Teachers

Sarah Besse

Co-Founder

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Executive Director 

Sarah is passionate about developing innovative early education opportunities that engage the whole child and that foster joy and creativity.  To achieve this goal, she draws on experiences that have taught her to value a deep connection to nature as essential for the well-being of individuals, communities, and our planet. Sarah's work at BOPN is also driven by research showing the benefits of extended time in nature for young children: deep appreciation for our environment; better agility, balance, and coordination; more imaginative forms of play; stress reduction; and improvements in confidence, social skills, language, motivation, concentration, resiliency, and critical thinking.  Previously, she taught at a Montessori preschool and led the boat building program at a Boston public school.  With the support of families, school leaders, and community partners, she reimagined the program, integrating STEM, visual art, humanities, and physical education. 

 

Sarah has a Masters of Science in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College and a B.A. in history from Carleton College.

Shela Sinelien

Co-Founder

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Director of Full Day Toddler and Preschool Program

With over ten years of experience as an early childhood teacher, Shela brings joy and warmth to her teaching.  She builds on each child’s unique strengths and interests while creating a strong sense of community.  Her nurturing guidance began in 2007 at MGH Children's Center, where she taught children ages 3 through 14.  In 2011 she started as an infant, toddler, and preschool teacher at Bright Horizons; in 2015, she managed a staff of 25 teachers as Interim Director.  During that time, Shela also earned her Bachelor of Science in Child Studies from Lesley University with a specialization in Children with Special Needs.  For the past four years, Shela has taught children with and without disabilities at a Cambridge public school and earned her Masters of Science in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College of Education at Boston University.

Shela’s love of nature is rooted in her childhood in the countryside of Haiti, playing and learning on the farm and in the forest with her four sisters.  On weekends, you can find Shela singing at church services and spending time with her husband Kesnel, two-year-old son Jaeden, and baby Kesllah. 

Sara Murray

Co-Founder

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Director of Half Day and Summer Program

Sara is a seasoned educator with a variety of experiences in Early Childhood and Elementary programs in upstate New York, where she grew up, and the greater Boston area where she has lived for almost 25 years.  Sara holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary and Special Education, and a Master's in Reading Education.  After teaching in public schools in NY and MA, Sara got her Montessori certification and spent five years teaching in area Montessori schools.  She worked at a local independent school as the Coordinator of Early Childhood and an Admissions Associate for three years before transitioning back to the classroom where she worked for six years as a First Grade teacher.  In the summer of 2018, Sara worked at the Nature Explorer Summer Camp at Temple Shalom in Newton and for the summer of 2019, she worked at the Allandale Farm Summer Program in Brookline. Sara has attended many conferences and workshops on nature-based learning and the importance of child-directed play. 

 

Sara loves spending time with her husband, teenage son, three cats, and one dog.  She loves animals, nature, and traveling to new places.

 

Click here for Teacher Spotlight interview with Sara Murray.

Advisors 

Advisors

Board of Directors

Advisors

  • Rosario Caicedo, Master's of Social Work

Jason Gutu

Outdoor Educator and Toddler Teacher

Most recently, Jason was a stay-at-home dad with his toddler son. Before leaving work, he built 13 years of experience mentoring youth of all ages in the outdoors. Jason first discovered his talent for youth development in South Africa where he worked for Restless Development in 2008, and volunteered at the Homeless Children’s World Cup in Durban in 2010. Returning to the United States, he worked with young adults with autism on a farm in New Hampshire, guided expeditions for at-risk teenagers at Summit Achievement in Maine, ski patrolled as a Wilderness EMT at Attitash, and apprenticed at a primitive living skills school focused on nature mentoring. He moved to Boston in 2014 and spent six years at COMPASS providing in-home services for families involved with the Department of Children and Families. He created an outdoors program for those families, and the COMPASS alternative school serving students from  elementary through high school, and beyond.

 

Jason received a Bachelor’s degree from UMass Boston in Health and Human Behavior, a self-developed major, which studies a wider, nature-based perspective of development and families. He is also trained in trauma-informed care and participated in the year-long Massachusetts Child Trauma Project in 2016. 

Emily O'Keefe

Lead Preschool Teacher

Emily grew up exploring the woods of Southeastern Massachusetts: building forts, making mud pies, and climbing trees. She loves sharing her curiosity and wonder about the natural world with children and is committed to supporting learners in an environment that honors play, discovery, and community. 

 

Emily is a graduate student at Antioch University, pursuing a Master’s degree in nature-based early childhood education. She has experience working with young people in a variety of ways, including as a farm-based educator, youth mentor, nanny, substitute teacher, and ESL teacher in Korea. She has a B.A. in Philosophy and Spanish from Suffolk University. 

 

In her free time, Emily is involved in climate-justice organizing and loves to read, explore new places on her bicycle, and experiment in the kitchen.

Chris Novak

Chris brings her experience fueling great teams doing ground-breaking work for leading brands, companies, universities and non-profits. She’s led top-level strategy, branding and communications for clients ranging from AT&T to Harvard University to the start-up of NPR’s StoryCorps.
Chris has an MBA from Harvard and a BA from Yale.

Bill Brinkman

Bill has spent his career building, investing in, and advising businesses.  He currently works at a healthcare start-up.  In his free time Bill enjoys hiking, fishing, and grilling.

Hannah Sheridan

Hannah's passion is working with young children in creative, educational, and therapeutic ways.  She believes a child’s development, potential, and understanding of the world is driven by natural curiosity, built upon by exploration and experience, and unleashed through unhindered creativity. She explores this earth with an open mind, a caring heart, and sense of adventure. 

Please note that while BOPN has a friendly relationship with the Arboretum, we are separate organizations and the Arboretum is not involved with organizing or operating BOPN's programs.

Nondiscrimination statement:

Boston Outdoor Preschool Network admits students of any race to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at BOPN and does not discriminate on the basis of race in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship programs, and other school-administered programs.