OUR TEAM

ANGELA LAVERNIA

UPPER SCHOOL EDUCATOR

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

CO-FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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.

DENISE LIBERI

DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION, 

BOARD MEMBER

Denise is an educator, artist, and resident of Eau Gallie. She studied Fine Arts and Graphic Design at Flagler College and completed her graduate degree in Art Education at Boston University. Denise has taught and held administrative roles within the museum, public school, gallery, and non-profit settings. She is a specialist in arts integration – an approach to teaching that integrates art as a primary pathway to understand concepts across multiple disciplines and content areas.

Denise is a patient and dedicated teacher with over a decade of experience. She seeks to maintain an inquisitive, creative, kind, and safe learning environment. At the Verdi EcoSchool, Denise wears many hats as administrator, arts integration specialist, educator, and board member. When not at the Verdi EcoSchool, you can expect Denise to be traveling, cooking, gardening, renovating her house with her husband Matt, or snuggling her dogs.

DIANE YOUNG

NATURE IMMERSION EDUCATOR

Diane is a dedicated educator, yoga instructor, animal lover, and mom of 2 boys. After living in the Adirondack region of upstate New York for the past 15 years, she recently returned to the Melbourne area, which is where she grew up, to be closer to family. After receiving her Masters degree in Education from Goddard College in Vermont, she completed an additional Masters degree in Waldorf Education from Sunbridge College in Spring Valley, New York. 


Diane is excited to bring her love of Waldorf education and nature-based learning to the Verdi EcoSchool. She strives to teach young children in an authentic, meaningful, developmentally appropriate way that nurtures their natural sense of wonder, curiosity, imagination and ability to think creatively. Her goal is to meet the needs of each individual child in a harmonious and loving way; head, hands, heart, and soul

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.

KRIS REID

UPPER SCHOOL AND VERDI ECO HIGH 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.

LISA PEREZ

NATURE IMMERSION EDUCATOR

Ms. Lisa is a mom of 5 boys and has spent the last 18 years in early childhood education. She has attended many courses to further her studies in child development and psychology. Lisa has worked with children of various ages and abilities and believes every child needs the chance to learn at their own pace while feeling safe and loved. 

She believes that children thrive and are happiest when learning in an authentic curiosity-driven environment where they are encouraged to explore the world around them. Ms. Lisa is happiest when surrounded by nature. She loves to spend my free time outdoors with her camera and also enjoys crafts, reading, camping and kayaking. Lisa is excited to be apart of a school that focuses on natural learning and growing as a community.

LORELEI BARNA

JOURNEYS EDUCATOR

Ms. Lorelei is a Brevard County native, educator, and literacy specialist. Prior to joining the Verdi EcoSchool, she served fifteen years with Brevard Public Schools in various roles as an afterschool program leader, early elementary educator and literacy specialist and instructional coach. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Reading and ESOL and has completed graduate-level courses in both Educational Leadership and Reading Education.  

 

Lorelei is passionate about working with children to ensure that school is a safe, happy and engaging experience to learn and grow. With a student-centered approach to learning, she fosters a love of learning while incorporating a focus on growing in social and emotional skills.  When not with her school family, she loves spending time with her husband and young son, reading and practicing yoga

MIKAEL MAYNARD

FARM EDUCATOR

Ms. Mikael is a permaculture designer and consultant based out of Melbourne, Florida. She earned her permaculture design course certificate in 2017 and is co-operator of YIELD- Your Intelligent Edible Land Design where she establishes and maintains sustainable food growing systems using permaculture design techniques.


Mikael obtained an interdisciplinary BS degree in environmental studies with a focus in botany from UCF. She started an urban micro gardening initiative called “growing EGAD” and helped to start the EGAD community garden. Currently, Mikael lives on and helps coordinate, build, and maintain a 4+ acre Permaculture community in the heart of Melbourne called Crescent Grove. She works on YIELD projects throughout Brevard County and is also a farm educator at the Verdi Eco School, Heritage high school and AMI kids.

NIKIA RICE

UPPER SCHOOL AND VERDI ECO HIGH 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.  

RACHEL MILLER

JOURNEYS EDUCATOR

Ms. Rachel received her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a minor in environmental studies from the University of North Florida. While attending UNF she taught environmental education to children and was a camp counselor at UNF’s Eco-Camp for three years. She taught at a forest school in Jacksonville and worked with children in Peru and New Zealand. She is an avid traveler and dreams of one day hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

As a nature enthusiast, Rachel strongly believes the most holistic way for children to learn is in the great outdoors. Furthermore, the best way to ensure we are creating stewards today who protect our environment tomorrow is to encourage students to develop deep-rooted relationships with nature at a young age. 

SAVANNAH MCCAY

UPPER SCHOOL AND VERDI ECO HIGH EDUCATOR

Ms. Savannah is a passionate educator who believes in educating and nurturing the whole child. She holds degrees in Elementary Education and Exceptional Student 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.
 

1851 HIGHLAND AVE.

MELBOURNE, FL 32935

321-298-2501

INFO@VERDIECOSCHOOL.ORG

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