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MELANIE STEFANOVIC, Ph.D.

Executive Director
Co-founder

Melanie has 15 years of teaching and educational administration experience, during which time she was nominated by her peers for Teacher of the Year and Mentor Teacher of the Year. She served for nearly four years in the school leadership Master's degree program at Florida Atlantic University providing professional development for school principals and university instructors. She holds a PhD in school leadership from Florida Atlantic University (2021), was a University Council of Educational Administration Clark Scholar (2018), and was Graduate Student of the Year of the educational leadership department at FAU (2018). She earned her Master's of Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University, where she wrote a thesis on learning motivation, and a Master's of Educational Leadership from FAU. She completed her BA in Psychology and English from Notre Dame where she focused on educational, child, and adolescent psychology. Melanie likes to spend her free time with her husband and two small children in the backyard of their Delray Beach home or at the beach. Her fondest childhood memories are of family trips camping, hiking, and skiing in the mountains in her home state of Utah.

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FERNANDA WOLFSON, Ed. D.

Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Co-founder

Fernanda has over 15 years of experience in the fields of early childhood education, international development (with a focus on human rights and peace education) and monitoring and evaluation. She has a BS in Early Childhood Education, a Master's degree in International/Intercultural Education and a Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Fernanda has collaborated with UNESCO, WHO, INEE (Education in Emergencies), CIES (Comparative and International Education Society), and Medicines for Humanity. She has lived and worked in Mexico, France, Philippines, and the US. She is the creator of Bilingual Nature Play (#bilingualnatureplay) and Global Story Time (#globalstorytime). Fernanda is a certified nature educator by ERAFANS (www.erafans.org). She loves to spend time with her family and friends, gardening, reading, and riding her bike. One of her fondest childhood memories is hosting a radio program for children, by children, and spending time at the beach.

Staff

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Eleanor Su Keene, M.Ed

Director of Research and Evaluation

Jamie Rottura, M.Ed

Lead Teacher

Eleanor graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Master of Science studying the impact of climate change on neotropical organisms. She took her passions for science and research and channeled them as an educator to share her love with her students. She has always been interested in progressive educational change and is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership studying socially just leadership practices. In her free time, she enjoys running, metal-smithing, and spending time with her husband and two young children.

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Viviana Garcia

Teacher

Viviana Garcia was born in Colombia and moved to Florida when she was 23-years-old after finishing her degree in environmental engineering. After having two children, she became passionate about raising them with respect and about teaching. She believes respect is the best way to maintain children's passion and enthusiasm for learning. She earned her Level 1 ERAFANS in 2021. Previously, she worked at Sunflower Creative Arts where she honed her skills in child-led approaches in an outdoor setting.

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Jamie has over 12 year of experience in the environmental and conservation fields. She holds a BA in Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences from Florida Atlantic University (2011) where she focused on the human interactive experience in divergent cultures.  She earned a Master’s in Environmental Education from Florida Atlantic University (2013) where she concentrated on climate change and the human connection to nature.  Throughout her career, Jamie has worked with students at the PreK level where she developed experiential curriculum to teach about energy efficiency and conservation; with elementary through high school students teaching about energy conservation, climate change and how to become an “eco-friendly citizen”; and with college students teaching Environmental Science. She has used these platforms and passions to speak at state and international conferences on several topics involving children in nature, climate science, and energy conservation. Jamie likes to spend as much time as possible with her two children, whether it be exploring, playing or just enjoying smaller moments together.

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Marisol Castro

Volunteer

"Happy children for humanity" is Marisol's motto. She is a Mexican mother of two beautiful human beings. Previously, Marisol worked as a Montessori Guide for children ages 3 to 6 at Steeple on the Beach Montessori and as a Spanish high school teacher and substitute at St. Andrew's School. She currently provides gentle parenting courses as a guide with Padres Eficaces con Entrenamiento Sistemático (PECES) (Parenting Effectively with Systematic Training).

Eileen Panczyszyn

Aftercare Facilitator

Eileen earned her bachelors degree in psychology with a minor in Chemistry from Rutgers University in NJ. She worked for several years in child protective services, and then pursued a masters degree in secondary education with an emphasis in science instruction from Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii. She worked as a science teacher and then as the Director of Science Education for several years on Oahu where she developed a state of the art technology and science center. For several years she has been a stay at home mom raising her young son. She believes that using our natural surroundings as tools, and empowering young humans to be active in their own learning process are central to developing as lifelong learners. She enjoys spending time with family, going to the beach, working out, traveling when possible, and homeschooling her child. 

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Alicia Persichetti

Aftercare Facilitator

Alicia, a New Zealand native, has resided in Florida since 2017. Her childhood in New Zealand cultivated a passion for nature-based play, environmental sustainability, and a respect for the Earth and its creatures. Alicia has a Bachelor of Arts and a Post Graduate Certificate in Applied Linguistics with a focus on Language Teaching. She has lived and worked in Chile, Spain, Poland, and the United States. Her interest in nature-based education expanded after the births of her two children and seeing the positive effects of playing and learning in nature. Along with spending time with her family, Alicia enjoys traveling, reading, creating art, and swimming.

Are you passionate about nature, play, and place-based education? Are you an advocate for child-led inquiry? Would you like to join our team? Send us an email at info@cocoplumnatureschool.org