Below are presenter bios for the 5th Annual School Garden Conference!
*Not all speakers are represented, these are updated as we receive them*
Wayne Roberts, Keynote Speaker
Dr. Wayne Roberts is a leading thinker and practitioner in the field of innovative local and urban food systems.
On a practical level, he managed the internationally-respected Toronto Food Policy Council on behalf of Toronto Public Health for 10 years up to 2010, and has served on the boards of several major food system non-profits across North America, including the Community Food Security Coalition, Food Secure Canada, Unitarian Service Committee: Seeds of Survival and FoodShare. He also played an instrumental role in helping a variety of municipalities – including Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Rotterdam, Bristol, Oshawa, and Kingston – form food policy councils or adopt food charters.
Dr. Roberts has been the lead or sole author of three books that have earned him respect as a food system analyst of global stature – Real Food for a Change (1998); The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food (2012, 2013); and Food for City Building: A Field Guide for Planners, Actionists and Entrepreneurs (2014). Among his many honors, he received the University of Toronto Arbor award for having established Canada’s first university-level course on food security research methods in 2004.
Wayne is in great demand as a conference keynote speaker and workshop facilitator – leading small roll-up-your-sleeves workshops on topics such as food charters, social media for public health promotion, local and sustainable food projects, and job creation in the food sector. Audiences appreciate his down-to-earth presentation style, his emphasis on personal empowerment and “continuous improvement” and his wonderful sense of humor.
Rick Sherman, Lunch & Learn Speaker
Rick was hired by the Oregon Department of Education in 2012 as the Farm to School/School Garden coordinator after working for 32 years for a food service management company. The last 20 of those years have been spent as a Director of Nutrition Services in Eugene, Albany and Dallas (Oregon). Rick’s claims to fame were identifying all of Oregon’s school gardens-the first state to do so (currently there are 698 school gardens in Oregon!); developing a school garden food safety training & documentation manual; and operating a $4.5 million grant for reimbursing school districts that purchase Oregon grown and processed food & providing educational activities for students.
Rick Graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in Education. He was a runner for forty years, competing at the national level in the Steeplechase, and has been a high school track and cross country coach for 20 years. Rick is a Master Gardener, loves home brewing, & riding dirt bikes. He spends his spare time in his backyard garden and raising chickens.
A second-generation Las Vegas native, Justin Anderson has a roll up your sleeves work-ethic; a loyalty to community; a passion for growth; a work-hard/play-hard attitude; and a commitment to family. Today Justin is the GM for Terra Contracting, Principal of The Barricade Company, Principal of Galt Development, Partner in JES Supply Company, a member of the American Traffic Safety Services Association & National Underground Construction Association, a member of Los Vaqueros Las Vegas 501c3, and most importantly, a Las Vegas resident committed to making a positive impact both professionally and personally. With the constant “see a need, fill a need” philosophy, Justin continues to reinvent his current businesses and create new businesses to allow movement for new products and services. When Justin is not working his time is enjoyed with friends and family. Whether a gathering with the entire family or making outdoor adventures with his fiancé Ace and their pit bulls- Bella and Bruno.
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Lisa Cheplak is a Certified Health Coach. She received her certification at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has had a long-time passion for health and wellness. Her nutrition education has equipped her with extensive, cutting-edge knowledge in holistic nutrition, health coaching and prevention. She works with clients to help make lifestyle changes and choose health-promoting ways that produce real and lasting results improving energy, balance, health and happiness. Lisa created the business, “The Healthy Family” (www.thehealthyfam.com), which assists families in creating nourishing lifestyles by guiding them through their health and wellness goals. Lisa also created the blog “More Broccoli, Please”! (www.morebroccoliplease.com) which encourages healthy eating for kids by getting them in the kitchen. Over the past 5 years she has taught nutrition workshops and cooking classes kids and adults. Lisa also teaches gardening classes to students at Staton Elementary School and teaches cooking and nutrition workshops with Green Our Planet’s Chef-to-School program. In addition, Lisa works with ZERO Level Fitness located at McCarran Airport as well as Thrive Health Bar and provides individual and corporate wellness workshops. Combining her overall expertise, experience and education, she provides solutions and lifestyle programs to help clients achieve optimal health.
Katie Decker, is the principal at Walter Bracken, Walter Long, and Howard Hollingsworth STEAM Academies. She developed an effective magnet program that changed Bracken completely. When Ms. Decker was appointed principal in 2001, Walter Bracken was one of the lowest performing schools in the district. For the past 5 years, the award-winning program has received High Achievement status from the state of Nevada for Adequate Yearly Progress and ranked among the top 5% of all schools in the district, Top Magnet School in the Nation, National Blue Ribbon School, and National Title 1 Distinguished school for the past two years. Walter Bracken offers a curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). Due to the success at Bracken she was appointed to Franchise both Walter Long and Howard Hollingsworth into STEAM Academies.
Over the more than 17 years she has led the school, Ms. Decker has focused on sustainability to ensure the school’s mission and vision live long past her tenure. She has established community partnerships, constructed outdoor gardens, refreshed the school building with colorful murals, developed an onsite bank for students, and installed learning labs to successfully create an environment that is appropriate for theme-based learning. She has built multiple school gardens with many different partnerships at all three schools. Every classroom has a space in the garden to work on curriculum, planting, harvesting, maintaining, Farmer’s Markets, and chef demonstrations.
Jake Dick is employed the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) working with the NDA’s produce safety program coordinator to help prepare Nevada producers for upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements. He also works with the drought initiative project and issues producer and vendor certificates for produce, eggs and honey. He previously worked in the NDA’s noxious weed program working with landowners to identify and control noxious weeds. His background is in conservation working with the Nevada and Utah conservation corps and vegetation monitoring in Northeastern Nevada. A little new to agriculture but he looks forward to working with Nevada producers.
Chris Gaynor serves as a Vice President, Relationship Manager for Bank of Nevada and currently manages a portfolio of commercial and personal accounts. She serves on the Board of Green Our Planet and is passionate about this great organization and all that they do! One of the many areas, GOP focuses on is Financial Literacy.
Statistics reflecting 70% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck is something every banker would like to change and with the assistance of Green Our Planet - we are on our way! In 2017, Bank of Nevada & Green Our Planet piloted a Financial Literacy program with 5 schools in the Las Vegas Valley. Students learned about what banks do, how banks assist with growth in a community, the differences between wants versus needs, entrepreneurship, what to think about when starting a business, customer service, negotiating, competition, marketing, profit margins, creating a business plan and having a back-up plan. The program has grown to 7 financial institutions participating in teaching classes and assisting at the Farmer’s Market with additional skills being taught such as cash handling, multi-tasking, etc. The goal is to have every financial institution in our community participating in this program with the end result of more young Americans having money saved!
Lory Hayon, BS, RD, CPT
Lory Hayon, BS, RD, CPT is a Registered Dietitian for Clark County School District, Las Vegas, NV. She currently oversees the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program on behalf of the USDA and the seasonal templates for the traveling salad bars. Both programs are available at the elementary school level in efforts to increase the exposure, acceptance and consumption of fresh produce. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University.
James Hogue is a Food Service Supervisor for the Clark County School District. He received his culinary degree from the Winner Institute of Arts and Sciences before eventually becoming an executive chef for several east coast based restaurants. After a 12 year career as an executive chef, James moved to Las Vegas, where he accepted a position with the Clark County School District Food Service Department. James has worked in several different positions while at CCSD Food Service, from running school kitchens as a Manager, to a Supervisor overseeing the daily operations of 20 separate school locations and his current position as Supervisor of the HACCP Department responsible for all aspects of food safety, regulatory compliance and new hire training. James’s passion for food extends to his personal life as well, where he loves cooking for family and friends. In his leisure time James is an avid movie watcher and enjoys writing creatively. He currently resides in Las Vegas with his wife and three children. You can reach James at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mariana joined the Green Our Planet’s team a year ago as the Community Engagement Manager. In this role, her primary focus has been on further developing the school garden financial literacy program and building relationships with local financial institutions to support the Green Our Planet Garden Financial Literacy Program. Mariana is also a Senior Vice President at Bank of George. Prior to joining Bank of George, she was a banking executive at Sun West Bank of Nevada and City National Bank. Mariana has over 40 years of local business banking experience.Throughout her career, she has always been drawn to community relations work and was often the key liaison between the bank and local nonprofit charities. This included coordinating in-house employee volunteer and non-profit donation programs focused on benefiting children, with special emphasis on supporting STEAM education and financial literacy. She has also served on nonprofit boards of the Latin Chamber of Commerce and Helping Hands of Vegas Valley. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). Mariana was born in Miami, Florida and has been a resident of Southern Nevada for more than 50 years. She and her husband, Bob, have been married over thirty years. They take great pride in their two adult children, Lindsey and Bobby, who also work and reside in Southern Nevada. In their spare time, the family enjoys cabin life in Southern Utah.
Originally from South Florida, Rosalie grew up with a backyard citrus orchard which instilled in her a passion for growing food. She continued pursuing gardening as a hobby while working as a paralegal for almost fifteen years. Rosalie became interested in farming for self-sustainability after reading The Good Life, chronicling Helen and Scott Nearing's homestead. In late 2015, Rosalie and her husband unexpectedly relocated to Las Vegas. Their house hunt was centered around one primary need: a large backyard. She spent a year converting her yard into an urban farm and adjusting to the unique challenges of gardening in the desert. Rosalie is very excited to be a part of Green Our Planet and to share her enthusiasm for gardening with future generations.
Mr. MacDonald is Partner in NewFields where he manages multidisciplinary National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species environmental permitting and compliance. Active with school garden programs; he is a Sponsor of the Parsons Elementary School Garden, and while a Board Supervisor with the Conservation District or Southern Nevada he was the founder and Chair of the Community Garden Steering Committee. Ken also serves on the Southern Nevada Strong Implementation Committee, is active on the Board of Directors of the Desert Tortoise Council, and is a member of Los Vaqueros – a service organization supporting at-risk youth. Ken was previously active with Team in Training and completed three 26.2-mile marathons and a 100-mile bike ride as a fundraising participant or as a Team Mentor. The objective was raising money to fight leukemia and other blood cancers and to support the patients and their families.
Kim MacQuarrie is a writer and a four-time Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and teh co-CEO and co-founder of Green Out Planet. He has an undergraduate degree in biology, a master's in anthropology, and lived in Peru for five years. During part of that time he lived with a recently-contacted Amazonian tribe, the Yora. A native of Las Vegas who has lived, studied-abroad, and worked around the world, Kim's most recent book is "Life and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries."
Gary Manning, is a Special Education Teacher/Case Manager, at Coronado High School in Henderson. The Teaching Garden at Coronado is entering its fourth year. The garden is one-half acre and has 13 raised garden beds and 28 fruit trees and a 4-bedroom tortoise condominium. The garden is used primarily for the Special Education students and is slowly being introduced to the Foods Program and the Gen Ed Science programs at Coronado. Our claims to fame this year was our 30# VOLUNTEER watermelon.
We grow Asparagus, Broccoli, Corn, Dandelions, Eggplants, Ferns, Garlic, Honeydew, Impatiens, Junipers, Kale, Lemons, Milkweed, Nectarines, Onions, Pumpkins, Queen bees, Radishes, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Ursinia, Violets, Watermelon, Xigua, Yams, Zucchini. Our students love working and eating in the garden and learning new skills.
McKenzie Mayor is a senior in the Nutrition program at UNLV and a Green Our Planet Chef. She is currently studying to become a dietitian as she has a passion for food and the important role it plays in the body. Upon discovering Green Our Planet, she knew that she wanted to be a part of the organization as it promotes environmental and culinary education to young individuals. By educating these future leaders, our efforts can help decrease food insecurity and increase the amount of healthier, happier lives.
Jessica was born and raised in Las Vegas but her family originates from El Salvador. Jessica is the Accounts, Garden Build and Office coordinator for Green Our Planet. Before coming to Green our Planet, Jessica worked in the accounting department for a nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip as well as a Program Assistant for another local non profit that focused on providing books to children. In recent years, she has developed a passion for sustainability which during the 2016-2017 school year brought her to volunteer at Green our Planet. Now as a full member of the team, Jessica hopes to help bring awareness to younger generations so that they can both gain a passion for the environment and also learn that growing your own food is not only exciting but can help preserve our Earth. Jessica loves exploring the world, hiking and anything to do with the ocean.
Bob Morris retired from the University of Nevada in 2011 as their Commercial Horticulture Specialist for Southern Nevada. While at the University, he established and managed the Research and Demonstration Orchard in North Las Vegas. He was also co-founder of Slow Food-Las Vegas. Many of his educational programs focused on food production and marketing of locally grown foods including fruit, vegetables and herbs. Bob has been involved in international food production and marketing, small farm management since 1993 in many parts of Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He currently consults in horticulture locally, regionally and internationally.
Lisa Mullinix is a K-3 Reading Interventionist and the ELL School Site Administrator for Laura Dearing Elementary School. She received this promotion after 4 years of classroom teaching, where she learned strategies to help Title 1 students improve their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. Her secret to success in the classroom was helping kids make connections, and she routinely used the school garden to make lessons meaningful. This year, she is thrilled to be serving as Garden Coordinator for the school so that she can encourage teachers to bring their students outside, and promote hands-on learning school wide. Laura Dearing’s Garden Program is extensive and includes hydroponics, sprouting kits, after school programs, and many activities throughout the year. Thankfully, her new position allows for more flexibility, so she can devote more time to garden projects and teacher collaboration. She is very happy to partner with Green Our Planet to help kids connect with the garden at her school site.
Elizabeth Poglitsch received her special education teaching degree from Southern Connecticut State University in 2000. She spent the next five years teaching in her hometown of New Britain, Connecticut as a diverse learning specialist and educational diagnostician. In 2005, Elizabeth and her husband relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada where she continued her career in education as a resource teacher, special education instructional facilitator, and instructional coach for the Clark County School District. After earning her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Touro University, she spent a year as dean of students before she earned her promotion as the assistant principal of Variety School. A special school for students with significant needs and cognitive deficits. This is where she developed her passion for designing unique learning programs and environments on the school campus as well as bringing real-world experiences to her students.
Taylor Quiram is a Landscape Designer and School Garden Coordinator for Green Our Planet. He graduated from UNLV in December 2013 with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. Originally from Central California, he grew up surrounded by agriculture, but it wasn't until studying landscape in the desert that the importance of food production became a priority to him. After graduating, he spent 4 months as an intern at an aquaponic's farm in Honokaa, Hawaii (Friendly Aquaponics). There he learned as much as possible about how the systems operate and how to scale systems for personal or commercial food production. Working as a School Garden Coordinator is an exciting step in his personal mission of better connecting communities to nature and increasing food sovereignty.
Cynthia Radley is currently the Government Grants Manager at Three Square Food Bank. She also works as a grant writer and consultant. With a Master’s degree in Education and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management, Cynthia has had extensive experience working with non-profits, churches and community collaboratives. Before moving to Las Vegas, she was the Executive Director of a non-profit in Southern California and was the Director of AmeriCorps programs which served children in the eastern Coachella Valley. She is also an experienced trainer and has given many trainings and workshops on various topics, including leadership, grant writing, conflict resolution, computer skills and team building. In addition, she teaches Grants Management at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Continuing Education Program.
Amber Smyer joined the Nevada Department of Agriculture as the agricultural literacy coordinator in 2014. Amber holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Education from Utah State University and a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University at IUPUI. Through her career in the field of agricultural education she works closely with teachers, students, agencies and partners to help prepare students for 200+ careers in food, agriculture, and natural resources; promotes Nevada’s vibrant food and agriculture industry; and works with teachers, partners and youth to help create a more agriculturally literate population who can make informed decisions about their purchasing, health, and voting as it relates to food and agriculture.
My name is Phillip Vela and I am a science teacher at J.T. McWilliams Elementary School. I provide students with the hands-on component of science labs through FOSS, outdoor gardens and hydroponics. Prior to teaching science, I was a 5th grade teacher.