New England Institute: Meet the Team

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Participants of the 2018 New England Institute

Frances Brindle
Biology, Environmental Science Teacher, 9th – 12th grades
Carolina Friends School, Orange County
Hobbies: Gardening, nature study, travel to wild places, hiking, camping
Looking forward to: Shoals Maine Lab and Appledore Island, whales, terns, Mt Washington Observatory, alpine garden, hiking, being with the group, amazing scenery.
Beth Cranford
Early Childhood Environmental Educator
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: Gardening and exploring the natural world with my 2 year old son
Looking forward to: Living above the tree line for a few days
Waymouth “Ira” Cumpton, Jr.
7th Grade Science and Social Studies Teacher
Thomasville Middle School, Davidson County
Hobbies: Church activities, spending time with family, sports, golf, and cooking
Looking forward to: Whale watching, nature hikes, visiting an area I’ve never been to before, and learning things from the other educators on the trip.
Jessie Francese
8th Grade Teacher
The Exploris School, Wake County

Hobbies: Running, reading, travel, being outdoors
Looking forward to: Everything! I am mostly looking forward to checking off two more states to bring my total of visited states to 42 out of 50. And whale watching. And hiking. And learning about climate change.
Ginny Mason
Science Teacher
Northeast Regional School of Biotechnology and Agriscience, Beaufort County
Hobbies: Photography, drawing, horse back riding, kayaking, hiking and camping
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to seeing whales, and taking in the gorgeous scenery as well as making new friendships with my fellow teachers!
Cheryl Michalec
2nd Grade Teacher
Sandy Ridge Elementary, Durham County

Hobbies: Gardening, traveling, reading, and fishing
Looking forward to: I am excited about mountain top views as well as the unique peek under the sea.
Blair Ogburn
Middle School Science Teacher
Mountain Discovery Charter School, Jackson County
Hobbies: I love to hike, paddle board, backpack and birdwatch. Spending time in the out-of-doors with my family and my dog Jasper is my favorite hobby!
Looking forward to: I look forward to being with new people and I am excited about spending time in the White Mountains. I hope to see new bird species and look forward to tide pooling and learning more about marine life. I saw whales in Alaska but would love to see more!!!
Sarah Otis
3rd Grade Teacher
Envision Science Academy, Wake County
Hobbies: I love hiking, reading, swimming and exploring new places.
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to hiking, learning more about the ecology of New England and getting new science education ideas.
Renee Pagoota-Wight
Kindergarten Teacher
Sherrills Ford Elementary School, Catawba County
Hobbies: Travel, photography, live music, snorkeling, sea turtles, state parks, camping, hiking
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to exploring the geography,  culture and climate of coastal New England. I also am excited to hike the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. It will be amazing to view coastal habitats and search for whales. I have always enjoyed learning about marine life and look forward to staying on Appledore Island!
Josh Reed
6th Grade Math & Science Teacher
Granite Falls Middle School, Caldwell County
Hobbies: Hiking, dancing, video games, board games, playing my banjo, HQ Trivia, Exploring reddit & YouTube rabbit holes, photography (landscapes and sports cars), and keeping up with my 1 year old Chihuahua named Garrus
Looking forward to: I’m excited to explore the outdoors of New England, which is not an area I’ve gotten to see much of. I spent quite a bit of time hiking and camping before I started teaching, and I am looking forward to getting to do that again. I am also hoping to have lots of cool experiences/stories to bring back to my students and colleagues when I return.
Melanie Smith
Assistant Principal 
Union Elementary, Sampson County
Hobbies: Running, reading, love spending time with my two dogs and my family
Looking forward to: Hiking, visiting states I’ve never visited, meeting other educators, having time for myself.
Anna Ward
7th Grade Math Teacher
Charlotte Lab School, Mecklenburg County
Hobbies: Reading, travel, spending time with my family
Looking forward to: I am looking forward to experiencing a new part of the country and meeting new people.

Museum Staff Leaders

Megan Chesser Davis
Teacher Education Specialist
NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: Spending time outside – jogging, hiking, camping and backpacking, gardening, biking, pretty much whatever! When I’m not outside, I love cooking and baking, and learning to sew/quilt.
Looking forward to: Waking up to the smell of salt air or the perfume of alpine wildflowers in the White mountains. Watching the sun rise and set in new habitats. Holding tide pool creatures in our hands and feeling their tiny suction feet. Being reminded of the interconnectedness of everything in our world. I can’t wait to explore New England with a fantastic group of NC educators. I hope each of us will return home renewed in our passion for education.
Martha Fisk
Coordinator of Outreach and Digital Learning 
NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Wake County
Hobbies: Reading, adventuring with my two young boys, and piano
Looking forward to: I am excited about exploring new environments with other educators! Hopefully we get to taste a fresh lobster!