ECO is Growing!

This past spring has been a season of growth for ECO. In addition to hiring our first ever permanent Executive Director, Gwendoline Van Doosselaere, we are pleased to introduce our robust board of directors:

Jess Martin is ECO's fearless Board President and will continue to spearhead the board's efforts in this next fiscal year. 

Jess Martin is ECO's fearless Board President and will continue to spearhead the board's efforts in this next fiscal year. 

A native Oregonian, Jess fell in love with nature as a young child during his many family backpacking adventures throughout the Wallowa and Cascade mountain ranges. Now, he is able to get his nature fix on hikes in forest park and trips throughout Oregon’s many wild places with his wife and two young daughters. Jess’ other passion, K-12 education, has been fostered over many years of running afterschool programming and volunteer work at local nonprofits like Friendly House Inc. and ECO. ECO board membership allows Jess to combine these two life loves and gives him hope that his girls will get to experience Oregon as he did, as a both a natural playground and a leader in environmental responsibility and sustainability.

Nicole Mathes, ECO's Secretary and Treasurer, has been and will continue to be instrumental in keeping our i's dotted and t's crossed.

Nicole Mathes, ECO's Secretary and Treasurer, has been and will continue to be instrumental in keeping our i's dotted and t's crossed.

Nicole is a successfully self-employed accountant with experience working with environmental education groups and fundraising. ECO’s mission of connecting students to the nature resonates with Nicole as a parent of a son who benefits from unplugging and experiencing the trees, soil, water and animals. As a board member, working with ECO provides Nicole the opportunity to apply her professional expertise to support ECO’s forward progression, adding meaning to her professional work and keeping her connected to the importance of supporting the future leaders of tomorrow.

Brittany Smith, Executive Director and Lead Educator of Mighty Oaks Preschool, brings extensive knowledge of ecology education and non-profit management to ECO. 

Brittany Smith, Executive Director and Lead Educator of Mighty Oaks Preschool, brings extensive knowledge of ecology education and non-profit management to ECO. 

Brittany has always had a fervent desire to provide quality education to a diverse population of learners and learning styles. This passion was the catalyst behind founding Mighty Oaks Preschool of which she is the Director. Mighty Oaks is an Eco-Healthy Certified, non-profit preschool in Northeast Portland. The school offers a play and discovery based curriculum in a warm, nurturing learning environment with an emphasis on enjoying and respecting our natural surroundings. An avid nature enthusiast, Brittany was involved in marine mammal research as an undergraduate at Humboldt State and explored outdoor educational opportunities while at graduate school at Lewis & Clark. She has found her environmental enthusiasm and experiences have proven to be invaluable when educating her students and believes that the more children learn about the delicate ecosystem, of which we are all an integral part, the more enthusiastically they will advocate for protecting it for the future.

Yori Kvitchko, software developer at SleepNinja, knows how to blend tech, non-profit, and marginalized populations, perfect for a STEM-based organization like ECO. 

Yori Kvitchko, software developer at SleepNinja, knows how to blend tech, non-profit, and marginalized populations, perfect for a STEM-based organization like ECO. 

Growing up, Yori had two things to look forward to each year: the next computer game release and his family’s annual canoeing and camping trip. Only one of those turned into a career, but he never forgot the valuable lessons and perspectives he gained from spending time in the great outdoors. Yori is currently a game developer with SleepNinja Games and has worked in a variety of tech industry fields including computer security, professional education, and mobile application development. He is also a lifelong volunteer and currently spends his spare time teaching STEAM-focused workshops for middle and high school students. As a board member, Yori works to bring both his love of technology and nature to ECO’s work with kids.

Stephanie Dytham, former educator and current Senior Community Outreach Manager at Celilo Group Media, will help ECO further our development goals. 

Stephanie Dytham, former educator and current Senior Community Outreach Manager at Celilo Group Media, will help ECO further our development goals. 

After years of post-college traveling (national and international) and two stints of AmeriCorps service work, Stephanie took a cross-country road trip that landed her in Portland, where she’s been since 2005. She’ll say, “the nostalgia of the Pacific Northwest was calling,” and she just had to answer! Stephanie received her Masters in Teaching from Lewis & Clark and spent three years teaching in the Reynolds and David Douglas Schools Districts, while spending summers working with at-risk youth doing environmental restoration work anywhere from Mt. Hood National Forest to Forest Park. In 2011, Stephanie began working with Chinook Book as their Fundraising Coordinator, helping local schools and nonprofits meet their fundraising goals with a healthy and sustainable product. Stephanie is committed to helping young people learn the best way we know they do: when given the opportunity to connect with their surroundings. You may find Stephanie running around the waterfront on her lunch break, biking the Springwater Trail daily, or playing at Sellwood Waterfront Park with her family.

Nancy Lapotin, Portland's most famous former biology teacher for Portland Public Schools and current STEAM Teacher on Special Assignment / Science Instruction Specialist, will help drive our program goals. 

Nancy Lapotin, Portland's most famous former biology teacher for Portland Public Schools and current STEAM Teacher on Special Assignment / Science Instruction Specialist, will help drive our program goals. 

Nancy’s goal is to work with pre-service and in-service teachers to insure that they are prepared and focused on helping students become critical thinkers by teaching science as inquiry, employing formative and summative assessment to measure student understanding of standards, and seeing their work through a lens of cultural sensitivity with a bias for action to increase equity of access to materials and educational experiences for their students.

Dan Prince, Coordinator for Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School, is a veteran of ecology and conservation education and will be guiding ECO towards making greater impact within ecology education locally and regionally. 

Dan Prince, Coordinator for Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School, is a veteran of ecology and conservation education and will be guiding ECO towards making greater impact within ecology education locally and regionally. 

Born and raised in Alaska, Dan gained a love and appreciation for the outdoors. His first paying job was fishing for salmon in Southeast Alaska as a twelve year-old. Dan earned a BA in Philosophy with a thesis exploring the relationships between humans and naturework at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, then spent three years after college as an instructor at MESD Outdoor School. Dan received his teaching certificate at University of Alaska Fairbanks before returning to Oregon to begin supervising in the Outdoor School program in 1994. After a one-year stint at Metro supporting schools with resource conservation projects, he received an MS in Education Leadership at Portland State University, and has been the coordinator of Outdoor School since 2005.

Dan has served on the board of directors for the Environmental Education Association of Oregon; the conservation education leadership council of the Intertwine; the board of the Multnomah 4H Association; the steering committee of the Oregon Outdoor Education Coalition; and the planning committee of Youth Mentoring Collaborative.

Dan is excited to be a formal part of ECO. As he says, "Our two sons had the benefit of participating in ECO programs in grade school, and every spring during baseball season we get to sit in the shadow of the outdoor learning classroom the students created with ECO. I live in the Columbia Gorge with my family, a dog, two cats and four chickens."