Our Teachers

Denise Velasco, Nearby Nature, teaches middle school and various subjects

Denise Velasco, Nearby Nature, teaches middle school courses and various subjects, including  zombies, sex education and other health topics, and math. 

Denise is committed to bringing out the best in students. Regardless of their perspectives when students come into one of her classes, they all come out with a different perspective on life. Denise shares her past experiences in life to highlight what she teaches in each class.


Perry Joseph, Director and Teacher, MECCA

Perry Joseph is Director and Teacher, MECCA.

Perry's teaching method is more fluid rather than cohesive and put together. He encourages students to explore art through conversations that are likely to veer off course. One of his most endearing habits is allowing the students to put on music, as long as it's school appropriate, while they work. He's a total metal head.


Wendy McKenzie, Director, Nearby Nature, teaches Language Arts and Science courses

Brie Huling, Heartwise, teaches various courses, including poetry and yoga.

Brie has a down to earth way of doing things. She creates a teaching environment that encourages patience and respect for all, as well as from all. Students say that she is "very understanding and helpful." 

"Keep calm and do yoga," is her reliable advice.


Tom Coppolino, Nearby Nature, teaches Math and Social Studies courses.

Tom teaches many classes that have a focus on law and the environment. He also teaches math. His New York heritage comes out early and often. Whatever he talks about becomes an insightful conversation with that added bit of gusto. 

You think you know what Macaroni is? Well, you don't. 


Pam L.jpg

Pamela Lauer teaches middle school health, social studies and language arts for Nearby Nature and Le Petit Gourmet. She also works in the mentor center.

Pam was raised in Wisconsin and has been working in education for 13 years. She has taught every grade level, in three different states. In 2006 she joined AmeriCorps as a salmon fisheries technician and thus began her passion for outdoor education. She spent a few years living in a rural community teaching in a one-room schoolhouse.

After bringing her amazing son into the world, she returned to work for a wilderness survival camp in Mount Shasta, CA. Later she taught elementary and middle school at a charter school there. Pam moved to the Fern Ridge area in 2016, where she lives in the woods.

Pam enjoys drawing, gardening, hiking, mushroom hunting, reading, painting, attending concerts, and writing. She considers herself a life long learner.  

“Water is life.” 


Amber Carrell, Le Petit Gourmet, teaches Language Arts courses

Amber Carrell, Le Petit Gourmet, teaches Language Arts and Social Studies courses.

Amber is a passionate teacher who is committed to pushing her students to do their best in all things writing. Many of her students come away from her classes as competent and exceptional writers. (And all of her classes are current and "hip"!)

Hates to be called "Ambee."


Michelle McLaughlin, Le Petit Gourmet, teaches Spanish

Michelle McLaughlin, Le Petit Gourmet, teaches Spanish and sewing.

Michelle teaches her classes with a child-like fondness. She keeps students entertained as they learn a completely different language. Her method is centered around humor and fun rather than the tedious writing and copying of the conventional classroom.

She makes clothes and is fond of pastries and hats.


Carly Rodgers, Le Petit Gourmet, Culinary Instructor

Carly Rodgers, Le Petit Gourmet, is our culinary instructor.

Cooking is an essential skill to have out in the world. This is the skill that Carly teaches, while also running a tight ship in the kitchen. Her class is highly regarded by students, as they learn to cook by making breakfast and lunch for the entire school each and every day. 

Please, and thank you.


Brie Huling, Heartwise, teaches various courses

Wendy McKenzie, Director, Nearby Nature, teaches language arts, natural history, and earth science courses, usually at the yurt. 

Wendy focuses much of her teaching on the appreciation of the environment and the issues currently surrounding it. "Wendy is amazing,"  is a common statement from the students who take any of her classes and the colleagues who get a chance to see her in action.


William Hughes, Nearby Nature, teaches various outdoors courses

William (Billy) Hughes, Nearby Nature, teaches various outdoors courses.

Nature is the "classroom" for all of Billy's classes. Fishing, Ultimate Frisbee, urban hiking, gardening--Billy teaches it all. Helping students learn how to enjoy the outdoors is his aim, and in this he succeeds without fail.

Walk the walk, talk the talk. 


Jami Teran, Director, Heartwise, teaches Language Arts and Physical Education courses

Jami Teran, Director, Heartwise, teaches language arts and physical education courses.

Jami's teaching method, while not conventional, is very effective in helping students learn how to express themselves creatively through writing. She teaches philosophy, yoga, and performance. Always calm and collected, Jami offers students a chance to learn in an environment that promotes thoughtful awareness.

The school mom.



Mari Livie, Art Core, teaches art and music.

Mari's teaching method revolves around communication and understanding. She maintains an easygoing and fun- loving demeanor while she teaches. Her incorporation of both art and writing while teaching music helps students understand and learn.

"The ukulele aren't toys."