I am a Florida State University graduate with a Bachelor's in English Literature and a Master's in Library Science, focusing on School Librarian Leadership. Since then I have taught high school English, served as a Director of Library Sciences at a middle and high school, been a high school Advisor, and taught middle school and lower school English and math. I have come to find there is not an age I don't love to work with! As a student, I was shy and afraid of making mistakes which held me back from progressing in academics and pursuing personal interests. I was the kid who sat in the back and prayed I wouldn't get called on. It has become a passion of mine to help students with the same fears understand that failure is learning, and that we can all master material if we allow ourselves grace and time. My why is helping students work through their fears so that they find confidence in their learning styles and ability. I facilitate this by connecting with each student and celebrating them when they overcome a personal challenge. I love being an educator because young people continually inspire me with their curiosity, compassion, creativity, and joy. We have so much to learn from them!
As the son of two former educators and having been born and raised in the beautiful state of Oregon, teaching and nature have always played a major role in my life. I graduated with a Bachelor's from Willamette University in the state capitol of Salem in 1998, and entered into jobs in hospitality and inside sales. In 2006, I found I just wasn't finding the fulfillment that I wanted from those jobs, and decided to obtain my Masters in Elementary Education through the University of Phoenix. I have been teaching ever since, working with students between 4th and 12th grade. Throughout my career, I have found frustration with how our education system is set up to teach based on age rather than on ability. This is my main reason for choosing to search beyond the public school setting in the hopes of finding a place like Verdi EcoSchool. I am very excited for the opportunity to meet students where they truly are, and help them grow and flourish!
Nikia is a sea turtle biologist, conservationist, naturalist, and educator and holds a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences with specializations in neurobiology and ecophysiology of marine turtles. Nikia has over 15 years experience designing and teaching marine biology and ecology related courses to various demographics from preschoolers to graduate students to adults of all kinds. She has served on multiple boards as an Education Director and designed Education Centers for local non profit organizations. Nikia has a deep sense of community with Brevard and conserving the natural resources of this area by educating others how important they are to us humans as well as the wildlife.
While earning her Master’s degree in School Counseling from New York University, Phoenix became passionate about non-traditional education. She has worked with the Conservation Corps as a steward in the Hudson Valley and Catskills in New York and run social-emotional and play support groups with pre-kindergarten students and believes that deep, sustained play is foundational to learning. Phoenix loves to be in nature and knew that she wanted to incorporate nature into her career in counseling and education. She is grateful to have found a like-minded community that allows her to expand on her interests and skill sets.
My connection with nature began in my youth, growing up in rural Pennsylvania and exploring in my own backyard. I have my Bachelors in Business and Marketing from Penn State, I've worked with children as a volunteer for 10 years before coming to Verdi EcoSchool, and am a certified ERAFANS Nature Based Educator.
My experience includes working with a community based preschool program, involvement in a local 4H farm program, assisting visitors at a local preserve and nature center, and volunteering in K-2 classrooms. I am passionate about sharing a love and wonder for our world with children, while helping them build strong foundational skills and a connection to our environment and community.
Mr. Ethan joined the EcoSchool Family in 2019 as a physical education specialist.
Mr. Ethan holds a BS in Physical Education and a MS in Exercise Science.
Mr. Ethan also holds a certification as a strength and conditioning specialist.
Brooke is an Upper School and EcoHigh educator who believes social emotional learning is an integral part in a child’s education. Brooke is grateful to have joined a school community that values the development of self-awareness and empathy in a natural setting. Brooke studied Secondary Education at the University of South Florida, then moved to Jackson, Mississippi to serve in the Americorps as an educator with Teach for America. While teaching in middle schools during the COVID 19 pandemic, Brooke saw firsthand how social emotional learning (SEL) advances educational equity. Now Brooke uses SEL along with project-based and place-based learning to guide Social Studies and English Language Arts experiences at Verdi EcoSchool.
Johanna's life passion is connecting others to nature through movement, play, music and hands-on learning. She grew up in Maryland on an island in the Chesapeake Bay where she gained a deep appreciation for the natural world. She earned a degree in Environmental Anthropology and Sustainability at the University of Maryland and has since lead nature programs at multiple Maryland State Parks and nature centers, from the barrier islands of the Atlantic to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her teaching philosophy is based on the "Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature" out of the Wilderness Awareness School, where the educator takes on the role as "mentor" and "facilitator", gently guiding little ones through nature and life experiences. Outside of school, you can find Johanna hanging out at the beach, doing yoga, meditating or cooking delicious vegan food.
My name is Cayli and I lead the students in EcoSchool's Harvest to Table experiences. Outside of my work at EcoSchool, I am a professional personal chef.
I'm honored to be a part of the Verdi EcoSchool community, and I look forward to learning and growing along with the students.
My name is Molly and I am originally from Lakeland, Florida!
My family were Florida orange growers in Polk County until 2019 and I am honored to be able to carry on their agricultural legacy through agriculture education. My best childhood memories were made under the hot sun running wild with my cousins in the orange groves. I studied in the North GA Mountains and received a degree in Sustainable Community Development with a focus in agriculture. I have worked at farms in Georgia, California, Indonesia, and here in Florida!
I have worked for the past 2 school years as a certified agriculture teacher in Florida and am excited to continue growing plants and minds here at Verdi EcoSchool!
In 2016, Ayana established Verdi EcoSchool to provide hands-on educational
experiences for children in the historic Eau Gallie Arts District in Melbourne, Florida.
Created originally to offer enrichment options for homeschool families, the Verdi EcoSchool
quickly grew to become the first K-8 urban farm school in the southeastern United
Awarded the prestigious Drexel Fund Fellowship, Ayana’s 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
John Verdi is a retired law enforcement officer from NYC and a 9/11 First Responder. John received a degree in Criminal Justice from St. John’s University and is the Founder of the Hey, Blue! Initiative: an interactive approach to creating meaningful connections between police officers and the communities they serve. John is also the co-founder of the Verdi EcoSchool, the only place and project based urban farm school in the southeastern US. John is a proud husband to his wife Ayana, father to his 2 children Giovanni and Annabella and enjoys making connections with people in his community.