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ENC Nature Preschool Team

Vanessa “Nessie” Sener ENC Nature Preschool Director

email me | 949-629-1044 ext. 201

Vanessa is an Orange County native who grew up as an outdoor enthusiast, swimming off the shores of her beloved hometown, San Clemente.  She holds a BA in Early Childhood Education from Pacific Oaks College and brings twenty years of experience as an inclusive Early Years Educator to the Nature Preschool.

Vanessa has been with the Nature Preschool since its inception, first as an ENC member and Camp Naturalist, continuing on as our Curriculum Coordinator and Lead Nature Teacher in the Bear Classroom (Pre-K classroom).  She is a dedicated and passionate advocate for children who has spent her career teaching and sharing her compassion, love, and respect for all living things and nurturing a deep connection with the natural world.

Vanessa has constructed lasting, impactful relationships with children by helping them build a strong sense of self and offering unconditional acceptance, inspirational learning experiences, independence, and reflective engagement, developed through a play-based, child-led philosophy. Her experience working in a play-based program, serving on their Board of Directors as a staff representative and participating in the local Pre-K/TK/K Articulation Committee helped build a strong foundation for collaboration and leading.

Vanessa has been a longstanding member of NAEYC and OCAEYC, where she currently serves as board chair of their Social Media Committee.

Kerri Arkilic ENC Nature Preschool Assistant Director

email me | 949-629-1044 ext. 202

Kerri spent her early childhood outdoors as much as possible.  Finding worlds in the dirt under trees she began to connect with the wonder that nature inspires.  She grew up in the Washington, DC metro area but has made California her home for 16 of the last 26 years, living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Palo Alto and most recently in Berkeley.  Now settled in Orange County, Kerri has been enjoying the many outdoor opportunities; especially being able to swim in a warmer ocean!

Originally trained as an archaeologist, visits with Boston school children to a site she was working on Cape Cod sparked her interest in classroom teaching.  A change in focus for her Master’s Degree earned her an MEd, and she began teaching at an elementary level.  After her three young children were born, she became involved in a homeschool program developing curriculum for preschoolers.  From there, she found a deep alignment with early childhood education with a focus on play-based emergent curriculum.  She sees children as capable and curious researchers and explorers.  Kerri is always excited to be learning and discovering alongside students and families.  As a teacher and school director, she has worked with many ages; from infants to pre-k.  Over the last five years, Kerri has been focused on teaching through a social justice lens, which is intimately aligned with ecological stewardship. 

She believes that by fostering a deep connection with the earth and its complexity, children can grow to be conscientious and caring members of our world.

Kathy Satchell Enrollment and Program Administrator

email me | 949-629-1044 ext. 200

Kathy has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for over 30 years.  She has worked with children from Toddlers to Pre-K and has spent the last 20 years in administration. She earned her BS degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Sociology from California State University Fullerton. She feels very fortunate to be working with an amazing group of nature and child loving people.  Kathy grew up in the small mountain community of Wrightwood, where she spent a lot of time in all kinds of outdoor activities. Kathy loves to spend time camping with her husband and 2 daughters, walking her dogs and doing creative crafty projects. Her favorite camping spot is Refugio State Beach where her family spends almost every Thanksgiving.

Amanda Willson Nature Teacher, Class 3 “Bears

Amanda has loved every minute of her 6 years of teaching! She attended Orange Coast College and received an Associates in Science degree in Early Childhood Education. She has a Child Development Teacher Certificate and Permit, and her added experience helps her feel confident in guiding and teaching young children. Amanda is heavily art influenced in multiple medias, specifically in ceramics which she loves bringing into the classroom. She has a love for animals, enjoys being in nature, and is excited to share its beauty and importance with children.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” -George Bernard Shaw

Kelsey Defeo Nature Teacher, Class 3 “Bears

Hi, I’m Kelsey! I enjoy hiking, the beach, being active, and good food! I have completed my Teacher Permit and I am currently continuing my education to get my Master Teacher Permit and BA in Early Childhood. I have worked with children in various capacities for over 15 years and have been working in a Preschool setting for the last 5 years. Nature is my happy place and teaching young children is my dream job. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to bring those two things together!

Kaylee Hoff Nature Teacher, Class 3 “Bears

Kaylee is an Orange County native and currently lives in Huntington Beach with her husband and their dog. She has worked with children in some capacity for the last 15 years. She coached youth sports during high school and after high school she coached high school basketball for 2 years. She then went on to work with people with disabilities and enjoyed that for several years. Kaylee now is finishing her BA in Early Childhood Education at National University and will graduate May 2022. Over the last two years Kaylee has worked with children who are on the autism spectrum and has experience in ABA. She has a passion for working with our newest members of society and enjoys being outdoors. She believes hands-on experiences are the best way for children to learn. She also believes nature is the best learning environment for young children and is excited to be part of the ENC community. Kelsey compares her teaching strategy to that of a gardener. Seeds will be planted, and we must create the best environment for each individual child to grow. In her spare time, you can find Kaylee camping, cooking, gardening or at a concert. She is excited to be at the ENC Nature Preschool in the Bear Classroom, supporting each child on their education journey.

Chavely Morales Martinez Nature Teacher, Class 3, “Bears”

Chavely Morales Martinez received an Associates degree in Early Childhood Education while working in childcare. During her 6 years of teaching she has worked with children between the ages of 2-6. After finishing her degree she transferred to Humboldt State to studying Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Community Organizing. When she is not working, she loves to spend time with her family that lives in Northern California. She also loves to spend time on the road exploring new places!

Emma Ripplinger Nature Teacher, Class 2, “Coyotes”

Emma is thrilled to be a part of the ENC team! She has been teaching preschool in various capacities for the last 8 years and has loved and learned from each experience. Emma received her BA in Education Sciences, with minors in Psychology and Social Behavior and Philosophy, from UC Irvine in 2018 and she has a M.A. in Early Childhood Development from Pacific Oaks College of Education. Working with children is, in her opinion, the most rewarding occupation out there! She strives to be her best self for her students, at all times. Both teaching and nature are fundamental passions of Emma’s, and she attributes this to her parents – her mom the educator and her dad the hiker. Emma was quite literally raised hugging trees, searching for bears in the mountains, and in wonderful classrooms all over! When she’s not teaching, she can be found hiking, splashing in the ocean, or playing rugby! Emma loves being a part of our incredible school and its mission.

Hannah Knott  Nature Teacher, Class 2, Tortoises

Hannah is an OC native who loves good coffee, being active, and exploring our beautiful planet!

Hannah’s passion for nurturing young children with her whole child approach to teaching inspires us all! She has been serving the needs of children within her community for nearly a decade in a variety of roles. Before joining the ENC family, she gained a wealth of knowledge from working as a Lead Teacher and as an Assistant Director of a nearby after-school care program. 

Hannah is currently pursuing a degree in Child Development Education (CDE) at Orange Coast College and earning a Teacher Certificate.

In her free time, Hannah enjoys doing a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, and camping with her friends and family. When she’s not out adventuring, Hannah also enjoys painting, reading, and enjoying live music. 

Hannah is passionate about environmental conservation, volunteering in her community, and advocating for our future generations!

Melia Sisola  Nature Teacher, Class 2, Tortoises

Melia is a Cal State Fullerton graduate, recently receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Adolescent Development with an emphasis on Early Childhood Development.

Melia has worked as a Lead Teacher in an after-school program and gained various skills and knowledge working with multi-aged children.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, being active and exploring in nature!  Melia loves to travel, taking care of her plants, and spending time with her family and friends.  Melia is passionate about advocating for the planet and future generations of environmental stewards!

Devon Kate O’Connor Nature Teacher, Class 1 “Tortoise”

Devon was born and raised in Ireland where she completed her Bachelor of Science degree before moving to the United States. She has been working with children ages 2-5 for 8 years and has a passion for language development and nurturing independence. When she’s not in the classroom she can be found playing on multiple sports teams, trying out new vegan recipes, or learning something new!

Emily Pavlik Nature Teacher, Class 1 “Tortoises”

Emily has been in the Early Childhood Education field for 5 years. She graduated from Orange Coast College with an associate degree and a certificate in Early Childhood Childhood education. She is currently completing her BA at Cal State Fullerton as an Early Childhood major. While at the Nature Center, Emily enjoys hiking in the redwoods, creating music, and engaging in art and paint activities. In her free time, Emily loves reading, traveling, going to spin, and doing yoga.

Shana Johnson Nature Teacher, Class 1, Tortoises

Shana is an accomplished artist who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Central Saint Martins in London. This is where Shana discovered her passion for creating and painting with children in nature and her enrollment into Early Education courses.

Shana recently earned an Associates in Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Orange Coast College and is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to inspire, guide and observe children as they connect with their unique selves and discover their full potential within our nature focused environment.

Outside of work, Shana enjoys painting, cooking, yoga, hiking, traveling, spending time with family, and playing with her dog Monet.

Araceli Martinez Nature Teacher, Class 1, Tortoises

Araceli graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a BA degree in Child Development and Family Studies. She has over 18 years experience educating young children. Araceli enjoys being part of children’s growth and development. Her hobbies include hiking, scrapbooking, traveling and all things Disney.

Gabriela Alexia Hernandez (Lexi) Guest Nature Teacher

Lexi received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development and Family Studies with a minor in American Sign Language and Deaf Cultures from California State University, Long Beach. She interned at the Environmental Nature Center during the Summer of 2020 and was immediately a part of the ENC family. Lexi has worked with a diverse age range of children with unique needs, but her passion is working with preschool aged children. Lexi loves spending time outdoors running, snowboarding, and rock climbing. She also really enjoys cheering on her favorite sports teams.

Garden Specialist at ENC Nature Preschool

The Garden Specialist at ENC Nature Preschool spends time with children daily. Children work directly in the soil and garden, strengthening their connection and understanding of the physical world around them. The seasonal transformation that happens in a garden sparks immeasurable learning. Children engage in hands-on experiences, developing a genuine understanding of cause and effect, growth, living, dying and decay. They also develop an insightful understanding of life cycles. This is seen in both plants and animals – from seed to eating or composting, or from egg to larva to pupa to adult. Children learn which plants and animals can be garden helpers or garden harmers and are dutiful with protecting the garden from what might cause harm. Children experience the colorful world of fruits and vegetables by planting, transplanting, harvesting, preparing, and tasting the foods that they’ve helped to grow. Our Garden Specialist bridges connections from home to school by asking children about their home experiences with gardening, cooking, and composting. Through these conversations, children grow a profound respect and love with not only the garden, but the entirety of nature. Nothing is more magical than seeing children explore the meaningful dynamics of a garden! “If kids don’t touch and experience nature, why would they want to save it?”

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