My name is Madison Ledgerwood. I am currently a STEM VISTA at NAU's Rethink Possible. I was raised and shaped in the Southwest which nurtured my love for the land, and of all species. I relocated to indigenous land, Flagstaff, in 2010. This is where earned my degree in Environmental Studies, engaged with the community around the intersection of social and environmental issues in the Action Research Teams (ARTs), and began to uncover my own power and potential. Before long, I realized I wanted to more deeply understand what diverse experiences and understandings led individuals to begin fostering a thriving and harmonious world and what it took for them to devote themselves to such engagement and maintain their well-being. I researched this and earned my MA in Sustainable Communities. I also created Community and University Public Inquiry, an interdisciplinary community-based research program, while in graduate school.
Now, I yearn for a world in which people do not feel powerless but utterly capable; a world in which people dream of more sustainable, thriving futures and find their unique way to contribute to creating such a world. When I tune into the earth, the plants, the rocks, the wind at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, I know that hope is found in more of us finding our niche, in more of us finding the unique work we have to offer and that is needed now on the planet. I am committed to mentoring others who are searching for their skills, power and potential. I aim to spread light by blooming emerging seeds into empowered leaders. My STEM VISTA position cultivates my dream by providing me the opportunity to design curriculum, connect to volunteers in diverse fields, and expand the reach of a program that engages students around the “big questions” of college, such as what they want to major in and contribute to the world.
My name is Julia Sullivan, and I am currently working as the AmeriCorps VISTA Youth Engagement Coordinator at Grand Canyon Trust. I grew up in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts before moving to Washington, DC to attend American University, where I earned degrees in Environmental Studies and International Development. I also spent much of my time as a college student training and competing as a member of American University’s cross country/track team. I graduated in 2014 and, after a stint working on international policy with The Nature Conservancy and coaching high school cross country in my hometown, decided to join the Peace Corps. During my two years as a Community Environmental Conservation Volunteer in Panama, I lived in a rural coffee-farming area and worked closely with community members to bring a number of conservation projects to fruition. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with teachers at the community school to facilitate sexual health workshops, leadership trainings, and camping trips with local youth.
Now back in the States, I’m thrilled to have made the move to Flagstaff and to be working in a position that combines my two great passions – environmental conservation and working with youth. This year, I look forward to connecting diverse young people to the natural splendor of the Colorado Plateau, inspiring them towards environmental stewardship and advocacy, and creating opportunities for them to step into leadership roles in the field of conservation.
My name is Sally Henkel and this year I’m working with the Grand Canyon Trust as their Citizen Science Volunteer Coordinator. I will be working towards engaging underrepresented youth in citizen science and making conservation more accessible. I just recently found my way down to Arizona from Missoula, Montana. While Montana has been home for several years, I fell in love with the Colorado plateau on an impromptu river trip a few years back.
I graduated with a BA in forensic anthropology and mountain studies. I have since moved all around working as an international trip leader, a field instructor in Yellowstone, a wildlife biologist, a teacher, a beer slinger, and adventure snack extraordinaire. Upon moving to Montana roughly five years ago, I began to discover the depth of my love for conservation and ecology. I’m passionate about connecting people to the landscape, wolverine conservation, and teaching ecological knowledge as a means to understand systems. When I’m not in the office, I can usually be found running around the woods, telling corny jokes or seeking winter- usually they all happen at once!
My name is Camille Alexander, and I am a first-year AmeriCorps VISTA member at STEM City. I am serving as their Evaluation Coordinator for this year, and my job is creating an inventory of STEM assets in Flagstaff and evaluating these programs for the purpose of bridging the gap between STEM leaders and institutions that traditionally serve students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. I am really excited for this year of service in a wonderful, tight-knit community.
I was born in Detroit, Michigan, but Phoenix has been home for most of my life. I graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, and served as an AmeriCorps member through the American Conservation Experience. My goal is to attend graduate school in the near future and have a career in environmental education. I am most interested in teaching young children the importance of environmental stewardship so they will have a greater appreciation of our natural world as an adult. Everything that I learn through my year of service will put me in the right direction.
I look forward to working with you all!
Dr. Laura Huenneke's Address to the Sustainable Economic Development Initiative's Annual Teacher Awards in Sustainability Curriculum in May of 2017
Introduction: The SEDI TASC awards recognize our outstanding educators and their exemplary projects focused on sustainability. At the TASC celebration in May 2017, Dr. Laura Huenneke, Professor Emeritus, School of Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University, discussed building our future by strengthening the educational ecosystem.
Dr. Laura Huenneke's address:
Back in the spring, I jumped at the chance to be part of the presentation of SEDI's Teacher Awards for Sustainable Curriculum, celebrating some of our fantastic teachers. Teachers are one of our community's most precious resources – truly changing lives and creating the future, both for individuals and for society as a whole. The SEDI TASC awards recognize our outstanding educators and their exemplary projects focused on sustainability. I’d like to take a moment to flip this on its head and reflect on the sustainability of outstanding teachers and education. That is, how can we build a future where we have many such teachers and many such schools, and where all our students over the long-term can benefit from these kinds of experiences?
Awards like the SEDI sustainability awards do bring peer and community recognition to the individuals who have done inspired and inspiring work. We hope that recognitions like this make some of the effort and sacrifices worthwhile. Such recognition is valuable and necessary; but by itself it is not sufficient to ensure that these same teachers will stay with us in the years to come and will continue to succeed. Nor will these awards guarantee that future teachers are able to provide equivalent high-quality experiences.
My academic background is as an ecosystem scientist, trained to think about entire systems and how individual pieces and processes are connected -- how they interact both positively and negatively. So I tend to think about education as a system – not just the individual teachers and students in a given classroom, but the larger context in which they operate. Many of those attending the spring awards ceremony know far more than I do about K-12 education, so what I say here is pretty general – but I’d like to ask you to think through some of the parts of this educational ecosystem and how more of us can help support the system as a whole.
There are teachers at a single grade level within a school, learning from and supporting one another. There are connections among the teachers within a school as students move up through the grades, deliberately attending to how curriculum, experiences, and human relationships link together and build through a student’s journey through that school.
The connections among teachers, as well as the working environment within a school, are facilitated and shaped by a principal and the culture in a school. Is the principal able to connect the teachers, and is there support for that school and that principal from the families and from neighboring institutions? Is there room and support for creative approaches?
In turn, the connections among teachers, principals, and schools in a district are all shaped by the district and its professional leadership. What resources does the district have to invest in and attend to professional development, to career development, to communication, and to supporting equity of opportunities across schools? How much support do district leaders receive in their role as liaison or interface - or buffer! - with state and federal requirements and opportunities?
The state shapes this complex environment with its policies and funding. Arizona of course sets policies around teacher qualifications and expectations, and calls for adoption of the Common Core (Arizona Career and College Readiness) or other standards – I probably don’t need to say much more about what many perceive as a lack of leadership in this arena. State funding patterns result not just in our teacher pay scales falling behind those of other states (limiting our ability to recruit and retain), but also in severe infrastructure gaps (e.g., for rural schools) and also instability caused by episodic RIFS or last-minute changes in teaching assignments. State universities like our own Northern Arizona University are our primary sources of new or early career teachers; state policies shape their curriculum and training which then influences the teachers' success in the first few years of their career.
At the overarching federal level, we currently seem to be moving away from expectations of education as a pathway for social mobility, innovation, and opportunity.
Finally, I must acknowledge – I personally am motivated by our location and the very special history of this area: remembering that some of our neighbors (the southwestern tribes) are the original inhabitants of these landscapes and have a truly long-term perspective. Remembering this reminds me to commit to ensuring access to excellent education and preparation for those who will build the future of all our communities.
This complex nest of multiple levels is our educational ecosystem; how can we best sustain it? How should we add to or build on recognitions like the SEDI awards for individual teachers, to help ensure that teachers are operating within the most supportive system possible? Many of us often feel frustrated at the seeming impossibility of shifting state or federal policies, funding, or the like. But as a community, I would challenge us to get creative about filling in or substituting for weaknesses in the current ecosystem. Of course, individuals in our community do support schools financially through the Education Tax Credit program, and so do our local businesses (e.g., the school supplies drives at the start of each year). But -- what else might we doing?
Could we provide opportunities for teachers in the summer that would help counteract the impact of low salaries while providing professional development? These might include teacher development experiences, internships or short-term employment opportunities, or scholarship support for graduate courses.
What could we as a community provide in terms of facilitation for planning? Community groups, employers or industry associations could create more open forums for discussion about local workforce needs and how skills or knowledge relevant to them might fit into the curriculum at various levels. And then those groups could follow up with some of the information, experts, and resources to supplement what schools and teachers already have to develop those skills.
What could we as a community provide in terms of the larger policy framework for schools or for the district? Members of the collaborative group LAUNCH Flagstaff are keeping an eye on national and international best practices and standards, while STEM City works to expand high-quality experiences in the science, engineering, and technology arena. These groups can serve as resources and collaborators for curriculum specialists in our districts and schools, figuring out together how to align the community’s educational objectives with external policy or state standards.
These are just a few starting points – to get your creative juices flowing. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said it well: “A surplus of effort could overcome a deficit of confidence.” Even if we think our educational ecosystem has some deficits, we can – and we absolutely should – make the effort to change parts of that system for the better. In closing, I hope all of us as individuals, and the organizations we represent – LAUNCH Flagstaff, SEDI, STEM City, the schools and the district, the business community, our residents and neighbors – will find ways to collaborate in strengthening the entire ecosystem within which our outstanding teachers work. Thanks again for joining SEDI in celebrating some of the outstanding teaching in our region – and congratulations to the fantastic educators being recognized.
My name is Larrea Cottingham and I am the Climate and Energy VISTA at the City of Flagstaff through the Flagstaff STEM Education Project. In my role, I am working to expand the Sustainability Section’s outreach around climate and energy, both in schools and the community. I am currently working to develop a climate leadership academy for local high school students that will give students an opportunity to become more climate literate, and engage in place-based climate action and outreach at home, school and in their community. I am excited to work with community members and local organizations to create ambitious educational opportunities around climate and the environment for everyone in the Flagstaff community.
I moved to Flagstaff in 2014 to attend Northern Arizona University where I received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Arts in Teaching Science. Throughout college I played violin and viola in the NAU Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, and I still often play for the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. I am passionate about ecological conservation and outdoor education, and I am inspired to create a career that combines my love of exploring wild places and desire to protect them. I love to spend as much time outside as possible, so I have worked in wildlife biology and as an instructor at the Colorado Outward Bound School. I am always eager to plan the next big adventure, but in the meantime, I can be found exploring the mountains, rivers, and canyons.
My name is Nick Siskonen and I've lived in Flagstaff for over ten years. I originally moved to Sedona with my family in 1998, when I was seven years old. To people from Sedona, Flagstaff is the 'big city' you go to for weekend trips and exciting events. As a kid, Flagstaff meant adventure.
Then in 2007 my family moved to Flagstaff so I could attend Northland Preparatory Academy, sending me on a new academic adventure. After graduating high school, I attended our own Northern Arizona University and focused on psychology and criminal justice.
Since then, I have worked as an assistant in a real estate office for two years, but decided to follow in my older sister's footsteps of completing a year of service in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology (CAVIAT), is the Joint Technical Education District for Coconino County. I am now the Americorps VISTA at CAVIAT in charge of recruitment and marketing. Once again Flagstaff offers itself as a new adventure and I couldn't be more excited to see where it takes me!
I am a graduate of the University of California, Davis with degrees in Environmental Policy Analysis and Economics. I spent 10 years in environmental and educational consulting focusing on public outreach, resource conservation, data analysis and educational evaluation, particularly in STEM focused programming. I joined the Coconino County Education Services Agency (CCESA) as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I will focus my service on grant writing and STEM education in the Flagstaff community.
I have raised my family in Flagstaff for the past 7 years. We enjoy skiing, camping, hiking, exploring the flora and fauna of local forests and being together at home with our black lab and orange tabby cat. I have lived in several countries abroad but originally hail from Las Vegas, NV. I’m looking forward to what I can contribute to the Flagstaff STEM Education Project at the CCESA.
Guest Blog Post by Vicki Anderson, VISTA Member, STEM Educator and Curriculum Developer at Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory
Kinlani Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory has a Robotics/AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society)/STEM Club with 15 members so far! They are making robots with our Lego Robotics Coach-Mentor Larry Marek. They began using the NAU Cline Library MakerLab on September 14th with Bryan Johnson, the Tech Services Coordinator. Club members will learn TinkerCAD to use NAU’s 3D printer for their Engineering STEM Challenges prototypes.
On September 9th, nine high school students participated in an Indigenous Youth STEM Academy with the Flagstaff Open Space Program. This program aims to connect Indigenous youth with cultural and natural resources at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. The Preserve provides a unique opportunity for learning about the connection between culture, community, and stewardship as it is home to Northern Sinagua petroglyphs and habitation sites, and represents a place of cultural importance for many surrounding tribal communities. Each session encompasses a full day of activities, including an interpretive tour of the Preserve, a lunch panel discussion with local STEM professionals and students, and a hands-on service-learning project. This program is organized by STEM VISTA Member Erin O'Keefe.
STEM Engineering Challenges competitions are also open to all students biweekly. All STEM activities are coordinated by AmeriCorps VISTA educator Vicki Anderson, and our motivated FBD staff. As you can see, we are “steaming” ahead in our STEM Education projects!
The students attended the Flagstaff Festival of Science “Engineering Solutions” kick off with keynote speaker Kyle Maynard on September 22nd at NAU’s Ardrey Auditorium. He was born without a complete set of arms and legs. With engineering solutions from Kahtoola, a Flagstaff company, and serious determination, he has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mt. Aconcagua in South America.
Get out for some of the 100 free events at the 28th Annual Flagstaff Festival of Science and you will see the Kinlani STEM students!
Dawn Pfeffer, Killip STEM Academy, STEM Curriculum
I graduated from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. I fell in love with Flagstaff when my environmental engineering design teams traveled here in 2014 and 2015 and I knew then that I wanted to move here. When I graduated in May of 2015, I worked at an automation company called Rovisys in Ohio for two years. I was a Lead Systems Engineer for various customers and industries. In April of 2017 I was finally able to make my move to Flagstaff and I couldn’t be happier.
I spent my first four months in Flagstaff working on a trail maintenance crew with Arizona Conservation Corps, an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. I got to know the people and places that surround Flagstaff and it deepened my love for this amazing city. At the end of those four months I wanted to use my skills as an engineer to help this community grow, so I applied to the AmeriCorps VISTA position at Killip Elementary. I work with Ted Komada to build and modify the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) curriculum to better prepare students for the years to come. This is yet another experience that I will cherish forever. I am dedicated to the Flagstaff community and I consider this place my home, so please say hello to me; I would love to meet you!
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator