Meet Our Educators
As Learner's develop projects and ideas additional experts will be consulted to add depth to the classroom experience. Our Learner's take a lead with determining the course of action, as our Educators are the guides to help facilitate deeper thinking, offer questions, and help find the best solutions. The community aspect of learning opportunities help to enhance empathy and respect amongst the children.
Melissa Laurie is the product of a childhood full of imagination and exploration. At an early age Melissa fell in love with environmental education and discovered that she learned best with a hands-on approach. Melissa has been an outdoor educator and camp director in New York and California, she co-founded Deciduous Learning Network in 2016 and opened the first Wisconsin Forest School. Prior to relocating to Virginia, Melissa operated a small homeschool co-op where the focus was child-led learning and project based curriculum. She has also taught English with 5-12 year olds. Melissa believes that children learn best when they are having fun, engaged, and following their passions. Melissa has a degree in Political Science & Environmental Studies from Niagara University.
Max Myers is a longtime environmental educator. He has taught in traditional and alternative classrooms in the Bahamas, Ohio, New York, California, Wisconsin, and now Virginia. Max has a passion for guiding students through developing interests, identifying teachable moments, and creating community amongst his students. After spending time working in a traditional classroom setting, Max set out to discover methods that inspire and enhance a child's learning experiences. Max has developed curriculum for Outdoor Schools across the nation, has participated in intensive trainings on inquiry-based learning, and has participated in research with the University of Wisconsin. Max has a degree in Science Education from Miami University.
Rachel RubenfeldRachel is originally from New Jersey/New York and recently moved to Charlottesville. Rachel is thrilled to join the Green Adventure Project as an Nature & Science Educator. She loves working as an outdoor educator and is a lifelong learner. Rachel attended the University of Minnesota, graduating with a bachelors degree in Forest and Natural Resource Management. Rachel spends her free time hiking and camping, playing her ukulele and guitar, crocheting, playing video games, watching hockey games, and hanging out with friends! Her favorite food is potato and her favorite color is yellow.
Kathleen Copeland-Fish has worked in environmental education across the country, from Montana to New York, Florida and back to Virginia, teaching in many unconventional settings. Kathleen loves to guide students as they explore the natural world and help them make connections between varying subjects and themselves. As someone who benefited from non-traditional schooling, Kathleen understands the value of education that goes beyond the four walls of a classroom. While she has focused on environmental education, Kathleen is also familiar with the humanities and believes that education should be holistic and all subjects are interrelated. Kathleen has a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from Prescott College where she focused on communications.
Julie Despres grew up in New Hampshire where her first teaching experience was at a small nature based school in the woods; that set the pace for an ever growing passion for exploring the natural world with children. She has worked with children of all ages since 1996 and opened a nature based preschool in 2009 called Natural Beginnings. In 2018 she helped start a Kindergarten program at a local private school where her youngest daughter attended. They took a year off together and homeschooled using nature and natural exploration to reconnect to a slower paced life and focus on curiosity. Julie has a degree from Keen State College.
Julie's family consists of her husband Dan, her 17 year old daughter, 15 year old son, 7 year old daughter and their dog Kais. They enjoy hiking, learning survival skills, learning about edible and medicinal plants, camping and exploring the world around us.
Corrie Shellnut, a native Virginian, will be returning to the U.S. this summer after teaching for four years in Pristina, Kosovo. The daughter of an elementary school teacher, she discovered her passion for education at an early age. Corrie earned a Bachelor’s in American Studies from Mary Washington University and a Master’s in Teaching from the University of Virginia. She worked as a farm assistant at a permaculture farm in Florida, an oral history archivist at the Smithsonian, a lifeguard in Virginia Beach, and an English teacher in Spain (Ella habla español también!). Her inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning provides students the opportunity to explore the world around them and share their learning with others in a meaningful way. An experiential learner herself, she promotes hands-on activities where students learn by doing and discovering “Aha!” moments. On the weekend you can find Corrie hiking, reading fiction, making fresh meals, swimming, creating artwork, and visiting museums.
Our Educators bring their wealth of experiences, variety of interests, and passion for alternative education to create a unique learning environment where Learners thrive.
Tara Kneale grew up playing and learning on the banks of Florida’s St. John’s River and on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. She enjoyed summertime camping trips to the mountains of north Georgia and North Carolina. Aware of the power of the stories we tell ourselves and one another, Tara has shared her love of language and literature by teaching children aged 3-18 and comes to GAP from Episcopal School of Jacksonville, where she served for twenty-one years. She is excited to bring her training in inquiry-based, collaborative, and experiential education to Green Adventure Project. In her free time, you can find Tara reading, writing, hiking, kayaking, gardening, or hanging out with her daughter Alison. Tara has a bachelor’s degree in English and French from Jacksonville University and a master’s degree in English from the University of North Florida.
Emily Kubeshesky grew up in the Metro Detroit Area of Michigan and graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Child Development. Her love of mountains, outdoors, and education brought her to Charlottesville to work for The Green Adventure Project. Emily has been working as an early childhood educator since graduating college. Emily is inspired by the children she works with, and enjoys helping to build their confidence in learning. Emily often uses yoga and mindfulness in her classroom and is a certified yoga teacher. She has taught yoga to both adults and children since 2018. Emily is thrilled to be bringing her teaching experience, love of nature, and passion for experiential education to GAP School.
Ryan Rothenberg has been exploring the forest surrounding GAP School for most of his life. A graduate of Alderleaf Wilderness College Ryan has a deep love and appreciation for the natural world. Ryan joins the GAP Team as a Projects Educator where he will be working with Learners to develop skills in wilderness survival, bushcraft techniques, wildlife tracking, permaculture, and more. Ryan is a veteran facilitator on Charlottesville's Challenge Course and is excited to utilize teambuilding to help his Learners grow more comfortable working together as they grow and develop as a group. When Ryan is away from school he can be found in his workshop making tools, knives, footwear, and more by hand.