Our Staff

Our staff brings incredible passion, skill, and expertise to the field of environmental education. Each plays an important role in successfully fulfilling the Hitchcock Center’s mission. With a shared sense of purpose and a commitment to excellence, we work collaboratively both within and outside the organization to offer a comprehensive environmental education program with wide-reaching impacts.

Our Administrative Team

Julie Johnson, Executive Director (she/her)

With over 35 years experience in social policy, community development, and nonprofit management, Julie has worked to strengthen the impact and reach of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment and its mission to educate and to inspire action for a healthy planet. She has kept the Hitchcock Center at the forefront of leadership in environmental education through careful strategic planning, sound financial stewardship and collaborative partnership development. One of her crowning achievements in the 20 years she has led the Hitchcock Center is the new construction of the 23rd Certified Living Building in the world, third in Massachusetts, through a $6.7 million Building for the Future capital campaign. Julie’s received the 2017 Green Giants Award from the U.S. Green Building Council in recognition of her visionary leadership in creating this new sustainable environmental learning center that serves as an innovative teaching tool for generations to come. She is deeply committed to driving innovation and ambitious goals, using the power of education to create an environmentally sustainable and just future. email

Shelly Kahan, Center & Volunteer Coordinator (she/her)
Shelly provides daily oversight and management of the Center’s volunteer, facility, and administrative support systems. email

Rebecca Neimark, Development Director (she/her)

Rebecca joined the Hitchcock team in 2016, just as the Center was moving into its inspiring new Certified Living Building. She is interested in environmental stewardship and food justice, and in particular, the intersection of these two issues. Rebecca is a lover of summer, a cyclist, and an avid gardener and cook. While she once dreaded winter, she is grateful to her coworkers for opening her eyes and heart to the beauty of the natural world in the colder months. email

Jessica Schultz, LFA, Communications and Living Building Coordinator (she/her)

Jessica has a combined 20+ year career working in the nonprofit community, including 14 years in land conservation management. She hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, bringing with her a background in botany, interdisciplinary studies from Miami University and a love for nature and the outdoors having grown up outside. She received her Master’s at Harvard in Environmental Management and Sustainability. She also holds Certificates in Permaculture Design (Oregon State University); Healthier Materials and Sustainable Building (Parsons School of Design); Science and Practice of Resilience Thinking (Stockholm Resilience Centre). She was ecstatic to be a part of the team working on the Center’s Certified Living Building from design through certification. Jessica manages the Center’s building systems, leads building tours and is Living Future Accredited. She also guides media relations, website and social media, publications, marketing planning and photography. She serves on Amherst Zero Waste (Amherst, MA) and the Rights of Nature for the Ohio River Campaign (Cincinnati, OH). In her spare time she loves to hike, kayak, canoe, dance, cook, study Spanish, and most of all to travel. email

Jennifer Unkles, Financial Manager (she/her)

Jennifer has been teaching children and families at the Hitchcock Center and beyond for over 20 years. Over these years, nature has been a source of great inspiration and wonder and program ideas for camps, school groups and community outreach. More recently her focus has been on butterflies and the Monarch Watch Citizen Science Tagging Project. She is grateful for any time spent outside with others and her family, and for gardening and biking in this great valley. email

Our Education Team

Casey Beebe, Community Program & Special Projects Manager (she/her)
Casey holds a Master of Science in Environmental Education from Antioch University New England and a Bachelor of Arts in Natural History and Place-based Education from The Evergreen State College. She has over 18 years of experience developing and implementing innovative environmental education programs for people of all ages and has been with the Hitchcock center for over a decade. Her current responsibilities include annually coordinating up to 50 workshops, lectures, courses, and presentations aimed at fostering greater environmental awareness, literacy and action. This includes a program series focused on education for sustainability, environmental justice and climate change as well as equipping people with new knowledge and ways of thinking to achieve responsible citizenship and the restoration of healthy living systems upon which our lives depend. She also has significant educational gardening experience and is in charge of the development of the pesticide free native gardens and Nature Play and Learning Spaces Master Plan at the Hitchcock Center’s newly certified Living Building. email

Colleen Kelley, Education Director (she/her)

Colleen loves children and loves to play both indoors and outdoors! The joy of working with children and families at the Hitchcock Center for over 35 years continues to be a constant source of inspiration and discovery, and Colleen is grateful to have this opportunity to keep growing and learning with the wonderful Hitchcock Center community. Recently Colleen helped design fundraise for, and build a Nature Discovery Play Yard at the Hitchcock Center.  As the Education Director at the Center, Colleen has developed a variety of programs ranging from Nature preschool, camps, afterschool programs, school field trips, school residencies, and homeschools to college courses and teacher professional development workshops. Colleen credits her love of the outdoors and environmental education to her parents who explored the woods backpacking with her as a child, to Rachel Carson’s wise words about developing one’s sense of wonder, and to her two wonder-filled grandchildren who keep her moving and exploring at all times!! email

Katie Koerten, Children, Youth & Family Program Coordinator & Environmental Educator (she/her)

Katie Koerten started out at the Hitchcock Center as a summer camp counselor in 2007, and she’s been working here there ever since! Katie has taught and directed Hitchcock programs such as Nature Play Afterschool, Girls into the Wild, Nature Summer Camp, Winter and Spring Vacation Camp, Girl Scout programs, school engineering residencies and more. Before joining the Hitchcock staff full time, Katie worked as an avian rehabilitation intern at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, where she helped diagnose and treat injured birds and release them back into the wild. Katie’s professional passions are creating spaces where girls can feel at home outdoors and in STEM and making the outdoors safer for Black and Indigenous People of Color. She is a lifelong student of bird songs and plants native to New England.  Katie’s favorite colors in nature are a toss-up between the electric red of a scarlet tanager and the periwinkle blue of chicory flowers. email

Peter Lamdin, Environmental Educator (he/him)

Peter has been involved with the Hitchcock Center, off and on, since 1975 (when it was The Long Plain Nature Center). He helped run summer camp and did school programming, before becoming a classroom teacher at the Fort River School in Amherst in 1980. When Peter retired (or “expired” as one young Fort River student put it) in 2013, he was able to return home to Hitchcock, once again doing programs in elementary schools during the school year, and starting Leadership Training Camp during the summer. Peter continues to work on Leadership Camp, but has re-retired from elementary school programming, and can be found birding, biking, skiing, gardening, playing guitar, and grand parenting when he can, given that his grandchildren live in California. email

Jeffrey Mazur, Environmental Educator (he/him)

Jeff is answering the call of the wild — to inspire others to be better stewards of our planet through helping children and adults more deeply connect to the natural world. Jeff is entering his sixth year at Hitchcock Educator and also serves as co-camp director at the Hitchcock Center. During the school year, Jeff teaches our Homeschool II Program, Nature Play Afterschool Program, and classes that visit the Hitchcock Center on field trips. When not at the Hitchcock Center, Jeff can be found spending time with his wife and children, in the woods keeping a keen lookout for mushrooms, swimming at Puffer’s Pond, biking or tending his garden. email

Micky McKinley, Resource Center Coordinator & Environmental Educator (she/her)

Micky has been at the Hitchcock Center for over 30 years. She has been an educator for children and teachers. Being outdoors with children is one of her favorite activities. But she also is passionate about teaching about climate change through the curriculum she helped develop on Energy Literacy. Currently, she manages the library and teaching materials and does a little teaching just for fun. email

Monya Relles, Environmental Educator and Animal Care Manager (they/them)

Monya loves backpacking, farming, and writing poetry in trees, and they have been getting their clothes muddy for as long as they can remember. Monya has nine years of summer camp counselor experience but their favorite summer camp by far has been the Hitchcock Center where they started working in 2019. Monya is especially interested in integrating environmental justice and climate change education into their lessons. You can almost always find them dancing or in the woods. email

Helen Ann Sephton, School Programs Coordinator & Environmental Educator (she/her)

Helen Ann Sephton has been teaching children, families and teachers at the Hitchcock Center for over 25 years. In recent years her focus has been teaching in local elementary schools through residency programs where she uses school grounds to connect students to nature in their own community. Her passion is helping young people develop the skills of scientific inquiry through direct experiences, both in nature and through the engineering and design process. She also enjoys facilitating professional development workshops that focus on developing students as scientific thinkers. Helen Ann has helped develop innovative state-wide curriculum that meets the Next Generation Science Standards.

In her time at home during COVID, she has been grateful for the opportunity to take walks, noticing the ever-changing seasons of spring and summer, and making new discoveries every day! email

Aemelia Thompson, Environmental Educator (she/her)

Entering her third year on staff at the Hitchcock Center, Aemelia is a loving, open and determined educator hoping to enrich children’s lives throughout the valley. After graduating from Hampshire College, she explored a variety of educational roles that allowed her to discover her love for teaching kids in nature. Aemelia is an advocate of the therapeutic effects of the natural world, having led  an outdoor agricultural program at a therapeutic school for two years before coming to Hitchcock. Through the Hitchcock Center, Aemelia discovered a new love for bugs which she’s happy to share with anyone who wants to listen. She lives in Holyoke with her partner and two dogs and has lived in the Pioneer Valley for more than ten years. When not at work she can be found enjoying the Seven Sisters mountain range and playing games with her friends. email

Ted Watt, Naturalist & Environmental Educator Emeritus (he/him)
Ted is a highly skilled naturalist who helps children and adults understand the unique habitats and ecosystems of New England through hands-on instruction and mentorship. email

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment