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

Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Kylie Sorenson

Lead Preschool Teacher

Wellesley Location

Summers spent playing outside, swimming, and exploring at her grandparent’s house in Northern Michigan shaped Kylie’s love of nature from an early age.  At the age of 10, she decided that she wanted to be Jane Goodall, which to her meant inspiring young people, making an impact for the benefit of the environment, and maybe studying some chimpanzees. In pursuit of that goal, during college she spent summers studying lemurs in the forests of North Carolina and monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest. While studying for her BA in biology at Wellesley College, Kylie developed a passion for early childhood education as an assistant teacher at the Wellesley Community Children’s Center. After graduation, she continued working as a lead teacher at WCCC. 

 

Kylie completed her MSc in environmental conservation from Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England in 2019. Over the course of her program, she studied environmental education and worked in Madagascar implementing an outdoor education program to introduce young Malagasy students to the lemurs in their local national park. While no longer studying monkeys, she is so excited to continue her dream of being Jane Goodall by supporting children’s curiosity, wonder, confidence, and love of the Earth with BOPN. She has recently returned from living in London and is thrilled to bring her passions for early childhood and environmental education to the Wellesley program! 

Donovan Riley Robinson

Lead Preschool Teacher

Arboretum Location

Donovan Riley Robinson is a sustainable educator born and raised in Western Mass. He graduated from Amherst Regional High School with multiple certificates of excellence both as a student and an athlete. In college Donovan left his athletic career behind in order to focus on his passion for agriculture and complete his BA in arts and sustainability from Goddard College. There he discovered a passion for music through hip hop. Donovan's creative and productive mindset, as well as his knack for collaboration, inspired him and his closest friends to create what is now known as, "The Flood Farm Garden and Arts Collective", during his final year as his final thesis study. He continues to use the collective platform for creative projects today. Over the past year Donovan has worked as a science teacher for middle schoolers in Brooklyn, NY. He values and respects the importance of sustainable education and inclusion, through collaboration and teaching. 

Kylie Sorenson

Lead Preschool Teacher

Wellesley Location

Summers spent playing outside, swimming, and exploring at her grandparent’s house in Northern Michigan shaped Kylie’s love of nature from an early age.  At the age of 10, she decided that she wanted to be Jane Goodall, which to her meant inspiring young people, making an impact for the benefit of the environment, and maybe studying some chimpanzees. In pursuit of that goal, during college she spent summers studying lemurs in the forests of North Carolina and monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest. While studying for her BA in biology at Wellesley College, Kylie developed a passion for early childhood education as an assistant teacher at the Wellesley Community Children’s Center. After graduation, she continued working as a lead teacher at WCCC. 

 

Kylie completed her MSc in environmental conservation from Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England in 2019. Over the course of her program, she studied environmental education and worked in Madagascar implementing an outdoor education program to introduce young Malagasy students to the lemurs in their local national park. While no longer studying monkeys, she is so excited to continue her dream of being Jane Goodall by supporting children’s curiosity, wonder, confidence, and love of the Earth with BOPN. She has recently returned from living in London and is thrilled to bring her passions for early childhood and environmental education to the Wellesley program! 

Donovan Riley Robinson

Lead Preschool Teacher

Arboretum Location

Donovan Riley Robinson is a sustainable educator born and raised in Western Mass. He graduated from Amherst Regional High School with multiple certificates of excellence both as a student and an athlete. In college Donovan left his athletic career behind in order to focus on his passion for agriculture and complete his BA in arts and sustainability from Goddard College. There he discovered a passion for music through hip hop. Donovan's creative and productive mindset, as well as his knack for collaboration, inspired him and his closest friends to create what is now known as, "The Flood Farm Garden and Arts Collective", during his final year as his final thesis study. He continues to use the collective platform for creative projects today. Over the past year Donovan has worked as a science teacher for middle schoolers in Brooklyn, NY. He values and respects the importance of sustainable education and inclusion, through collaboration and teaching. 

Kylie Sorenson

Lead Preschool Teacher

Wellesley Location

Summers spent playing outside, swimming, and exploring at her grandparent’s house in Northern Michigan shaped Kylie’s love of nature from an early age.  At the age of 10, she decided that she wanted to be Jane Goodall, which to her meant inspiring young people, making an impact for the benefit of the environment, and maybe studying some chimpanzees. In pursuit of that goal, during college she spent summers studying lemurs in the forests of North Carolina and monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest. While studying for her BA in biology at Wellesley College, Kylie developed a passion for early childhood education as an assistant teacher at the Wellesley Community Children’s Center. After graduation, she continued working as a lead teacher at WCCC. 

 

Kylie completed her MSc in environmental conservation from Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England in 2019. Over the course of her program, she studied environmental education and worked in Madagascar implementing an outdoor education program to introduce young Malagasy students to the lemurs in their local national park. While no longer studying monkeys, she is so excited to continue her dream of being Jane Goodall by supporting children’s curiosity, wonder, confidence, and love of the Earth with BOPN. She has recently returned from living in London and is thrilled to bring her passions for early childhood and environmental education to the Wellesley program! 

Alexandra Reilinger

Preschool Teacher

Arboretum Location

Alie grew up in Boston just a few blocks from the Arboretum and has spent many happy hours there walking her dog, biking up Bussey hill, and reading among the conifers. Once learning that there was a preschool program based in this magical place, Alie knew she had to be involved! Alie has a passion for education as well as the environment, and so teaching at BOPN is the perfect mix of the two.

 

Alie is excited to give children the curiosity and wonder-driven early education they deserve. With a very strong natural biology background as well as a personal love for the outdoors, Alie is excited about using her own passion to inspire children.

 

Most recently Alie taught a farm-based environmental and food justice program in Poughkeepsie, NY, bringing students outside into the garden to learn about farming and fresh vegetables. She’s also worked as an educator at the New England Aquarium, done public outreach and fieldwork for Cape Cod National Seashore, and taught English and leadership skills to Japanese exchange students.  Alie received a BA in Biology from Vassar College.

Donovan Riley Robinson

Lead Preschool Teacher

Arboretum Location

Donovan Riley Robinson is a sustainable educator born and raised in Western Mass. He graduated from Amherst Regional High School with multiple certificates of excellence both as a student and an athlete. In college Donovan left his athletic career behind in order to focus on his passion for agriculture and complete his BA in arts and sustainability from Goddard College. There he discovered a passion for music through hip hop. Donovan's creative and productive mindset, as well as his knack for collaboration, inspired him and his closest friends to create what is now known as, "The Flood Farm Garden and Arts Collective", during his final year as his final thesis study. He continues to use the collective platform for creative projects today. Over the past year Donovan has worked as a science teacher for middle schoolers in Brooklyn, NY. He values and respects the importance of sustainable education and inclusion, through collaboration and teaching. 

Board of Directors

Advisors

  • Rosario Caicedo, Master's of Social Work

Jason Gutu

Outdoor Educator and Toddler Teacher

Arboretum Location

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

Arboretum Location

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.

Julia Sappenfield

Lead Preschool Teacher

Wellesley Location

Growing up outside Hamburg, Germany, many of Julia's happiest memories were of being outside.  She spent her days running around with the neighbor kids inventing games, playing in the mud, or building things with wood.  They would throw sticks into a nearby stream to see which one went the fastest. Being outside made her who she is, teaching her fair play, independence, cooperation and imagination.
 
As a lead preschool teacher for three years at the German International School of
Boston, Julia saw the same things. When the children were outside, they were completely different – more active, more open to discovery, more relaxed, curious, and excited.  That’s why she joined Boston Outdoor Preschool Network. After years spent in other fields – hospitality, event management, and coordinating au pairs from all over the world – she had her own kids and loved playing with them. Whether it’s arts and crafts, singing, or just being silly, it felt meaningful. Now they’re older – and she still hasn’t grown
up!
 
Julia believes that children always have something to say if you give them a chance and listen. They’re geniuses, and comedians, and amazing problem-solvers. Combining all these things at BOPN is the fulfillment of her life’s work – and also just the beginning.  She looks forward to each day, learning from the children and watching them grow in nature, where they can find out who they are and see firsthand the remarkable world they’re inheriting.

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. 

Olivia Agosti

Preschool Teacher

North End Location

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania with woods and water as her playground, Olivia grew to love the outdoors.  She first fell in love with nature-based early childhood education at Buffalo Valley Recreation Authority Nature School, where she learned about Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Waldorf pedagogies.  This experience was life-changing as Olivia knew she had found her true path, and like the children she was observing, she felt empowered to learn and do more.  


Through her experiences as an early childhood educator and a nanny, Olivia
notices that when children are offered the opportunity to participate in child-led play, their imaginations wander in the best ways, and they see the world in ways that adults often forget. In this environment of child-directed play and learning, children develop a sense of agency and independence. She sees this as the essential experience of childhood, for it nurtures a child’s curiosity, joy and desire to learn.  Olivia believes that small humans are capable of really big things, and that
children are so much more creative, capable and resilient than adults give them credit for. Her passion for children and the pedagogies that best support their development have given her a desire to support children to explore and experience the natural world within a safe and encouraging environment while learning in their own ways.

Most recently, Olivia was the Activities and Program Coordinator at Lewisberg Children's Museum.  She is excited to move to Boston and start a new chapter at BOPN!

Takia Younge

Lead Preschool Teacher

Arboretum location

Since Takia began teaching young children, she has loved every minute of it!  She first discovered her passion for early childhood education as a teen volunteer at a Boston Public School summer program, which led to a position in a special education classroom.  She then taught in preschool and toddler classrooms for two years at Bright Horizons.  Most recently, she taught toddlers at Epiphany Early Learning Center.

 

Takia believes that each child has the potential to thrive in school when their individual learning style is understood and respected.  She enjoys observing how children learn and designing developmentally appropriate curriculum based on children's interests.  

 

Takia enjoys spending time in nature and is excited to teach outdoors at the Arnold Arboretum!

Michelle Vaughan

Lead Preschool Teacher

Wellesley location

Growing up in Massachusetts, Michelle has always loved the outdoors during all seasons.  She grew up exploring the woods and seeing the leaves change color in fall.  As a parent, she enjoyed searching the beach for sand dollars and shells with her children in the summer, and sledding and building snowmen in winter.  Her love of the outdoors has always naturally extended to her love of children.

She graduated from Lasell College with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and an associates degree in Early Childhood Education.  Throughout her career in education she has taught infants, toddlers, preschool, and school-age children up to fourth grade.  During the past ten years she has particularly enjoyed working with preschool children, taking them out into nature at every opportunity!  She notices that being in nature brings out children's curiosity, empathy and cooperation within the classroom community and beyond.

During her time at Tufts Educational Day Care Center she was part of a team that was awarded a grant for the first set of Big Blue Outdoor Imagination Blocks in the state of Massachusetts.  Recently, as an infant/toddler teacher at ITC in Acton she continued to discover ways to make outdoor play an integral and intentional part of each child’s journey.

She loves to spend time with her two teenage children and dog Luna.  They love to spend days together hiking, gardening, playing chess or relaxing at the beach.  She also enjoys travel with friends and family and exploring new places together, which is always a welcome adventure.

Please note that while BOPN has a friendly relationship with the Arboretum and MassHort, all are separate organizations and the Arboretum or MassHort are 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.