Mark Nolan | Director
Mark is a graduate of UC Davis with a B.S. in Zoology and a Secondary Science Teaching Credential and an Administrative Credential from San Jose State. He taught as a Naturalist for 12 years, founded and directed the Pigeon Point Environmental Education Program, and served as the Executive Director for Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools. He has served as chair for the California Outdoor School Association (COSA). He is a member of the Banana Slug String Band and for 35 years he has performed with the band throughout the United States. He has developed the outdoor education website, overseen construction of the straw bale classroom, maintained the marine aquarium and built enjoyable working relationships with the staff. He is returning to SMOE for an 23rd year. He has two children: Hannah who is 28 and Shea who is 23 who have both attended Outdoor Ed. as 6th grade students and high school cabin leaders. He enjoys music and plays guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and bass. He also likes gardening, cooking and reading books on natural history. Mark's nature name at outdoor education is "Marine Mark".
Steve Van Zandt | Program Manager/Principal
Steve is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara in Environmental Studies/Geography. He received a multiple subject teaching credential from San Francisco State and an Administrative Credential from San Jose State. He worked as a Naturalist at SMOE, Exploring New Horizons Outdoor Schools, Youth Science Institute and as a Co-Director/Intern Coordinator at Hidden Villa. He also was a Co-Manager for the Pigeon Point Youth Hostel. He was a kindergarten, 3rd and 4th grade classroom teacher and a K-7th grade Life Lab/ESL teacher. He is a founding and active member of the Banana Slug String Band. He is returning to SMOE for a 27th year. He has three sons: Nathan 32, Colin 29, and Skyler 29. He enjoys music, writing, poetry, Ping-Pong, vegetarian/vegan cooking, surfing and swimming under waterfalls. Steve's nature name at outdoor education is "Solar Steve."
Amanda Lee | Outdoor Education Information and Registration
Amanda is a graduate of University of San Francisco with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Child and Youth Studies. She has been working with children and families in her past experiences as a camp counselor, teacher, and Site Supervisor of a YMCA preschool. Amanda grew up going on annual camping trips with her family and joining the Salesian Boys’ and Girls’ club on their sleep-away camps. During these COVID times, she has begun to explore new trails and hikes all over the Bay Area. Amanda’s nature name at Outdoor Education is "Panda".
Jillian Buono | Senior Naturalist
Jillian Buono grew up in the Hudson Valley in Warwick NY and is a graduate of the State University of New York College of Environmental Studies and Forestry with a BS in Environmental Studies and a minor in Marine Sciences. While taking field course in Big Sur CA she conducted a species census, surveyed intertidal communities and participated in a stream survey, it was here that she fell in love with the Redwoods. Jillian holds a certificate for interpretation with the US National Parks, she has taken courses in Project Learning Tree, Project Wet and Project Wild. She has worked in K-5 grade class rooms through the “Nature in the City” program in Syracuse, New York. She also worked with 8th grade students as a Science Counselor, and with K-2nd grade students as a STEM Elementary Enrichment Mentor. Throughout college, Jillian volunteered as a While Science Educator at the Museum of Science and Technology, where she led groups students and engaged them in hands-on activities. As a summer residential Outdoor Educator, she led 11-18 year olds on backpacking and canoe trips in Western Massachusetts. Jillian also worked as a Wilderness Leader for Camp Tawonga where she led backpacking trips for campers of all ages around Yosemite National Park. After teaching a year as a Naturalist at SMOE, she worked as a Naturalist at Green Meadows Outdoor School in the Sierra National Forest. She loves to travel and has been to countries in Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia. She even traveled to Antarctica and studied the effects of climate change. Jillian is returning to SMOE for a 3rd year. Jillian’s nature name at outdoor education is Fern.
Casey Cairo | Naturalist/Village Leader
Casey Cairo grew up in the Bay Area and is a graduate of Skidmore College with a BS in Education Studies and a BA in Psychology, including a Washington State teaching certificate in Childhood Education. Casey worked as a student teacher in 3rd – 5th grade classrooms in upstate New York. Throughout college Casey was a teaching assistant for pre-k students at an early childhood center. Casey studied abroad in Iceland and throughout high school and college she has worked with people with special needs and mental health issues. Casey was a classroom aide in a special education classroom and worked at Ramapo for Children last year, where they mentored, lived, and worked with young adults with mental health issues and/or special needs. While at Ramapo they also facilitated high and low ropes courses for students and adults of all ages. Casey has been working at Aim High the past four summers as a lead teacher and team lead, where they facilitates hikes, teaches ecology, and leads an overnight camping trip for 8th and 9th grade students. While Casey worked as KEEC, an outdoor school in Vermont, they taught environmental science to 4th – 6th grade students while leading hikes, canoeing trips, and rock climbing adventures. Casey loves to travel and has been to 4 continents and 17 countries as well as 49 states. In 5 years they have taken 5 cross-country road trips. They also backpacked in both Thailand and Peru including a hike through Machu Picchu on the Inca trail. Casey enjoys ceramics, drawing, photography, hiking, camping, kayaking, eating spicy foods and running on the beach with their dog Charlie. Casey has also been skydiving and bungee jumping. Casey is huge fan of woman’s soccer and is returning to SMOE for a 2nd year. Casey’s nature name at outdoor education is Cove.
Neil Richardson | Garden Coordinator/Naturalist
Neil grew up in Santa Clara, California and is a graduate of Humboldt State University with a B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection/Environmental Education and Interpretation. He received training in project WET and Project Learning Tree and served as a Project Learning Tree coordinator at local schools. As an Environmental Education Program Designer he created curriculum for 5th grade students and taught in a variety of habitats. As a Program Coordinator with Wetlands on Wheels he worked in the field and classroom to provide hands- on activities about wetland ecosystems for 5th grade students. With Friends of The Dunes he led field trips to teach 2nd-6th graders about dune ecology, birds, plants and macro invertebrates. He enjoys running, cycling and working out. He has a talent for building and fixing things from cars to computers and is fascinated in classic cars and automotive history. He loves riding motorcycles and in the last two years has ridden over 20,000 miles covering the entire length of the west coast along highway 1 and 101. He likes writing music and has played the bass in two bands. He is returning to San Mateo Outdoor Education for his sixth year. Neil's nature name at outdoor education is Eel.
Emily Lansdale | Naturalist/Village Leader
Emily Lansdale grew up on a 7-acre organic farm near La Selva Beach, CA and is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in International Studies and a teaching credential in Elementary Education. She also holds a Masters in Bilingual Teaching from the Universidad Católica in Murcia, Spain. Emily has extensive teaching experience with many age groups, from 1st graders to college students. As a lecturer at the University of Murcia, she developed lessons in conversational English and as a Language and Cultural Assistant at a bilingual primary school, she taught Science and English. As a 3rd grade aide she worked with students with special needs and as a 2nd-5th grade student-teacher she wrote and taught units on the Hudson River, Mexico and the human body. Emily also spent a summer teaching adult literacy classes for agricultural workers in Watsonville. She has traveled extensively throughout Latin America and Europe. While living on a rose plantation in Ecuador, she taught daily lessons to the workers' children. In Peru, she climbed Machu Pichu. She has spent many summers visiting family in Greece and climbed mount Olympus 3 times. She enjoys singing, dancing, running mountain marathons, biking, ultimate frisbee, baking and laughing. Emily’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Colibrí.
Miguel Salazar | Health Care Specialist
Miguel Salazar grew up in Pacifica CA and is a graduate of Palo Alto University with a BS in Psychology and Social Action. He has worked as a service shop manager, repairing marine electronics on private yachts and commercial vessels. Miguel also has experience working on solar/wind power systems and de-salinization plants for drinking water. He served in the Navy from 2000-2005 aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and was deployed to the Persian Gulf. After volunteering to work with veterans in the Portland area, he was inspired to change his career. Miguel volunteered for the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, as a tutor at the College of San Mateo, and as a naturalist at Hidden Villa. Miguel has traveled to Thailand, Laos, India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, China, Singapore and Hong Kong. He likes long distant cycling and has ridden from Portland to Duluth. Miguel also enjoys photography, sailing, reading, backpacking and music. As a Vallemar student, he attended outdoor education in elementary school. Miguel’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Synergy.
Emily “Milly” Roberts | Naturalist/Village Leader
Emily “Milly” Roberts grew up in Connecticut and is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston with a BS in Marketing, Communication and Environmental Studies. During college, she took a semester off to teach English and coordinate after school programming at a YMCA school in the Dominican Republic. After graduating, Milly joined a start-up building indoor aquaponic systems where she worked with teachers to write grants and build curriculum to help bring these indoor gardens into classrooms. She has worked as a seasonal director at a summer camp where she started a Counselor In Training program to develop teens’ leadership skills. As a Community Programs intern at Hidden Villa, Milly worked with K-12 students in an after school program teaching ecology, farm and garden curriculum and nature awareness and returned this summer working with teens as a backpacking leader. She enjoys backpacking, trail running, rock climbing, lake swimming and harvesting her own food. Milly also likes bike-packing and once took a solo ride down the West coast from Vancouver to San Diego. She loves to sing, dance and she plays the ukulele, flute and piano. She is returning to SMOE for a 2nd year. Milly’s nature name at outdoor education is Millipede.
Jessie Caines | Naturalist
Jessie Caines grew up in Evanston, IL and is a graduate of Tulane University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Public Health. Much of her college education came from being immersed in the vibrant culture of New Orleans where she learned how to celebrate everything from creole tomatoes and the bayou to funky jazz music. Jessie studied abroad while living on a ship for four months with Semester at Sea, where she visited 13 countries and along the way swam with rays in the Galapagos while learning about Charles Darwin, volunteered at a community center in Morocco, and visited a sustainable oyster farm established by local mothers in Senegal. She worked as a camp counselor at a YMCA camp in Wisconsin for many years where she organized creative projects such as plays and storytelling, music, dance, art, and nature-based activities. Jessie has also worked for four years as a tutor for elementary through high school students and as a site coordinator training other tutors and developing the tutoring program. While in her senior year of college she served on the board of directors for an environmental nonprofit that focused on making sustainable lifestyle changes accessible for everyone in the Greater New Orleans area. The following year as an AmeriCorps member she worked at that same nonprofit as their Volunteer and Technology Coordinator primarily organizing and educating groups of up to 150 volunteers to work with the gardening, water management, and efficient homes programs. As an AmeriCorps member, she also managed communications for an education-based nonprofit that established STEAM-based programs in school, after school, and summer camps for schools in the Greater New Orleans area. Much of Jessie’s deep sense for wild places comes from a childhood spent outdoors, swimming in lakes, camping, and playing in the woods throughout the Midwest. After her college graduation, she went solo-camping in Wisconsin and caught the adventure bug, and has since traveled all across the country taking trips to do everything from work at a farm, camp in the mountains, and visit the salt flats in Utah. Jessie enjoys making bread, painting, dancing, running, swimming, gardening and listening to music. Jessie's nature name at Outdoor Education is Soleil, the French word for sun.
Maryjo “MJ” Sampang | Naturalist
Maryjo “MJ” Sampang grew up in San Leandro, CA. She graduated from UC San Diego with a BS in Physiology and Neuroscience. She also studied Biochemistry and Mathematics at Cal State East Bay. MJ has worked as a lab manager and research specialist at UC San Francisco in breast cancer research and as a research technician at the Scripps Research Institute in Neuropharmacology. As an Outdoor Educator with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, MJ worked with students of various ages in field investigations, ecology research, and also led hiking and backpacking expeditions. Currently she is part of Youth Outside's Outdoor Educators Institute (OEI) professional development program advocating for the inclusion and representation of underrepresented populations, especially those with systemic barriers to accessing the outdoors. MJ enjoys ultimate frisbee, disc golf, golf, and basketball. MJ is a life-long Golden State Warriors fan! MJ finds great meaning in long runs, hikes, books, and podcasts. She is an avid reader, journal writer and collects Batman comics. MJ has visited all national parks in the South West as well as Joshua Tree and collects national and state parks’ patches. MJ has taken solo backpacking trips in Hong Kong and Indonesia, climbed Mount Batur, an active volcano in Bali, and snorkeled with manta rays. She understands Tagalog and Kapangpangang. MJ's nature name at Outdoor Education is Roots.
Ben Seh | Naturalist
Ben Sehl grew up in Redwood City, CA and is a graduate of Purdue University with a B.S. in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and a minor in Environmental Policy. He has designed and conducted ecological and species research including: shade and browse tolerances effect on tree species diversity, bat foraging behavior in riparian areas of Western Montana and Carolina chickadees and Eastern tufted titmice behavior. While participating in a study abroad program in Monteverde, Costa Rica, Ben learned field identification of a variety of plant, animal and fungi species as well as conducted independent research on the aggression, size and reproductive status of solitary ground nesting bees. Ben has worked as an interpretive naturalist at Dunes Learning Center in Indiana where he designed and led outdoor education programs for 1st through 12 grade students including living history interpretation. This summer he worked as an interpretive naturalist at Sequoia National Park. Ben enjoys birding and identifying mushrooms particularly jelly fungi. He likes playing lacrosse, hiking and he juggling. Ben’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Chanterelle.
Ellie Twitty | Naturalist
Ellie Twitty grew up in Rochester, Michigan and is a graduate of Hope College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Business Management. She studied abroad in New Zealand and worked as a research assistant for the Kaikora Ocean Research Institute, while living in a sustainability driven community. As a Food Educator and school gardener with Common Threads, she taught gardening and cooking classes to elementary school students, led an after school garden club, and helped to run a Supper Club in low income apartment complexes. She served as the head intern for the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative where she managed the daily operations and a weekly market of an urban farm to promote sustainable practices and provide community supported agriculture. Ellie enjoys hiking and camping and has backpacked through Europe, Australia and New Zealand and South East Asia. She rides her bike or walks everywhere, values spending time with her friends and family, and loves to cook and bake. Ellie also spends time reading, running, crafting, exploring, eating, and climbing trees. Ellie’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Lumen.
Carlos Tellez | Naturalist
Carlos Tellez grew up in Griffith, Indiana is a graduate of Cornell College with a B.A. in Geology. He served as president of the Geo Club where he conducted tours of the Norton Geology Museum and informed students about the geology department. Carlos studied abroad in the Bahamas where he performed field research on ancient and modern carbonate systems, identified rock layers and created geologic area maps in Wisconsin and studied nature writing in the boundary waters of Minnesota. As a naturalist at the Dunes Learning Center, Carlos taught inquiry based science lessons to 6-17 year old students, presented programs in cultural and natural history including water and forest ecology and facilitated student participation in citizen science projects. Last summer, he worked as an interpretive specialist at Sequoia National Park. Carlos has always enjoyed sports, including soccer. He has volunteered for the Special Olympics and as a referee for a youth soccer league. Carlos likes hiking, fishing, mushroom hunting, watching movies and listening to live music. Carlos’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Trout.
Jaron Woon | Naturalist
Jaron Woon was born in San Francisco and grew up in Daly City. He is a graduate of Santa Barbara City College with an AA degree in Environmental Studies. Jaron studied acorn woodpecker populations at Hastings Natural History Reserve, accompanied a NOAA research vessel tagging Basking Sharks and surveying marine populations and kelp forest health in the Channel Islands, and set camera traps to survey local nocturnal animal populations at the UC Big Creek Reserve. As part of the LIMPETS program, Jaron monitored rocky intertidal populations. While working at the Wildlife Care Network he assisted in providing veterinary care for injured and oil impaired seabirds, reptiles and small mammals. As a Wilderness Youth leader, Jaron took students on field trips to explore beaches, mountains and rivers where he taught natural history and basic survival skills. Jaron has also worked with 1st-3rd graders at an after school summer camp. Jaron has been a SMOE cabin leader many times and served as senior cabin leader assisting SMOE staff and teachers, teaching trail lessons, and leading campfire songs. Jaron has traveled to Bermuda, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South and North Korea and Mexico and speaks Cantonese and Mandarin. Jaron enjoys being outdoors, listening to music, sports and going to music festivals and concerts. He is a skilled DJ and has played at house parties and clubs. Jaron’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Jackal.
Sammie Lemmer | Naturalist
Sammie Lemmer grew up in New Jersey and is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. in Earth and Planetary Science and Sociology, and a minor in Global Environmental Change and Sustainability. After high school Sammie spent a year in Israel where she learned Hebrew, volunteered in a nursery school, worked with the elderly, and maintained the property of a youth village while working as a gardener. Sammie has lead student trips as an Experiential Education Instructor and, as a Pre-Orientation Director, she organized trips for hundreds of students. It was through these experiences that she fell in love with working outside. She has worked as a research assistant in an ecology lab, assessing how age and socioeconomic differences affect the plants found in people’s yards. Sammie studied abroad at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, giving her the amazing opportunity to explore black sand beaches, glaciers, and incredible mountains. She spent three months living on Waiheke Island where she coordinated zero waste programs, helped restore native New Zealand wetlands, and ran weekly lunches which diverted food waste from landfill. Sammie is happiest outside while camping, backpacking, climbing, or swimming, but also loves to cook, read, and crochet. She also loves to travel and has been to amazing places including the Galapagos, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. She has traveled to the Arctic where she went to Norway and visited the northernmost town in the world. This summer she took a month long backpacking trip in Europe. She once had the awe-inspiring experience of kayaking with orcas, her favorite animal. Sammie’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Pacific.
Shea Nolan | Naturalist
Shea Nolan grew up in La Honda, CA and is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a B.S. in Molecular Environmental Biology and Biodiversity and a minor in Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. Shea studied herpetology and can catch and identify California reptiles and amphibians. They also volunteered in a UCB soils lab, culturing Bacillius megaterium. As a volunteer for Wildlife Associates, Shea cared for and fed sloths, porcupines and other non-releasable wildlife. Shea has worked as a seasonal state park interpreter at Butano and Half Moon Bay State Parks, leading hikes, presenting campfires, conducting junior ranger programs, working in the visitor center and facilitating activities for school groups. Shea attended San Mateo Outdoor Education as a 6th grade student and again as a high school cabin leader. Shea was awarded 3rd place in the California State Science Fair in Zoology for a project on Corvidae insight. They received the Louis Armstrong outstanding musical achievement award as a high school jazz ensemble drummer and pianist. Shea enjoys music, theater, and theatrical improvisation. A talented musician, Shea plays piano, drums, percussion, ukulele and melodica. Shea’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Scale.
Aliza Herzberg | Naturalist
Aliza Herzberg grew up in San Carlos CA and is a graduate of Cal Poly University with a B.S. in Anthropology and Geography, a Concentration in International Development and Cross-Cultural Studies and a Minor in City and Regional Planning. She studied abroad at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, completed an internship in food security and international agricultural development in Tel Aviv Israel and has provided psychosocial support for refugee communities in Berlin Germany. Aliza has worked with a variety of groups that include: English language learners, art therapy groups for children affected by trauma, Sunday school class with 3-6 year olds, and children with special needs. She was the first Summit Prep High School Intern Cabin Leader, volunteering for 5 weeks in 2013 and presented to the San Mateo County Office of Education Board of Education about her transformational experience at Outdoor Education. Aliza has also worked as a cabin leader at Exploring New Horizons, at the Optimist Volunteers for Youth camp and as a summer camp counselor. With the One Cool Earth environmental education program, she worked with elementary school students as a waste auditor. Aliza has been a life-long vegetarian and loves cooking foods from other countries. She also enjoys yoga, hiking, gardening and reading. Aliza speaks some Spanish and Hebrew and plays the guitar, piano, clarinet and sax. She has also been a beekeeper since the 5th grade. Aliza’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Hazel.
Kianni Ledezma | Naturalist
Kianni Ledezma was born in Salinas, and grew up in Sacramento CA. She is a graduate of California State University Monterey Bay with a B.A. in Environmental Studies/Environmental Education. Kianni participated in social and ecological justice training in Puerto Rico. Her senior project was teaching middle school students to design a vermi-culture composting project. Kianni also taught classes in ethno-botany and environmental literacy. While working with Return of the Natives, she led a beach habitat restoration project with elementary students in Monterey and taught community members and disabled adults proper planting techniques. While working with Regeneración Pajaro Valley Climate Action Group, Kianni wrote a policy paper about climate change affects on farm workers. As a garden tour leader she lead fifth grade students through a garden where she taught about pollinators, plant adaptations, nutrition, knife safety and assisted students in cooking their own meals. Kianni enjoys reading, listening to music and loves tending her own garden. She makes canvas paintings using spray paint and her own stencils. Kianni is also skilled at juggling lemons, oranges or other fruits and vegetables. She plays ukulele and guitar and writes songs in both English and Spanish. Kianni’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Xoloitzcuintle.
Emily Ramirez | Naturalist
Emily Ramirez grew up in Clovis, CA and is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Physical Science. At CSU, Fresno, she conducted research on the effects of hydrologic disturbances on macroinvertebrate communities in the San Joaquin River. She also studied aggregating behavior and hyperstability in Largemouth Bass populations through the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center. Emily has previously worked with elementary school students as a farm tour leader where she developed and taught lessons highlighting various sectors in the agricultural industry. While working as a Conservation Interpreter at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, her passion for education and working with children grew. As a zoo interpreter, Emily educated zoo guests about the numerous species on exhibit and spread awareness about local and global conservation initiatives. In her free time, Emily loves to travel. She has been to 21 states and recently took a trip to Iceland! She enjoys hiking and backpacking with some of her most memorable trips ending at the top of Mt. Whitney and Half Dome. Emily also likes reading, baking, and watching documentaries. She is skilled at swing dancing and making flower arrangements. Emily’s nature name at Outdoor Education is Poppy.
Director, Outdoor Environmental Education
Phone: (650) 747-9581
Steve Van Zandt
Manager, Outdoor Education
Phone: (650) 747-0414
Administrative Assistant II, Outdoor Education Information and Registration
Phone: (650) 802-5360