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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!

2019 Summer Staff

Cookie CenterCookie “Sharon” Center
Camp CBG Instructor
I am excited to return to the Garden for the sixth year this summer. I have been retired for 22 years; I formerly worked as a full-time teacher in Deerfield, IL. I have more than 30 years teaching experience and have taught all grade levels from kindergarten through fifth grade. I earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from Indiana University and have 36 additional credit hours earned through continuing education programs. I am an avid gardener and a lifetime learner. I enjoy travelling, art, music, exercise, cooking, and learning about nature.

Luca CinquiLuca Cinqui
Camp CBG Counselor
This will be my first summer working at Camp CBG. Before this summer, I was an LIT for two summers. My interests are skateboarding, snowboarding, and antique cars. I hope to purchase an old car this summer to restore with my dad and brother. This fall I will be a junior at Highland Park High School. I look forward to an amazing summer at Camp CBG.

Amanda CissAmanda Ciss
Camp CBG Counselor
This will be my third summer working at Camp CBG. I received my bachelor’s degree 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 at Daniel Wright Junior High in Lincolnshire, coach sixth-grade volleyball, and tutor. My passions include teaching, animals, and the outdoors.

Joyce EliasJoyce Elias
Camp CBG 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.

Lisa GeraghtyLisa Geraghty
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my third year teaching Garden Photography. For the last nine years, I have been photographing families throughout the Chicago area. When I am not photographing families, you can usually find me at the Garden, with my camera, creating botanical art. I have been photographing since the age of 12 and received a bachelor of fine arts degree in photography from Miami University.

Mary Kay GillMary Kay Gill
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my third 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. I received an honor’s bachelor of science degree in accounting and Spanish and a Professional Cookery Certificate from Kendall College. My favorite tool is the digital scale for accurate measurements.

Rhodi HotalingRhodi Hotaling
Camp Instructor
I am 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 15th summer teaching at camp CBG.

Sarah JamesSarah James
Camp CBG Instructor
This is my third summer teaching Camp CBG. Throughout the year, I am a preschool teacher, and high school softball and volleyball coach. I received a bachelor’s degree in educational studies and in visual arts at, Concordia University Chicago; I craft, draw, paint, and play sports, in my free time.

Linda KelloughLinda Kellough
Camp Instructor
This will be my third summer teaching at Camp CBG. 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 schoolchildren in an Audubon/Openlands program. Every year, I do volunteer service work in wilderness areas out West and just finished leading an all-women Sierra Club group building a mile-and-a-half 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. My previous career was in nonprofit , management and journalism.

Paul KusibabPaul Kusibab
Camp Counselor
This will be my second summer as part of the Camp CBG team. Before joining the team, I served in the United States Marine Corps for four years as a diesel mechanic. I am currently studying at Oakton Community College, and after graduation, I will attend the University of Georgia to major in biology and secondary education.

Jill LisiusJill Lisius
Camp CBG Instructor
This summer I am returning to Camp CBG for my eighth time. During the school year I teach chemistry and environmental science at A. E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. I'm excited to be back, and I look forward to investigating chemistry and plants with campers. My main educational philosophy is that giving kids opportunities to experience and question scientific phenomena is the best way to explore science. I received a BA in Biology and Secondary Education from Augustana College and an MS in Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois.

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 CBG Instructor
This will be my fifth year teaching summer camp. During the school year, I am a field trip facilitator at the Garden. Before that, I taught third grade for several years. I received my master’s degree in elementary education from National Louis University. In my spare time I enjoy pottery, reading, and traveling.

Ada MiyakawaAda Miyakawa
Camp CBG Instructor
I am happy to be returning to Camp CBG for my third 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’ve also provided consulting services to other teachers and organizations. I really enjoy engaging with others and teaching in fun and creative ways to get them excited about learning. My interests include art, wellness, gardening, landscaping, ecology, and sustainable living. I received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education from Eastern Illinois University.

Carolyn MohrCarolyn Mohr
Camp CBG Instructor
This is my seventh year with Camp CBG and the highlight of my summer. I taught science and math for more than 28 years in grades 6–12, and the Illinois State Board of Education named me a teacher of the year finalist by presenting me with a “Those Who Excel” award of excellence just before I retired. Now I am the Budburst Education Specialist at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I also am an adjunct professor for two universities, and I am a National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) senior online advisor and web seminar moderator.

Madeleine NaylorMadeleine Naylor
LIT Coordinator
This is my first summer working with Camp CBG. I’ve been to the Garden many times throughout my childhood and adult life and am excited for the opportunity to work here for the summer. Before joining the Camp CBG team, I worked as a science tutor at The House in Glencoe and volunteered as a research assistant with the Animal Welfare team at the Brookfield Zoo. I received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of Wooster and a Ph.D. in Zoology from Oklahoma State University. In my free time, I enjoy birding, walking my dog Haymitch, and just being outside.

Sarah NelsonSarah Nelson
Camp CBG Assistant
This will be my third summer working at Camp CBG. Previously I have worked here as a camp counselor, volunteered, and participated in the LIT program. I grew up attending Camp CBG, and I am thrilled to be back for another summer at the garden! I love working with kids, learning new things, and spending time outdoors. I just completed my freshman year at the University of Notre Dame.

Jim O'MalleyJim O’Malley
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my 19th summer teaching at Camp CBG. I have had a tremendous amount of fun teaching about science and nature. Currently, I teach fourth grade teacher in Morton Grove. In September 2016, I received the Presidential Math and Science Award in Washington, D.C.

Christina PalffyChristina Palffy
Chemistry Camp Instructor
I have been teaching high school chemistry and biology for more than 20 years. I currently teach at Stevenson High School. My master’s degree focus was in forest ecology and I taught eight years of college botany. I have a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in biology and a master’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University in biology. My love for chemistry, biology and the excitement kids have when they learn both makes me very excited to teach this camp.

Emily PezzellaEmily Pezzella
Camp Counselor
I’m so excited to be working again as a camp counselor this summer at Camp CBG. I’ve been a volunteer, participated in the Leaders in Training program, and 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. This fall, I will be a senior in high school.

Emma PireEmma Pire
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my third summer at Camp CBG. My previous summers at Camp CBG were spent as a counselor, and this summer will be my first as an instructor. I recently graduated from Indiana University-Bloomington with a bachelor’s degree in human biology and a minor in psychology. I will be attending Emory University this upcoming fall for a second degree in nursing.

Nikki RadcliffeNikki Radcliffe
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my eighth summer as a Camp CBG instructor. For the past several years I’ve been working in and around schools in various capacities, including 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. I received my bachelor’s degree in education from Carroll University in Waukesha, WI and am licensed to teach grades K-9.

Tori RatkowskiTori Ratkowski
Camp CBG Instructor
This is my first year at Camp CBG, and I am looking forward to combining my passions for sustainability, being outdoors, and education. I received a bachelor’s degree in special and elementary education from Trinity Christian College. Later, I obtained a bilingual certification at St. Francis University. I currently enjoy serving as a Spanish reading specialist to the bilingual and dual language students in Zion, Ilinois. Outside of school, I enjoy figure skating, reading, yoga, cooking, hiking, and traveling with my husband to visit our families.

Kasey RoseKasey Rose
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my 11th 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 daycare and preschool-related experience working with KinderCare in Schaumburg. I have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in social sciences from North Park University.

Kelly RuskKelly Rusk
My First Camp Instructor
Although this will be my first year teaching Camp CBG, I have been working at the Chicago Botanic Garden for 13 years. You’ll find me on the weekends getting messy with the Little Diggers and exploring ingredients in the Weekend Family Classes. I love seeing the happiness on children’s faces when they discover the unexpected in nature. Working with our youngest gardeners is always exciting and surprising.

Kristin RyanKristin Ryan
Camp CBG Instructor
This is my first summer teaching at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I am thrilled to be a part of the beautiful place and sharing my love of food, cooking, and edible gardening. For the past few years, I have taught children’s cooking classes in Lake Forest, and spent many summers working at a youth camp in the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota.

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.

Katie StenstromKatie Stenstrom
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my first summer teaching at Camp CBG. Before joining the Garden’s team, I worked in formal education for two years, teaching in various classrooms ranging in grades K-12. This past year, I have had the pleasure of working as a special education teaching assistant at Conant High School. When I am not teaching, I am a nanny to two boys; ages 1 and 4. I graduated from DePaul University in 2017, with a degree in secondary education and a concentration in history and psychology, and a minor in environmental sciences.

Maura SternbergMaura Sternberg
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my fourth year teaching at Camp CBG. When I'm not enjoying my summers in the beauty of the Garden, I teach English at Stevenson High School. I have a background in dance and young children education as well, and absolutely love all things outdoors.

Rachel WeingartRachel Weingart
Camp CBG Counselor
This will be my second summer working as a camp counselor. I participated in the Leaders In Training program for 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 senior at Glenbrook North High School in the fall, and will be taking AP Biology.

Carolyn WigginsCarolyn Wiggins
Camp CBG Instructor
This will be my 14th summer teaching at Camp CBG. I am a retired elementary school teacher from the Chicago suburbs who has taught students from kindergarten through ninth grade and college students at National Louis University. I have a bachelor’s degree in music education from Muskingum College, a master’s degree 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 a grandmother of seven, I love both cooking and exploring nature with young people.

Becky ZurekBecky Zurek
Camp CBG Instructor
This is my seventh 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 bachelor’s degree in education, along with a minor in biology from Eastern Illinois University.