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Camp CBG Instructors

Amy Wells

Amy Kerr Wells
Manager, Camp Programs

This will be my 11th summer with Camp CBG. I have been managing summer day camp programs for over 20 years. Prior to stepping out of the classroom, I taught grades K, 1, 2, and middle school. I have a B.A. in zoology and an M.S. in elementary education, and I completed a Sea Grant internship at a small aquarium. My children have grown up at Camp CBG and look forward to another great summer exploring all the Garden has to offer.

Valerie Touchton

Valerie Touchton
Assistant Camp Director

This is my sixth summer with Camp CBG. In 2015 I graduated from North Greenville University in South Carolina with a B.A. in early childhood education. I am currently a reading interventionist at an elementary school in Zion, Illinois during the school year. Each summer I look forward to being at camp and seeing all of the smiling scientists, chefs and artists. I am looking forward to spending another summer here at the Garden!

2018 Summer Staff

Mila Love

Mila Love
My First Camp Instructor
This is my 11th year as an instructor at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I am passionate about getting kids and families outside enjoying the natural world. I have spent many joyful summers playing in the dirt with My First Camp. During the rest of the year, I serve as the family programs coordinator at the Garden and can be found running the hills with our Little Diggers classes, making s’mores around the fire for a Nature Nights program, or reading a story in the Lenhardt Library. Prior to joining the Garden, I managed the Hamill Family Play Zoo at Brookfield Zoo, where I taught nature-based classes to children and families.

Kris AnfusoKris Anfuso
Camp Instructor
This will be my fourth year teaching summer camp. During the school year I am a field trip facilitator here at the Garden. Before that I taught third grade for several years. I received my M.A.T. in elementary education from National Louis University. In my spare time, I enjoy creating pottery, reading, and traveling. I am very excited for this summer.

Toni BarnesToni Barnes
Camp Instructor & LIT Coordinator
This is my eleventh year teaching summer camp at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and how I love it. I previously taught preK at a private school in Naperville. I got my degree in elementary education with a minor in social studies from Carroll University. During my free time I enjoy spending time with my daughter, shopping, being active, traveling with my husband, and cooking. I look forward to another fabulous summer at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Meghan CassidyMeghan Cassidy
Camp Instructor
This will be my second summer as a Camp CBG instructor. I currently teach preK at Faith, Hope, and Charity School in Winnetka. I received a B.A. in fine arts from the University of Oregon and a M.A in teaching from National Louis University. I love working with children, exploring nature, photography, and reading. I'm looking forward to another great summer at Camp CBG.

Cookie CenterCookie “Sharon” Center
Camp Instructor
I am excited to return to Botanic Garden for the fifth year this summer. I am now retired after 22 years as a full-time teacher in Deerfield, Illinois. I have more than 30 years' teaching experience and have taught all grade levels from K through 5. I earned B.A. and M.S. degrees in education from Indiana University and have 36 additional credit hours earned through continued education programs. This professional training was primarily in the areas of gifted and talented and cooperative education. I am an avid gardener and a lifelong learner. I enjoy traveling, art, music, exercise, cooking, and learning about nature.

Amanda CissAmanda Ciss
Camp Counselor
This will be my second summer working at Camp CBG. Last year I began as a camp counselor and loved my time so much that I am returning as an instructor this year. I received my B.S. in education from Illinois State University, where I majored in middle-level education with endorsements in math and social studies. I currently teach middle school math, coach 6th grade volleyball, and tutor. My passions include teaching, animals, and the outdoors. I am so excited for another amazing summer at Camp CBG.

Joyce EliasJoyce Elias
Camp Instructor
Joyce Elias is a professional artist with a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and teaching certification from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Joyce especially enjoys working with mixed media. She has been teaching art to children and adults for many years. This will be her fourth year teaching at Camp CBG.

Mary Kay GillMary Kay Gill
Camp Instructor
This will be my second summer with Cuisine Camp at the Garden. I created a cooking camp at Sunset Foods for four years and several fun “Future Chef” classes. I enjoy helping kids get more comfortable with tools, following a recipe, and making dishes for their families. In this setting, it will be awesome to get outside and bring our ingredients from the garden to the kitchen. I received an honor’s B.S. in accounting and Spanish and a professional cookery certificate from Kendall College. My favorite tool is the digital scale for accurate measurements.

Anne HealyAnne W. Healy
Camp Instructor
This will be my seventeenth year as a Camp CBG instructor. I received my B.A. from the University of Michigan and have a master's degree from National Louis University with an endorsement in reading. Now retired, I was a second grade teacher at South School in Glencoe, Illinois (District #35), for nineteen years. I also taught at Greeley School in Winnetka, the Latin School of Chicago, and Edgewood School in Park Forest, Illinois. I taught Super Science Seekers at Northwestern University Saturday Enrichment Program (SEP) for five years. It is such fun to teach science, and learn about the environment and its preservation.

Eight years ago I traveled to China to view the enormous flocks of migratory birds that inhabit the wetlands of several provinces during the winter months. In 2013, I traveled to remote Bhutan and northwest India, viewing the habitats and flocks of the black-necked, demoiselle and sarus cranes. In 2016, I traveled to the Galapagos Islands and to Machu Picchu in Peru, learning all about Charles Darwin. In 2017, I visited the Netherlands, learning about bulb production and visiting the famous Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a splendid place with its own special habitats and wildlife. I love coming to this beautiful Garden each day. It is great to meet the campers from many schools and communities. There is so much to do and to see at the Garden, with an opportunity to explore, to learn about nature, and to share many interests. Welcome to Camp CBG! I look forward to meeting all of you and to enjoying the fun and wonder involved in the summer program at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Rhodi HotalingRhodi Hotaling
Camp Instructor
I am currently a middle school math teacher at North Park Elementary School in Chicago. I have been working with children in one way or another for many years and it is truly my passion. I earned my master’s degree in elementary education from National-Louis University. This is my fourteenth summer teaching at Camp CBG and I am incredibly excited to be doing so again. I’m looking forward to a great summer at Camp CBG and the opportunity to work with all of the campers.

Linda KelloughLinda Kellough
Camp Instructor
This will be my second summer teaching Camp CBG and connecting children to the magic of our Garden. I have spent several seasons as a volunteer for Camp and for the School Field Trip programs. An avid birder, I also work with Chicago school-children in an Audubon/Openlands program. Every year I do volunteer service work in wilderness areas out West and led an all-women Sierra Club group as we built a 1 1/2 mile-long trail in California. I use my interpretive guide training to develop a wide variety of nature programs and workshops for adults and children, blending experience, reflection, and creative response, always centering on wonder, curiosity, and fun. I've come a long way from my previous career in nonprofit management and journalism.

Jill LisiusJill Lisius
Camp Instructor
This summer I am returning to Camp CBG for the seventh time. I received a B.A. in biology and secondary education from Augustana College, and and M.S. in educational leadership from the University of Illinois. During the school year, I teach chemistry and environmental science at A.E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. I am excited to be back and look forward to investigating chemistry and plants with my campers. I believe that giving kids opportunities to experience and question scientific phenomena is the best way to explore science.

Ada MiyakawaAda Miyakawa
Camp Instructor
I am happy to be returning to Camp CBG for my second year as an instructor. Over the years, I've taught a variety of subjects and age groups. Drawing upon my diverse interests and experiences, I have also provided consulting services to other teachers and organizations. I really enjoy engaging with others and teaching in fun and creative ways. I received a B.A. in psychology and a M.S. in education from Eastern Illinois University. My interests include art, wellness, gardening, landscaping, ecology, and sustainable living.

Carolyn MohrCarolyn Mohr
Camp Instructor
This is my sixth year with Camp CBG and the highlight of my summer. The best classroom is an outdoor classroom, and we will have 385 acres, nine islands, and six miles of shoreline to explore! I taught science and math for more than 28 years in grades 6–12, and now I am a science methods instructor at Dominican University as well as a field trip instructor at the Garden. In my spare time, I am a National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) online advisor and web seminar moderator. The Illinois State Board of Education named me a teacher of the year finalist and presented me with a 2008 “Those Who Excel” award of excellence. I received an Ed.S. from Northern Illinois University, a C.A.S. and M.Ed from National Louis University, and a B.S. in science and math from Central Michigan University. I enjoy presenting at NSTA national conferences. I can’t wait to go hiking and investigating with my Science Explorers at Camp CBG. Don’t forget your sunglasses, sunscreen, and excitement. Camp CBG will provide the rest.

Sarah NelsonSarah Nelson
Camp Assistant
This will be my second summer at the Chicago Botanic Garden working as a camp counselor with Camp CBG. Previously, I worked here as a camp counselor, volunteered, and participated in the Leaders in Training program. I grew up attending Camp CBG and am thrilled to be back for another summer at the Garden. I love working with kids, learning new things, and spending time outdoors. I will be attending the University of Notre Dame in the fall.

Jim O'MalleyJim O’Malley
Camp Instructor
It is hard to believe, but this will be my 18th summer teaching at Camp CBG. Like they say, "time flies when you're having fun!" I have had a tremendous amount of fun teaching about science and nature. What better location to accomplish this? Currently, I teach fourth grade at Morton Grove (Skokie 69). In September 2016, I received the Presidential Math and Science Award in Washington, D.C.. My children, Sara and Colin, will be helping out with camp this year as they do each summer. It is something all of us look forward to each year.

Emily PezzellaEmily Pezzella
Camp Counselor
I’m so excited to be working as a camp counselor this summer at Camp CBG. For the past four years I’ve been a volunteer at camp and participated in the Leaders in Training program. I started coming to Camp CBG when I was 2 years old; I loved coming then and I love coming now. Camp CBG is such a special place, I’m looking forward to summer full of adventures and fun. This fall I will be a senior in high school.

Emma PireEmma Pire
Camp Counselor
This will be my second summer as a camp counselor at Camp CBG. I have been visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden for many years, and had the privilege to be a Garden volunteer with Camp CBG several summers ago. I am currently a senior at Indiana University in Bloomington studying human biology, psychology, and pre-nursing. I’m so excited to be back at Camp CBG.

Nikki RadcliffeNikki Radcliffe
Camp Instructor
This will be my seventh summer as a Camp CBG instructor. For the past several years, I’ve been working in and around schools in various capacities, including subbing, working as a teacher’s aide, and teaching. I am currently working in inner city Milwaukee teaching fifth grade. Prior to working at the Garden, I spent seven summers working at a Girl Scout camp in Wisconsin as a counselor and camp director. Traveling is a passion of mine, and I have experienced so many wonderful places and cultures! I have lived and worked all over the country, and was lucky enough to study in Europe for a semester during college. I received my B.S. in education from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and am licensed to teach grades K–9.

Kasey RoseKasey Rose
Camp Instructor
This will be my tenth summer working at the beautiful Chicago Botanic Garden. During my many years with the Garden I have worked with summer camps, weekend and family programs, and school field trips. Prior to joining the garden, I was a middle school history teacher at a private elementary school in Chicago. I also have four years of da-care and preschool-related experience working with KinderCare in Schaumburg. I have a B.A. in elementary education with a concentration in social sciences from North Park University.

Sarah SheldonSarah Sheldon
Camp Instructor
Sarah has been teaching in the field of environmental education for nearly a decade. She is a lead teacher at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Nature Preschool. When not exploring the great outdoors with students, you can find her hiking, backpacking and cycling. She has a Master’s Degree in education from Antioch University with a graduate certificate in nature-based early childhood education.

Maura SternbergMaura Sternberg
Camp Instructor
This will be my third year teaching at Camp CBG. When I'm not enjoying my summers in the beauty of the Chicago Botanic Garden, I teach English at Stevenson High School. I have a background in dance and young children education, and absolutely love all things outdoors. I can't wait for another wonderful summer at Camp CBG.

Erin TuckerErin Tucker
Camp Counselor
This will be my third summer at Camp CBG. This will be my first year as a counselor and I have previously volunteered for two summers. I love being outside, exploring nature, and working with kids. I will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall, majoring in business.

Rachel WeingartRachel Weingart
Camp Counselor
This will be my first summer working as a camp counselor. I participated in the Leaders In Training program for the past three summers, and was a camper for many years before that. I love plants and being outside in nature, as well as working with children. I will be a Junior at Glenbrook North High School in the fall, and will be taking AP Environmental Science.

Carolyn WigginsCarolyn Wiggins
Camp Instructor
This will be my thirteenth summer teaching with Camp CBG. I am a retired elementary school teacher from the Chicago suburbs who has taught students from kindergarten through ninth grade, and graduate students at National-Louis University. I have a B.S. in music education from Muskingum College, a M.S. in reading education, and a certificate of advanced study for principals from National-Louis University. I am also an active master gardener with the University of Illinois and teach for the school programs at the Garden. As the grandmother of seven, I love both cooking and exploring nature with young people. I am looking forward to a fantastic summer with the Camp CBG campers.

Becky ZurekBecky Zurek
Camp Instructor
This is my sixth summer as a Camp CBG instructor and I am thrilled to be here. I currently teach third grade at Aspen Elementary in Vernon Hills during the school year. I love being active and exploring nature. I received my B.A. in education along with a minor in biology from Eastern Illinois University.