Eliza Minnucci, M.Ed.
After spending a gap year teaching English to kindergartners in Mexico and traveling in Chile, Britain and Ireland, Eliza earned her bachelor degree in from the University of Chicago. During her undergraduate study she assisted a Spanish teacher in a nearby Chicago Public elementary school. After graduating and obtaining a post-baccalaureate certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Barcelona, Spain, Eliza spent two years teaching at a daycare/preschool in downtown Seattle, Washington.
In 2005, Eliza accepted a position as a Education Coordinator and Home Visitor Manager for the Early Head Start program run by the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments in Fort Yukon, Alaska, a native Alaskan fly-in village North of the Arctic Circle. After nine months in the “office” when the chance came to get back in the classroom, Eliza jumped into teaching the local Head Start classroom, housed in the public school. Eliza managed three local employees and taught twenty students as the local lead for the Head Start program run out of Fairbanks by the Tanana Chiefs Council. It was in this setting that Eliza’s appreciation for a connection with and respect for the rhythms of nature deepened as her students’ families taught her to dress geese and ducks, smoke King Salmon, preserve high-bush cranberries and live off the grid, without running water, through winters that reached 60 degrees below zero. Eliza returns most summers to Fort Yukon to trade jars of applesauce and maple syrup for jars of smoked salmon.
After three years in Fort Yukon, Eliza moved back to New England to attend the Upper Valley Educators Institute for elementary teacher licensure. She was then hired at the Ottauquechee School in 2008 as a Kindergarten teacher and within the year completed her M.Ed at New England College. A growing focus in her Kindergarten classroom over the last six years was developing meaningful connections with place, as well as independence and confidence in her young students. In 2011 Eliza initiated the KinderGuiding program – bringing local retirees and Kindergartners together over four outdoor based events throughout the year, culminating each spring with a hike on the Appalachian Trail. In 2013 in collaboration with Meg, Eliza began taking her class outside one day per week through out the year.
In October of 2014, Eliza and her husband Keith welcomed their first child, Finn. In order to focus on motherhood, Eliza is currently on hiatus from classroom teaching. The enthusiasm colleagues continue to express for the Forest Kindergarten model keeps Eliza motivated to provide support for other teachers seeking to start their own Forest Day programs.
Meghan received her certification to teach kindergarten through sixth grade from the Upper Valley Educator Institute in the spring of 2012. She spent her year with UVEI mentored by an incredible group of Upper Valley educators including Mary Bagnato (Marion Cross School), Keenan Haley and Meg Hopkins (Sharon Elementary), and Eliza Minnucci and Amos Kornfeld (Ottauquechee School). While co-teaching in kindergarten, third and fourth grade classrooms during the 2012-13 school year, Meghan emerged as a creative collaborator with her teaching partners. She developed a focus on social skills training, body movement, and place-based education.
Meghan graduated from the University of Vermont in 2006 with a degree in Political Science and minor studies in Theater and Community and International Development. She also played for the UVM soccer team.
After college, Meghan cut her teeth in the world of outdoor education as a ski instructor working with 3-6 year olds at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Jackson, Wyoming. In 2007 she joined Barack Obama’s campaign for president as a field organizer where she gained practical skills for community organizing and volunteer management as well as a deep understanding of the power of hope and action to create change. When she returned to Vermont in 2009 she worked as a Program and Development Associate for the Center for Whole Communities – a retreat center in Central Vermont dedicated to nurturing the connections between environmental activism and social change. Her work as a teacher combines these threads with her love of learning and the belief that healthy, vibrant public schools are absolutely critical to a democratic society and a healthy environment.
In 2013 when Eliza called looking for a willing collaborator in taking students into the forest, Meg eagerly came on board, and the Ottauquechee Forest Kindergarten was born. Meg and her husband Cabot have two small children who occupy the other 6 days of Meg’s week and Meg is endlessly inspired by watching them learn and grow. Meg returns to Forest Teaching one day a week this year and hopes to remain a resource for educators interested in taking their students outside, and is looking for ways to make the Forest Day idea accessible for teachers in many settings.