Meet Our Staff At Mercer Slough
Amanda Mintz – Early Childhood Education Coordinator – Amanda joins Mercer Slough full-time after teaching second grade for two years in the Bellevue School District. She holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science and master's degree in teaching from the University of Washington. Amanda has a broad array of experience with Pacific Science Center educational programming, including teaching with Science on Wheels, summer camps, and many years as the Weekend Programs Instructor here at Mercer Slough. She has also more than a decade of experience teaching toddlers and preschoolers. Amanda is thrilled to be combining her passions for the outdoors and teaching young children as the Early Childhood Education Coordinator at Mercer Slough.
Belinda Paterno - Weekend Programs Educator - Belinda grew up in Western Washington and spent weeks during the summer months traveling to different national parks with her parents. Experiencing firsthand the beauty of nature and wanting to learn more about the environment led Belinda to earn a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana and a M.S. in Environmental Science from Washington State University. During breaks from college Belinda honed her field skills at the Washington State University Extension Center in Puyallup, WA working in farm maintenance, sustainable agriculture, plant pathology, and biocontrol for noxious weeds. Desiring a shift in careers, she began volunteering with the Tacoma Nature Center teaching environmental education with their school programs. Belinda is excited and thrilled to continue growing as an environmental educator with the Mercer Slough summer camp programs.
Dan Hannafious - Educator - Dan considers the extended Northwest his home and brings his experiences from Washington, Oregon and Alaska to share at the Mercer Slough. He has always enjoyed the outdoors and brings his enthusiasm to our canoeing adventures in serving as a Trip Lead for Mercer Slough programs. He enjoyed exploring the outdoors early on and extended his experiences to include birding, animal tracking, dog mushing (Alaska) and learning the local landscape through the eyes of native lore. His background includes serving as a biologist and camp director for the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, co-managing research investigations of hypoxia in Hood Canal, facilitating programs for The Washington NatureMapping Program and providing educational Bat Talks to communities and organizations around the Puget Sound. After a summer spent providing outdoor exploration opportunities for our Mercer Slough campers, Dan is looking forward to being an Educator throughout the school year.
Ian Schooley – Lead Educator - Ian grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains where the Platte River cuts through the Colorado plateau, but the lack of salt water drove him to trade the Rockies for the Cascades and the plains for the Puget Sound. After a brief ten-year stint at the Seattle Art Museum his love of nature, being in the outdoors, and desire to help people connect with each other and with the life around them lead him to pursue a certificate in Environment, Education and Community from Islandwood and earn a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from UW. He is excited to ply his new trade at Mercer Slough and looks forward to connecting with a new community of dedicated educators.
Josh Gannis – Manager - Originally an "indoor kid" living on the East coast, Josh moved to Seattle in 2004 and immediately fell in love with Western Washington and the Cascades. He moved to San Francisco in 2006 to pursue his Master's Degree in U.S. Constitutional History at San Francisco State University. While there, Josh turned his love of the National Parks into a new career in environmental education with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy's Crissy Field Center, located in the Presidio of San Francisco. Josh is new to the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, but spent the last eight years managing and directing environmental justice and outdoor education programs for the Crissy Field Center. While there he directed numerous national recognized programs designed to introduced some of San Francisco's most under-served youth to the outdoors to help foster the next generation of environmental stewards. He is extremely excited to be back in Seattle and part of such an experienced and talented education team.
Kelly Fish – Educator - From her childhood in Oregon's Willamette Valley to her current residence in the Puget Sound region, Kelly is a lifelong inhabitant of the Pacific Northwest. She recently graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a B.A. in natural science education, a K-8 teaching certificate, and a minor in biology. During her program, she researched phytoplankton diversity and frog distribution on Blakely Island, studied coral reef ecology on the Belize Barrier Reef, and developed a love of identifying native plants. She also interned as an earth science educator at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Kelly believes in encouraging children to spend time outdoors, and hopes to inspire them to be stewards of nature. Besides teaching at Mercer Slough, Kelly enjoys running, rock climbing, archery, and playing with her dog.
Leilani Nussman - PreK-8 Programs Coordinator - Leilani loves water and loves spending time sharing her love of water and nature with kids of all ages. After a childhood in Colorado, Leilani earned a Bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Portland, a certificate in Education, Environment, and Community from IslandWood, and a Master's degree in Science Education from UW. She believes that all students have a scientist inside them, and hands-on learning and exploration is the best way to draw that scientist out. Her favorite part of her job is taking children on their first camping or canoeing trip and hearing their stories about their favorite part of their day at camp. She hopes all campers leave Mercer Slough with a new appreciation for the natural world of the Puget Sound watershed.
Lisa Keith – Educator - Lisa enjoys poetry, long walks on the beach, and poking dead stuff with sticks. As a kid, she spent much of her time playing in the woods, raising tadpoles and wooly bear caterpillars (separately, of course), and exploring the beaches of South Puget Sound. Back then, Lisa wanted to grow up to become an astronaut, marine biologist or a national park ranger. Many years later, after a couple of degrees, work as a hospice chaplain, a stint as a professional gardener, and a habit of serial science and naturalist volunteerism, it finally dawned upon Lisa that becoming a science educator could provide her the opportunity to be a little of all those things she wanted to be when she was a kid. When she's not geeking out over aquatic macroinvertebrates at Mercer Slough, you can often find Lisa gardening, camping, trail running, continuing her education on all things nature-related, and spending time with family and friends. Her favorite pastime is wandering about very sloooowly, exploring habitats as minikin as mosses to those as massive as mountains, and recording her observations on camera.
Melanie Preston - Educator - Growing up in Michigan, Melanie grew to love the natural world while walking the garden with her mother and grandmothers, exploring the woods and river near her home, and finding inspiration in school. She earned a degree in biology from Cedarville University in Ohio and finished her teaching program in Michigan. While in college, she spent her first summer in Grand Teton National Park, where she later worked several seasons as a park ranger. From Wyoming, Melanie made her way to the beautiful Pacific Northwest where she taught high school science and worked as a park ranger in Olympic National Park. She particularly enjoyed teaching environmental science and leading a local park restoration project. When she is not sharing her love for the outdoors at the Mercer Slough, Melanie enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, alpine climbing, reading, and playing guitar.
Siri Nelson - Teen & Family Programs Supervisor - Siri Nelson grew up in Seattle, and has a B.S. from The Evergreen State College and a M.S. in Biology from the University of Washington. Siri has a unique background as both an educator and scientist. Prior to becoming a teacher at MSEEC, she conducted research in the fields of ecology, conservation biology and biomedical genomics. At the UW she was a National Science Foundation GK-12 OACIS fellow and co-taught high school ecology and biology classes, bringing novel research to local high school students. The coolest part of her job is mentoring young people interested in environmental science careers and connecting them with the greater science community. Siri loves getting outside any way she can and making all manner of stuff.
Stephanie Huck - Educator - Growing up in Western Washington and spending summers camping, exploring and beach-combing, Stephanie's childhood relationship with nature developed into an interest in the health of the Puget Sound and Southern Resident Orca population. With hopes of inspiring stewardship in others, she graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor's in Environmental Education, focusing on community education and environmental policy. After graduating, Stephanie spent three months in Australia and returned home to spend a year serving an AmeriCorps position with Washington Conservation Corps restoring salmon habitat in Whatcom County. Believing that environmental education is important to start at a young age, Stephanie began volunteering with the Mercer Slough's Polliwog Preschool in 2012 and is now excited to join the Mercer Slough as a teacher for K-8 programs and summer camps. In her free time, you can find Stephanie spending quality time with her dog, hiking, seeing concerts, and travelling abroad whenever possible.
Tory Kassabaum – Early Childhood Educator - In 2012, after graduating from Knox College with a degree in Environmental Studies, Tory moved from the Midwestern prairies to the mountainous Pacific Northwest. Not only was she excited to live somewhere with mountains and the ocean, but also to pursue a certificate in Environment, Education and Community from Islandwood and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from UW. After immediately falling in love with Washington's natural landscape, she knew she wanted to stay and share her love of this outside world with her students. Tory has spent many happy hours working with children during summers at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, MO. and during her 10 month residency at IslandWood. In her free time Tory enjoys hiking, swimming, rock climbing, and cooking.