Angela is passionate about education and has more than 14 years teaching experience. She studied and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida State University in Literature. She then went on to earn a Master of Science degree in Library and Information Studies. At the heart of her academic pursuits was the desire to learn and to share her passion for learning with others. She feels that each student has individual needs and that creating connections with her students is the foundation of meeting those needs. Being an educator has allowed her to become a facilitator of self-discovery, using a child’s natural wonder to expand their knowledge. Angela and her family moved to Brevard County from Miami to get closer to nature and to provide a simpler way of life. Her family often takes advantage of the beach as a place to play and unwind. She loves spending time with her family and friends. She also enjoys surfing, writing, and photography.
AYANA VERDI, FOUNDER
Ayana is an educational leader and mother of two. In 2016, Ayana and her husband John established the Verdi EcoSchool to provide hands-on educational experiences for children in the historic Eau Gallie Arts District of Melbourne, Florida. The school quickly grew to become the first K-8 urban farm school in the southeastern United States. In 2019, Ayana was accepted as a Drexel Fund Fellow in support of her work in building a new high school model that incorporates hands-on, immersive learning through practical real-world internships. Her educational and professional journey has included studies in both the United States and New Zealand as she pursued a degree in Veterinary Medicine while operating a canine wellness spa in New York City. Inspired by the nature-based school her son attended while she lived and studied in New Zealand, Ayana is committed to cultivating community-based and environmentally aware educational options for children.
DANIELLE HENN, CO-DIRECTOR
Ms. Danielle is excited to join the Verdi Eco School family! She believes truly great learning is student-led, fun, and responsive to one’s community. Ms. Danielle loves project-based learning; building a beehive, growing bonsai, painting murals, and quilting are some of her favorite projects she and her students learn through. Ms. Danielle holds a BA in Studio Art and an MA in Art Education. She is also a Doctoral Candidate of Art Education at Florida State University. Her research interests are place-based, civically engaged education and creative, make-do teaching and learning.
ETHAN TYLER, EDUCATOR
Ethan graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education from Saint Joseph’s College and then moved on to Indiana State University where he earned a Master’s in Exercise Science. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist who believes that self- awareness is the foundation for all training practices. With over 14 years of experience in coaching student-athletes, high-school and collegiate, Ethan has been able to help them make significant strides and improvements in their athletic performance, and general health by constantly researching and looking for new methods to help them maximize effort and get better every day. Coaching athletes of differing levels has allowed him to develop training programs that focus on the individual’s needs, not only for “strength” training but more importantly “weakness” training. Strength and conditioning is a tool used to prepare students for overcoming obstacles throughout their life by applying the principles learned throughout training.
JOHN VERDI, CO-FOUNDER
John Verdi is a retired law enforcement officer and 9/11 First Responder. John received a degree in Criminal Justice from St. John’s University in New York City and is the co-founder of the HeyBlue! initiative: an interactive approach to creating meaningful connections between police officers and the communities they serve. John is a mentor at the Momentum Student Incubator at the Florida Institute of Technology and serves as both a board member and security consultant for Verdi EcoSchool. John enjoys leading a free weekly story-time for children at a local recreation center and coffee shop and is an Eau Gallie Arts District resident.
KELLY DWENGER, CO-DIRECTOR
KRIS REID, EDUCATOR
Mr. Kris was born in England and raised in a loving home in Satellite Beach. An avid ballroom dancer and Renaissance man, Mr. Kris has helped to transform our school campus with his eye for detail, quality workmanship and love for our place. After receiving a degree in Economics from the University of North Florida, he experienced first-hand the best the world has to offer during his travels abroad. Kris continued his studies and received a Masters of Science in Project Management from Florida Institute of Technology. As a lifelong learner he is passionate about connecting to students and sharing his joy of real world, hands-on learning with children.
NIKIA RICE, EDUCATOR
Ms. Nikia is a marine biologist with over decade of research experience working with marine turtles, coastal conservation, and performing coastal field work. She has a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences with specializations in neurobiology and ecophysiology of marine turtles. Nikia taught for several years at Florida Tech in labs for Ecology, Biometry, Biochemistry, and Marine Biology to undergraduate students during her graduate studies. She has have over a decade of experience teaching marine science to various demographics through non-profit organizations around Florida and several other countries. Ms. Nikia designed and implemented the Sea Turtle Preservation Society’s Education Center and served as their Education Director for 5 years to build up their programs.
SAVANNAH MCCAY, EDUCATOR
Ms. Savannah is a passionate educator who believes in educating and nurturing the whole child. She holds a degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Reading Education and ESOL. She joined the Verdi EcoSchool with the goal of teaching students in a more genuine way, that doesn't revolve around tests, algorithms and forced learning, but rather revolves around natural and organic learning. At the Verdi EcoSchool Savannah is a part of the core educator team where she helps to design curriculum, create immersive educational experiences and works with community specialists to deliver innovative programming to students. When not teaching Savannah enjoys hiking, running, practicing yoga and reading.
SHARON MCFADDEN, EDUCATOR
Ms. Sharon grew up in San Diego, California, and spent her childhood hiking and exploring the mountains and deserts of Southern California. She studied history and studio art at a private university in Los Angeles, California, and pursued her student teaching in high school history in San Diego. Ms. Sharon enjoyed living in San Diego, CA, Austin, TX, and Seattle, WA before finally moving to Florida in 2018. She came to Verdi Eco School with 7 years of teaching experience in acrylic painting, ESL (English as a Second Language), and high social sciences (world history, government, and economics). Her core belief as an educator is that empathy, curiosity, philanthropy, and creativity are the key principles for empowering students to surpass both our expectations and their own. Ms. Sharon has always had a great love for creativity, the outdoors, and education. As a historian, she is keenly aware of the impact that a child’s community and environment have on their learning. Ms. Sharon believes that when educators and students explore together with a spirit of inquiry and open-mindedness, the door to learning possibilities is opened. It is an exceptional privilege to guide students on their own unique educational journeys. When she is not working as an educator, Ms. Sharon enjoys hiking, camping, painting, cooking, reading, and spending time with her husband and dog. Fun Fact about Ms. Sharon: Her favorite fields of historical study are Ancient and Neolithic art/culture.
TERRA HOVAN, EDUCATOR ASSISTANT
Terra’s connection with nature began in her youth, growing up in rural Pennsylvania and exploring in her own backyard. Her small community also taught her the value of supporting her neighbors and working collaboratively. It took a degree in business from Penn State and a decade of work in the luxury retail world to realize that her talents, instead, could be used to make positive change for her community. Upon becoming a stay at home parent, Terra has had the opportunity to volunteer with several nonprofits including a city nature preserve, a community-based preschool, her church board, and in Brevard county K-3 classrooms. Terra raised her own children in nature, teaching and learning traditional skills such as gardening, raising small livestock and food preservation, all the while immersing them in our natural world through hiking, camping, and exploration. Terra is excited to continue sharing the natural world with another generation of young learners, and support their connection to our environment and community.