Amazon Institute: Meet the Team

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Participants of the 2019 Amazon Institute

Meghan Baker
Outreach Educator
NC State Extension, Buncombe County
Hobbies: Hiking, mountain biking, botanizing, learning about cultural-food connections
Looking forward to: The ecological diversity: birds, plants, insects, and learning about native cultures and food traditions. And floating down the Amazon River!

Kathy Bosiak
Teacher and Department Chairman
Lincolnton High School, Lincoln County
Hobbies: The Red Sox, native herbs and remedies, and great coffee
Looking forward to: Learning the culture of the area and maybe some legends or myths of the Amazon; as well as all the biodiversity.

Renee Brown
Pisgah Forest Elementary, Transylvania County
Hobbies: Photography and sculpting
Looking forward to: Everything!

Melanie Capps
First Grade Teacher
Whiteville Primary School, Columbus County
Hobbies: Home renovation, landscaping, traveling, painting, and reading
Looking forward to: The exotic animals in their natural environment and beautiful Peru

Rebecca Craps
Fifth Grade Academy Teacher – Language Arts and Social Studies
Forsyth Country Day School, Forsyth County
Hobbies: I enjoy cycling, travelling, visiting historic sites, experiencing events in my community, and spending time outside.  I also enjoy serving the homeless population by volunteering in a local women’s overflow shelter.
Looking forward to: I am most looking forward to meeting and working with educators from around the state, exploring the most bio-diverse ecosystem in the world, and learning about the people and culture of Peru.

Andromeda Crowell
Science Teacher
Orange High School, Orange County
Hobbies: I love tending my garden and hiking around the Eno with my dog, Luna and husband, Justin.  I also enjoy baking and curling up with a good book.
Looking forward to: The Amazon is one of the places on Earth with the most biodiversity; I can’t wait to see all the unique plant and animal species!  I’m also excited to learn about the history of Peru so I can incorporate more diverse perspectives and cultures into my science classroom.

Jeff Derda
Honor/Academic/AP Biology & Astronomy Teacher
Apex High School, Wake County
Hobbies: Reading, collecting silver age comic books, spending time with my family.
Looking forward to: Meeting new people, experiencing new things, stepping out of my comfort zone, and seeing plants and animals that I have never seen before in their natural environments!

Linda Dion
Holly Springs High School, Wake County
Hobbies: Hiking, Painting, Photography, Gardening, Reading
Looking forward to: I am most excited about immersing myself fully in the experience of just walking among the flora and fauna of Amazon; the verdant plant life, the rich biodiversity of insect life and birds, even the atmosphere of just walking in the forest is an inspiring thought to me. Having read about the breadth and depth of the rainforest, it is truly a dream come true to have this opportunity to visit one of the most unique and beautiful places on Earth.

Michelle LeRoy
5th Grade Teacher
Penny Road Elementary, Wake County
Hobbies: Traveling to new places and exploring the natural world, reading, drawing, hanging out with my dogs and my kids
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to so many new experiences. I love having the opportunity to learn new things with passionate and curious people!

Hannah Szymanik
2nd Grade Teacher
Gatesville Elementary School, Gates County 

The Beach, Books, Dance, Disney, Nature, Music, Soccer, and Travel.
Looking forward to: I’m excited to experience a part of the world I’ve never been to before and be able to share all I’ve learned and done with others when I return.

Angela Tyler
3rd Grade Teacher
Guideway Elementary, Columbus County
Hobbies: I love learning about anything Science or History. I am always looking for my next trip to take in order to learn about something new. I also like to read. I mostly read books that I am putting into my classroom, however, I also like anything written by Nicholas Sparks.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to learning about the animals that live in the Amazon, along with their habitats. I hope to see a sloth, they are so cute. I am also looking forward to learning from the local teachers that live in the area.

Heang Uy
North Henderson High School, Henderson County
Hobbies: Cycling, hiking, camping, reading, church, geography, travel, food
Looking forward to: I look forward to an opportunity to travel and learn in a place that I typically would not get to visit. It is a culture, location, and environment that will be totally new to me. I am excited to meet other like minded educators who can help me bring this experience back to my classroom.


Museum Staff Leaders

Liz Baird
Chief, School and Lifelong Education
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: I enjoy hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and volunteering with a dog rescue
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to seeing the Southern Cross in the night sky, observing the biodiversity of the area, and sharing the experience with a remarkable group!

Megan Davis
Teacher Education Specialist
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: jogging and biking along the greenways, gardening, cooking and baking, hiking and backpacking in new places, spending time with friends and family
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to us being immersed and completed surrounded by life in the Amazon— trees, plants, vines, birds, butterflies, spiders, ants, fish, and on and on. I hope that each day brings new astonishment and discovery! I can’t wait for us to meet our local Peruvian educators and learn from them all about the place they call home.

Andy Kauffman
Curator of the Living Conservatory
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: Gardening, biking, fishing, kayaking, hiking, cooking, homebrewing, and hopefully scuba diving soon!
Looking forward to: I will enjoy watching everyone’s reactions to the spectacular animals and plants we encounter during this adventure! I am also excited to meet the indigenous people and participate in their cultural practices……and hopefully catch a few piranha for dinner one night!