Blue Ridge Institute: Meet the Team 2022

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2022 Blue Ridge Institute Participants

head shot of a woman Cicelia Aguilar
Instructional Coach
Warren County Schools
Hobbies: Crocheting, baking, reading, hiking
Looking forward to: I would like to be more connected with nature so I can share that enthusiasm with my teachers and students.
Traci House
Kindergarten Teacher
Whiteville Primary School, Columbus County
Hobbies: Hiking, traveling, exploring, photography, playing with my puppy, and drinking coffee
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to learning more about the mountains that I have fallen in love with over the last few years, exploring/diving in to new parts of them, and learning about the culture of the blue ridge mountains.
Adam Hubert
6th-8th Grade Science/Athletic Director
Hope Academy GSO, Guilford County
Hobbies: Gardening, nature walks, listening to music, writing, and anything sports related
Looking forward to: Getting to explore the beauty of NC with other dedicated environmental educators while also challenging myself in new ways. I’m excited to study the interconnectedness of our ecosystems and learn how we as educators can foster a love for that ecosystem with our students in the classroom. I’m also excited to see the vast species of salamander that call the Blue Ridge mountains home.
Danielle Lynch
Environmental Connections Integration Specialist
Millbrook Environmental Connections Magnet Elementary, Wake County
Hobbies: Gardening, hiking, walking, exploring different areas around the state and county where I live, spending time with family and cooking
Looking forward to: Getting out into nature with fellow educators and learning from one another. I love making connections that I can continue to build for years to come.
Emily Moreno
4th Grade Science/Math Teacher
FernLeaf Community Charter School, Henderson County
Hobbies: I love hiking, camping, and traveling. Also, I enjoy photography and scent detection work with my dogs.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to learning more about the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and the plants and animals that live there.
Melissa Maria Oñate
9-12 Science Teacher
Cumberland Academy 6-12, Cumberland County
Hobbies: Baking, crafting, hiking, camping, traveling.
Looking forward to: Getting to experience the various adventures as a group and learn more about our state.
Kaylee Schwarz
5th Grade Teacher
Hillburn Academy, Wake County
Hobbies: Volleyball, painting, DIY crafts, kayaking, hanging out with friends and family, and doing anything with my dog
Looking forward to: I’m looking forward to escaping into the mountains! I want to become more confident with my camping and hiking skills and no better way to do that than through the Blue Ridge Institute. I’m excited to explore more of the Blue Ridge and learn so much more about my state.
Anna Lisa Seaborn
2nd Grade Teacher
Gatesville Elementary, Gates County
Hobbies: Sewing, cooking, quilting.
Looking forward to: Being totally submerged in a natural environment.
Sarah Walls
Humanities Teacher
Lakewood Montessori Middle School, Durham County
Hobbies: Reading, youth sports spectating, hiking, travel.
Looking forward to: I’m eager to get new ideas for outdoor learning and interdisciplinary projects. I also know that in order to ask my students to challenge themselves and get out of their comfort zones, I need to practice that. Snorkeling in a freezing mountain river seems to fit the bill!


Alternates attend orientation and are ready to step in if a participant can no longer attend the Institute. Additionally, they are guaranteed a spot the next time this Institute is offered.

Luba Tyer
Title I WCPSS Lead Teacher
Wake County Public School System
Hobbies: Photography
Looking forward to: Exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains and sharing with my students my excitement about this beautiful part of our state.
Holly Kolarova
ESL and EC Teacher
Clear Creek Elementary, Henderson County
Hobbies: Clowning, hiking, reading.
Looking forward to: Discovering how to bring the wonders of natural history and sciences from our beautiful area to inspire and engage all of our students.

Museum Staff Leaders

Melissa Dowland
Manager of Teacher Education
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Hobbies: Camping, hiking, reading, nature photography
Looking forward to: Snorkeling in mountain streams, learning from experts, and sharing our amazing NC backyard with a fantastic group of educators.
Greg Skupien
Curator of the Naturalist Center
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Hobbies: Gardening with native plants, playing basketball, reading, decorating cookies with my wife, finding new ways to entertain my two little girls
Looking forward to: Spending time outdoors with a bunch of awesome educators and learning more about the mountains.
Chris Smith
Coordinator of Current Science Programs
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
Hobbies: Hiking; looking for critters; getting dessert with dinner; visiting record stores.
Looking forward to: Being outdoors all the time; exploring the mountains with people driven by curiosity; maybe we’ll see a bear this time; Dolly’s Ice Cream.

2021 Blue Ridge Institute Teams