsibility for improving their communities’ environment. She is also the recipient of several education awards, including Northside Educator of the Year, Trinity Prize in Excellence in Teaching, and HEB Excellence in Education Award. She will be recognized this summer for the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, as well as the Outstanding Earth Science Teacher Award Section Winner for the State of Texas from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers.

Connect with Allison on Twitter, @Isabel_Anaya1.

Vielca Anglin


Vielca has been teaching science in NYC public schools for 17 years, the last four of which have been at City-As-School High School. In those four years, she has become very involved in the school community in the roles of teacher, academic advisor, learner, and leader. This past year, Anglin 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 last school year involved leading her students through their first Eco-Audit experience and sharing in their excitement at receiving an EcoRise grant to extend their work in hydroponics. She continually seeks out opportunities to develop her pedagogy and has demonstrated a strong commitment to exploring issues in environmental science, particularly in sustainability. She is dedicated to connecting current events and real-world problems to the science content that she teaches her students.

Vielca is a 2013 Math for America Master Teacher and a 2017 Renewal Master Teacher; she was a 2016-2017 Sci-Ed Innovators Fellow. She is also an Academy for Teachers Fellow. In addition to being very involved in her school community, Vielca is very active in the Math for America community, having served as a mentor to Early Career Fellows, leading mini-courses and professional learning teams. She also enjoys engaging with other educators.

Kathy Bahlman


Kathy’s training in the social sciences and education has given her passion for history, folklife, art, social justice, nature, and linguistics. Her education has provided a platform for a life of rich experiential learning with opportunities to explore, research, and create with the next generation of learners.

Kathy currently teaches Texas History at Gilbert Gerdes Jr. High School in Luling, Texas. Her previous experiences allowed her to teach American history, government, and economics, as well as German and Spanish. She holds a BA in social science (history concentration) with a minor in pre-law and sociology, and a master’s in education (social science concentration) with 18 hours in graduate-level social sciences.

Allison Bearden


Allison has been teaching for eight years. She has taught fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade math and science. Bearden has been helping her students complete PBL in the classroom for three years. She has had three groups of students successfully complete the Eco-Audit Grant process and implement their projects.

Next year she will be a math and science instructional specialist for Tomball Intermediate, in Tomball, Texas, where she will help other teachers to successfully implement PBL into their classrooms.

She believes PBL brings a new level of participation and passion to the classroom and allows students to explore how the real world is connected to their academic material.

Connect with Allison on Twitter, @ARBearden.

Erika Bryant


Erika is currently teaching seventh-grade science at Gerdes Junior High in Luling, Texas. She has been with the district for the last seven years of her nine-year teaching career and has also taught sixth- and eighth-grade science.

Erika serves as the Science Department chair and is also a mentor teacher in the Luling Independent School District. As a mentor teacher, she enjoys supporting teachers who are new to the district as well as brand new, year-one teachers. Erika is excited to become an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador to introduce project-based learning to her campus and her school district.

Cherice Green


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.

Jennifer Grolemund


Jennifer, known as Ms. G to her students, is a lower school science teacher at Rumson Country Day School in Rumson, New Jersey. She aims to infuse science with real-world applications and give students opportunities to solve problems with design thinking. Early in her career, she taught a variety of K–12 environmental education programs with a focus on urban gardening, water pollution, and eco-literacy.

Her passion for the environment has led her on various field expeditions throughout the years—studying butterflies in Ecuador, sea turtles in Barbados, fisheries in Newfoundland, natural resource management in Alaska, and more.

She was twice awarded an Earthwatch Teacher Fellowship and received a National Outdoor Leadership School Teacher Scholarship. Her favorite sustainable intelligence lessons from EcoRise involve water and energy.

Jennifer Humphrey


Jennifer has been teaching science and environmental science at the STEM Academy at Nimitz Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, for 13 years. She previously taught Outdoor Education at the Houston Independent School District Outdoor Education Center in Trinity, Texas.

Jennifer is married and has one daughter who will turn 4 this August. She loves to travel and do anything outdoors. She also enjoys camping, hiking, and kayaking.

Lyndsey Hurley


Lyndsey currently teaches fourth grade at her childhood campus, Northampton Elementary, in Klein Independent School District in Spring, Texas. Lyndsey is a member of her district’s annual Girls in STEM Conference Committee. For the past two years, she has served on the district science curriculum team to help design and restructure the curriculum to fit students’ needs and build their engagement. Before returning to her childhood campus for the 2018-2019 school year, Lyndsey served as a math and science instructional specialist for three years. 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.

Dianna Koon


Dianna is an eighth-grade science teacher at E.M. Pease Middle School in Northside Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas. She has been teaching for 32 years. This will be Dianna’s second year as an EcoRise Ambassador.

As Eco-Audit Grant recipients, Dianna’s students received a total of $755.88 the first year to create a more aesthetically pleasing outdoor space in the school’s courtyard by planting trees, creating habitats, and building benches for students and teachers to use throughout the day. These projects helped to convert 98 square feet of public space. Dianna says, “It has been a wonderful start, and we are hoping to add to the outdoor space.” This year her students completed a Waste Eco-Audit and received a grant to place six recycle bins at their school. The students are excited that they are making a positive impact on sustainability in their school.

In her teaching career, Dianna has served as a Science Department Coordinator, Science Fair Coordinator, and Mentor Coordinator. She was also named Campus Teacher of the Year.

Sabina Malkani


Sabina teaches third grade science and literacy intervention at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School at Park View. She started teaching in Canada 20 years ago and has been a teacher with District of Columbia Public Schools for nine years. Sabina completed two Eco-Audits with her students this year totaling $1,353.79. Her favorite Eco-Audit Grant was based on the data generated from an Indoor Air Quality audit conducted by her students. Sabina's students made an all-natural nontoxic cleaner and convinced most of the teachers at their school to stop using chemical cleaners because of the impact that it has on the environment.

Sabina received the EcoRise Teacher of the Year Award for 2018-2019 and looks forward to assisting her peers in the DC metro area with grant applications next year.

Aimee O’Brien


Aimee teaches fourth grade at Chacon Language and Science Academy, a dual-immersion dependent charter school in the Sacramento City Unified School District in California. She also heads the Literacy Committee and will be working to expand sustainability practices on campus, including expanding the school garden.

Aimee has spent years guest lecturing to CSU Sacramento Teaching Credential candidates on methods of integrating visual arts into the curriculum. She has received both Teacher of the Year and Inspiring Teacher honors from the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Her favorite EcoRise lesson is Energy Is All Around Us. She finds that it perfectly integrates with her ELA curriculum unit on Green Energy Technology, while deepening her students’ knowledge of renewable energy source.

Denisse Ochoa


Denisse is an Elementary Librarian at Cesar Chavez Elementary located in Pharr, Texas.

She was the first in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and the South Texas region to receive an Eco-Audit Grant. Her favorite Eco-Audit Grant was created by her students to expand their bee-and-butterfly school garden. With this grant, they hope to attract more pollinators that will help produce more vegetables in the fall.

Connect with Denisse on Twitter, @megacoolmommy.

Denise Ortiz


Denise is the first EcoRise Education Fellow. Throughout this school year, she will assist EcoRise with project planning and teacher training with the goal of strengthening the Ambassador Program as well as the strengthening EcoRise program across the country.

Denise currently teaches AP environmental science and aquatic science at New Braunfels High School. She has been teaching for 21 years, all of which have been at New Braunfels HS. She represents the College Board as a member of the Testing Development Committee for APES and has served as an EcoRise Ambassador for two years before becoming EcoRise’s first Teacher Fellow.

Denise received her undergraduate degree from Southwest Texas State University with a BA in biology. She later received her master’s in multidisciplinary sciences from the University of Incarnate Word, which has given her the opportunity to teach Dual Credit Environmental Science through the Alamo Community Colleges.

Rosalie Patel


Rosalie currently teaches kindergarten at Boone Elementary in Austin, Texas. Her students are dedicated young scientists who have been participating in EcoRise grant projects for the past two years. Most recently, the students loved collecting data on the school’s energy use and designing a school-wide campaign to reduce wasted electricity.

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 new club with student, teacher, and community involvement, dedicated to making the campus more green through student-driven projects.

Christine Riera


Christine has taught bilingual kindergarten at Brooke Elementary in Austin ISD for the past two years and will begin teaching third grade in the 2019-2020 school year.

Christine served as an EcoRise Ambassador last year and greatly enjoyed connecting with teachers and helping them feel confident during the Eco-Audit process.

Connect with Christine on Twitter, @mrskinderGARDEN.

Sandy SanAhmadi


Sandy is currently working as an Elementary Science Training Specialist for the Sacramento City Unified School District in California. This past year she has assisted teachers in developing and implementing science curriculum, including EcoRise lessons.

Sandy will return to her former position as a fifth-grade GATE teacher and school science mentor in the fall. She looks forward to her new role as an EcoRise Ambassador.

Mary Ann Settlemyre


Mary Ann is an award-winning educator of 29 years. She attended Buffalo State College for her undergraduate degree, a BS in Education, as well as Niagara University, where she received two master’s degrees: Administration & Supervision: K–12, and Teaching and Foundations. She has worked as a classroom teacher, grades fourth through sixth; a STEAM/Environmental Education Specialist, grades Pre-K through sixth; a staff development trainer for both Fairfax County Public Schools and George Mason University; and a speaker at local, state, national, and international conferences. This will be Mary Ann’s third year serving as an EcoRise Ambassador.

During her time in education, she has collaborated with the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Green Building Council, EcoRise, National Wildlife Federation, Forestry Department, Trout in the Classroom, and North American Association of Environmental Education. She has also collaborated with GMU’s Engineering club, Sustainability Department, STEAM Department, and Bioengineering Department. She has written curriculum for both GMU (bioengineering) and FCPS (science).

Mary Ann was the recipient of the Presidential Innovative Environmental Educator Award in 2017. She believes that teaching Green STEAM is the way to help our students become critical and creative thinkers, global and ethical students, and leaders who will stand up to protect our future.

David Ward


David 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 Eco-Trailblazers enrichment cluster. Throughout his career, David has served as a Math & Science Coordinator and has been integral in the development of science curriculum within the districts he has served. This will be his second year serving as an EcoRise Ambassador.

Advice to EcoRise Teachers: 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.

Keely Wells


Keely is a third-grade teacher at Lafayette Elementary in Washington, DC.

Her heart is split between a love for the city and the water. She enjoys surfing, wake boarding, swimming, and snorkeling—pretty much anything to get her feet wet. She also enjoys exploring the endless shops, cuisine, and history that DC has to offer. Keely enjoys taking barre classes and is in the process of becoming an instructor. She was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. One of the things she misses the most is the Pacific coast seafood. There is nothing quite like Dungeness crab!

Keely is a graduate of Washington State University and a fourth-generation educator. She is excited to join the team of Ambassadors and work together to make positive changes!

Meet Past Teacher Ambassadors!

Click Here to View Our Teacher Ambassador Alumni.

Interested in becoming a Teacher Ambassador?

If you are interested in becoming an EcoRise Teacher Ambassador check back here or watch our social media in the Spring for the announcement about applications opening.
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