Blue Ridge Institute: Meet the Team 2021

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2021 Blue Ridge Institute Participants

July 8- 16, 2021 Blue Ridge Institute Participants

Wendy Hall
First Grade Teacher
Fairview Elementary School, Union County
Hobbies: Swimming, biking, hiking, kayaking, and reading
Looking forward to: I love our beautiful state of North Carolina and am so excited to immerse myself in the nature of the mountains. I love being outdoors and am excited to not only explore but also learn about the amazing world in which we live. As a teacher that has the opportunity to focus on social studies and science, I am excited to bring back my experience and newly-gained knowledge to our school.

Stephanie Ingram
ESL Teacher (Grades 6-8)
Wiley Magnet Middle School, Forsyth County
Hobbies: Gardening, hiking, sewing, and art
Looking forward to: I’m looking forward to spending time outdoors, learning new things to be curious about, meeting fellow teachers, and enjoying a post COVID experience.

Amy Jordan
ESL Teacher (Grades K-8)
Woodland Heights Elementary, Iredell County
Hobbies: I enjoy long walks outside, reading, goofing around with my dogs and taking travel adventures with my husband.
Looking forward to: I am excited to explore and discover more about our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains while learning alongside fellow educators from across the state. I am hoping to bring back experiences to help my students recognize the “awesomeness” of all of the nature around us!

Sarah Laws
High School Environmental Science Teacher
Mountain Heritage High School, Yancey County
Hobbies: Crafting, herping, and spending time with friends and family
Looking forward to: Learning new things about the area I call home, experiencing nature, seeing wildlife, and making memories I can use in future class lessons.

Talicia Smith
Science Teacher
Douglas Byrd Middle School, Cumberland County
Hobbies: Spending time with family, writing, reading, singing and encouraging others.
Looking forward to: Adventure is everywhere and I am looking forward to this enriching experience. The ability to learn and explore the Blue Ridge Mountains and then share the experience with my students and others is exciting. I’m looking forward to learning more about the area and using the experience to inspire others to live. love and dream.

Lindsay Smith
Science Teacher
Mooresville High School, Iredell County
Hobbies: Kayaking, travel, gardening, photography, hiking, baking, and lately a lot of house renovations.
Looking forward to: I am not originally from North Carolina so I am excited to learn more about the biology and geology in our beautiful state. I am also looking forward to collaborating with like minded teachers to create lessons which relate what we are learning in class to places my students have been or heard about in North Carolina and inspire them to get outside and experience their own state.

Sarah Trinidad
Science Teacher
Edgecombe Early College High School, Edgecombe County
Hobbies: Swimming, reading, traveling, singing, spending time with family.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to bonding with like minded educators, being inspired by the natural beauty of our state, and learning something new that I can take home and use to create an experience with my scholars. I believe this will be a life changing, inspirational trip and I am so excited to learn more and practice making Earth Science relevant to my scholars!

William Wade
AIG Teacher
Franklin County Schools, Franklin County
Hobbies: I enjoy hunting, fishing, kayaking and camping with my family. Being outdoors and cooking over an open fire makes me happy.
Looking forward to: I am very excited about exploring our Great Smoky Mountains, meeting new people and sharing ideas on how to teach our students.

Nikki Walker
Whiteville Primary School, Columbus County
Hobbies: Reading, getting dirt under my nails, beekeeping, plant medicine, foraging, fiber arts, and listening to good music while doing all of these things.
Looking forward to: I look forward to a change in perspective after learning from the nature I encounter and the educators I share this adventure with.


July 29- August 6, 2021 Blue Ridge Institute Participants

Kelly Allen 
Science Teacher
East Chapel Hill High School, Orange County
Hobbies: Learning more about native plants and trying to add them to my yard; hiking locally and not-so-locally, reading a wide variety of books (fiction and nonfiction), cooking/baking/fermenting (some new things and a lot of tried-and-true things as well).
Looking forward to: So much to look forward to! I think the part that is the most intriguing to me is snorkeling in a mountain stream! I’m also really looking forward to making friends and connections with other NC educators!

Sarah Anderson
Science Teacher
J. T. Hoggard High School, New Hanover County
Hobbies: Playing sports (volleyball, basketball, wiffle ball), reading, jogging/walking, hiking, and spending time at the beach.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to getting to know my state a little bit better, especially the western part of North Carolina. I am also looking forward to spending time with like-minded educators and learning how to bring nature back into the classroom.

Sandy Bicksler
Seventh Grade Science Teacher
Central Middle School, Columbus County
Hobbies: Spending time with grandchildren, cooking, swimming, sewing, camping
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to learning more in depth information about the Blue Ridge flora and fauna.

Eryn Dillard
Second Grade Teacher
Woods Charter School, Chatham County
Hobbies: Biking, skiing, yoga, paddling, scuba diving, cooking, eating yummy food, thrifting, snuggling with my pup!
Looking forward to: I am very excited to learn from experts and engage with other educators about the wonders of my current home state. I am also looking forward to feeling refreshed and re-inspired in the classroom after a year of remote teaching! Most of all, I can’t wait for some dedicated time to enjoy the Blue Ridge and grow in my appreciation and knowledge.

Sharon Harbaugh
Math and Science Teacher (Grades 6-11)
Timber Ridge Treatment Center, Rowan County
Hobbies: Hiking, swimming, gardening, and family games.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to spending time in the woods, camping and hiking. I am also very excited about sharing ideas with other motivated teachers and exchanging ways to make science “real”, hands-on, and outdoors. My school runs all summer so I will also enjoy the break from the classroom and the chance to recharge.

Becqui Masters
First Grade Teacher
Central Elementary School, Pasquotank County
Hobbies: Hiking, photography, interior decorating, gardening.
Looking forward to: Being in the back country of one of my favorite places in the world, making friends, learning more of the biodiversity of the region.

Niki Paganelli
Fifth Grade Teacher
North Canton Elementary, Haywood County
Hobbies: Hiking, backpacking, running, paddle boarding, reading, traveling.
Looking forward to: I’m looking forward to exploring new parts of Western North Carolina, learning how to share my love of the outdoors with students, and becoming more knowledgeable about plant and wildlife in the area.

Jacob Regensburger
Science Teacher
71st Classical Middle School, Cumberland County
Hobbies: Hiking, reading, traveling, photography, camping.
Looking forward to: After a year of pandemic where we all have been stuck at home, I’ve come to realize how little time any of us spends outdoors. I want to discover some of the wonders of the Blue Ridge and bring them home to inspire myself and my students to get back into the world. I also am looking forwards to meeting and collaborating with other educators from around the state, sharing my good ideas and finding some of theirs!

Lenae Scafidi
Science Teacher
Iredell High School, Iredell County
Hobbies: Hiking- especially to waterfalls, arts and crafts, learning and travel.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to the merging of things I love: teaching, science, and the outdoors! I can’t wait to learn and explore the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains and its biodiversity!

Museum Staff Leaders

Melissa Dowland
Coordinator of Teacher Education
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: Camping, hiking, exploring nature, reading, writing poetry, and cooking.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge region of our state with a phenomenal group of educators, observing the biodiversity of the area, and camping outside for a whole week!

Megan Davis
Teacher Education Specialist
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: I love gardening, hiking, biking, and backpacking, bird watching, baking and cooking– basically anything outdoors or involving delicious food!
Looking forward to: I look forward to quiet moments of journaling near the rushing waters of a mountain stream, snorkeling in search of hellbenders or fish with visiting scientists, and most of all, I look forward to sharing an incredible and inspiring 8-days with a fabulous group of NC teachers!

Chris Smith
Curator of the Daily Planet
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: Hiking, watching wildlife, gardening, drinking coffee, practicing guitar but don’t ask me to play yet.
Looking forward to: Lying awake in the middle of the night listening to the nocturnal soundscape, hopefully clear nighttime skies for star gazing, and finishing at least one of the hikes in wet clothes because I fell into a creek.