Staff

Beth Stein, Executive Director

Beth has worked with Nearby Nature since 1994, serving in a variety of capacities, from program director to executive director. Beth is a writer, educator, storyteller, and key developer and manager of much of the educational programming at Nearby Nature. She is our lead programmer for our School Nature Walks Program, a School Classroom Visits instructor, a grant writer, our lead organizer for yearly special events, and our newsletter editor. She has also been know to dress up as Frannie the Frog! Beth has a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Environmental Studies from Williams College. When she’s not working at Nearby Nature, you’ll find Beth hiking, biking, canoeing, baking, or reading.

Grace Chollar-Webb, Education Coordinator

Grace joined the Nearby Nature team at the beginning of 2019 as the Education Coordinator. Since graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2012 with a degree in Environmental Education, Grace has taught classes on a small organic farm, led sea kayak tours in the Monterey Bay, and managed multiple nature based programs with Avery House Nature Center in Corvallis. She is excited to be joining the Nearby Nature community after spending the last few years getting to know the lush natural history of the Willamette Valley! Unless she’s cooking or baking, you can find Grace outside hiking with her dogs, gardening, swimming in the McKenzie River, making art, and learning more about ethnobotany!

Wil Orr, Park Host and Restoration Coordinator

Wil joined our staff in the Spring of 2020, and brings to his work a diverse range of professional and personal skills and interests. He has experienced the woods as a wildland firefighter, restored natural areas as a landscape technician, facilitated recreational tree climbs with the City of Eugene’s Outdoor Program, developed a sense of sustainability through years as a recycler, and studied arboriculture while working in tree care. After earning a degree in Computer Network Operations and certificates in Network Security and Web Development, he most recently spent a few years as an IT specialist at a local software company. His fascination with the outdoors, a desire to keep and restore our natural areas, and a strong passion for sharing nature with people drew Wil to Nearby Nature. In his free time, he loves to introduce new climbers to his favorite trees, hike local trails, ride and maintain bicycles, and play music with friends. Wil and his wife, Nichole, are interested in sustainable living, gardening, enjoying nature, and are currently converting their Bluebird school bus into an off-grid tiny home.

Angelina Hellar, Learnscape Garden Coordinator

Angelina joined the Nearby Nature team in the spring of 2020 as the Learnscape Garden Coordinator. Angelina has a deep love and appreciation for nature, creative expression, hard work, and exploration of the outdoors. Since graduating with a degree in environmental studies, Angelina has dipped her toes in a variety of things, but her main focus has been farming. For the past six years, Angelina has worked on a variety of different organic farms and two years ago she founded Formosa Flower Farm. So on the rare occasion Angelina is not working on her farm or on the Learnscape, you can find her hiking in the woods, wildcrafting, biking, or snuggling her cat Finnegan.

 

Bear Scamman, Educator and Assistant Park Host

Bear joined our staff in 2017 as an Assistant Park Host to help with the myriad of tasks that come along with caring for our Learnscape site and Alton Baker Park. Since that time, has also taught summer daycamps, No School Days, Nature Quests, and a variety of other educational programs. He first joined our crew in 2016 as a Volunteer Nature Guide for our School Nature Walks Program. Bear originally hails from faraway Maine, where his family has lived for 11 generations! When he’s not busy at Nearby Nature, you might find Bear busy working on his Masters in Education at the University of Oregon or creating fun for kids as the Birthday Party Coordinator at the Eugene Science Center.

ShyAnne Groberg, Educator

After some time teaching English Language Arts for an alternative high school on the Southern Oregon Coast, ShyAnne is back to teach camps this summer! ShyAnne first joined our team in 2016 as a nature guide volunteer, then worked as a Daycamps Instructor, and ultimately served as our Education Coordinator for two years. Prior to joining Nearby Nature, she spent time working for the Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis, as a naturalist leading interpretive programs on the southern Oregon coast, and as an Environmental Educator in West Eugene’s wetlands. ShyAnne greatly enjoys sharing her love of nature with people of all ages. In her free time she likes to explore her new community on the coast, visit her family in Eugene, and whip up delicious vegetarian meals.

Thomas Weaver, Educator

Thomas Weaver first joined Nearby Nature as a volunteer nature guide in the Fall of 2013. In the summer of 2014, he became a member of our summer teaching crew and has been teaching camps as well as occasional Nature Quests and No School Days ever since. He also acts in costume at the annual Haunted Hike! Originally a native of Virginia, Thomas enjoys hiking, camping, rock climbing, traveling, photography, volunteering, and doing theater in his spare time. He has a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon (which included an internship planting indigenous trees in Ecuador) with a minor in Geology.

Tami Darden, Educator

Tami joined our crew as a summer daycamps instructor in 2015, having spent the school year teaching sustainability education in Eugene/Springfield elementary school classrooms. Tami has been an environmental educator for young and old alike and in many types of environments, from Hawaii to Alaska and many places in between. Getting people excited about nature is one of her favorite things to do — in her free time she loves to be out and about doing things like backpacking, kayaking, and hiking. Tami has a B.S. in Geology from Humboldt State University and has earned most of her M.S. degree in Forest Ecosystems and Society from Oregon State University.

Avalon Reynolds-Brice, Educator

Avalon has been involved with Nearby Nature since she moved to Eugene in 2016. She started out as a Summer Daycamps volunteer, then began leading Nature Walks, and is now a Summer Daycamps instructor! She loves the opportunity to combine her two favorite things, playing with little ones and being outside! During the school year you can find Avalon on Catalina Island teaching marine biology to elementary and middle schoolers for an outdoor education program. During the summer, if Avalon isn’t at Nearby Nature, you can probably find her singing and dancing along the beach, near a river, or on a mountain! Avalon graduated from the University of Oregon in 2017 with a BS in Environmental Science with a minor in Biology.

Elaine Yoch, Educator

Elaine first joined Nearby Nature as a Restoration Ecology Volunteer in 2017 and, a few months later served as a Volunteer Guide for our School Nature Walks program. Since then, she’s done a bit of everything for us — from dressing up as Frannie Frog, to working in our Learnscape Garden, to assisting with community programs. In the summer of 2018, she added teaching summer daycamps to her list of Nearby Nature roles! When she’s not at Nearby Nature, you’ll probably find her happily tumbling and jumping with kids in her role as a gymnastics instructor at National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics. She is a Virginia native, and worked as a member of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation for a year after graduating from Dickinson College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. Elaine holds certifications in Wilderness First Aid and Epinephrine Auto-injector administration from NOLS.

Emily Smith, Educator

Emily Smith joined our preschool daycamps teaching team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Southern Oregon, she has lived in the Willamette Valley for the past eight years. Emily holds a master’s degree in differentiated education, has been teaching elementary students since 2011, and has had over ten years of experience working with students of all ages. She is very fun loving and her passion is working with students. In her free time, Emily enjoys doing everything artistic, especially painting and drawing. She also enjoys fishing, gardening, and going on adventures with her husband.

Erica Walla, Educator

The first time Erica participated in a Nearby Nature camp, she was one of the group’s ten-year-olds! In 2013, Erica came back as an adult to lead our Wheels to Water daycamp and has been with us ever since, working with everyone from tiny ones to teens. During her time away from Nearby Nature, Erica studied in Bolivia and Peru, fought wildfires from Colorado to Alaska, taught basic bike mechanics and other skills at Maple Elementary in Springfield, and chaperoned middle school bike rides for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Today, when not working for Nearby Nature or hanging out with her toddler, you might see her in a garden, playing soccer, pedicabbing, or biking to Portland. She has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Biology from the University of Oregon. Erica will be forever grateful to Sharon Blick, one of Nearby Nature’s founders, and to those responsible for Eugene’s wildest parks and extensive bike system.

Lena Baucum, Educator

Lena joined our daycamps summer staff in 2019 and  is an educator, curriculum writer, education consultant, and program developer by trade. Having grown up in the Eugene area, she is returning home after 26 years and will be teaching this summer’s Adventura del Parque and Adventura de la Jardin camps in Spanish. She comes to Nearby Nature with 19 years of experience teaching dual language programs and with a B.A. in Spanish, a B.A. in Education, and an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction.  When she isn’t working, you can find Lena in the midst of a renovation project, Latin dancing, drawing, hiking, and being Mom to her two young daughters.

Sam McLemore, Educator

Sam has been involved with Nearby Nature as a volunteer in a variety of capacities, from leading nature walks to assisting with daycamps,  since 2012. She joined our teaching crew in 2020 to lead summer daycamp bike camps. During the school year she teaches Bike Safety to 5th & 6th graders in the Bethel and 4J school districts. Sam graduated from UO with a B.S. in Anthropology in 2002. For several years she lived and worked in California as a rock climber, a mountain guide in Yosemite, a substitute teacher, a mentor, and a tour docent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before moving back home to Eugene. She has been fully committed to bicycle commuting since 2008 and is eager to share her passion for safe riding techniques and her sheer joy for bike mechanics!

Allison Beard Vion, Cascades Raptor Center Educator

Allison will be teaching the Cascades Raptor Center portion of our Raptors and the Ridgeline summer daycamp! Allison began volunteering with Cascades Raptor Center in 2009 and transitioned to staff in 2017. With a Master’s in Zoology, Allison has spent field seasons studying raptor migration, Bald Eagle nesting behavior, Golden Eagle habitat and nest-sites, and Aplomado Falcons. Her studies have taken her around the world and allowed her to examine cultural relationships with nature, avian ecology, and ways of being that can restore equilibrium on this planet. She is a lover of all-things-wild and believes strongly that connections with wildlife can help our human community learn to value, understand, and honor the role of wildlife in the Pacific Northwest (and all over the world). 
 
 

 

Network Charter School Instructors

Wendy McKenzie

Wendy has been a Network Charter School science teacher since 2003. She has worked with Nearby Nature since 1995 and served for many years as its Park Host, both in Alton Baker Park and at Armitage Park. In Wendy’s NCS classes, students develop a keen appreciation of the natural world as well as a clear understanding of the many threats that currently face it. Hands-on work in nature is a common project for students in her classes, who spend lots of time in NCS’s gardens as well as Nearby Nature’s Learnscape Outdoor Classroom. Wendy is also the original creator of Nearby Nature’s Kinder Critters!

 

Denise Velasco

Denise Velasco started her career with Nearby Nature as a volunteer and has been at the Network Charter School since the fall of 2004. Her classes include math, health, National Parks, events planning, and independent living. Every year, Denise plans and leads an amazing National Parks field trip for a small group of adventurous NCS students. When she’s not teaching at the Network Charter School, Denise is a mom to a wonderful little boy, and enjoys reading, baking, and gardening.

 

Billy Hughes

Billy Hughes has been an instructor with the Network Charter School since 2005. He loves to garden, hike, backpack, kayak, fish, ride his bike, wild craft, and relax in the great outdoors with his family. Nature is literally the “classroom” for all of Billy’s courses. Through his unique approach to PE, students enjoy fishing, playing ultimate frisbee, going on urban hikes, and gardening. Community service is also part of Billy’s recipe for a complete classroom experience, and his students often spend time helping out at Walama Restoration and at Food for Lane County gardens. He has a Permaculture Design Certification and a Permaculture Teachers Certification.

 

Emily Surgeon

Emily joined Nearby Nature’s crew of NCS teachers in February 2020. Emily engages students in language arts by relating it to their own lives. Her classroom community is centered around communication and learning how to express ideas. One of her goals is to reach beyond traditional English classes in which students relay information mechanically. Writing is a form of self-expression, and she wants her students to have an outlet for their creativity and be inspired by what they read. She is looking forward to sharing a variety of nature literature with her students in the Spring of 2020.

 

Ethan Krueger

Ethan is a Network Charter School graduate, current Mathematics Major at the University of Oregon, and an avid outdoor adventurer. He joined Nearby Nature’s crew of NCS teachers in February 2020.  Ethan hopes to instill in his students the desire to learn that he discovered at NCS, and in doing so, help inspire students to consider math less of a chore and more of a hobby.