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Liana Chavarín

Founder / Director               Forest School Teacher

she/her pronouns

Liana is an artist, educator, activist, and, most importantly, a four-year-old at heart. She has had over a decade of experience learning from children and teaching creatively. The freedom, respect, unwavering support and love in Liana's early life has carried with her and greatly influences her work today.

Liana's most influential life experiences were the countless childhood hours spent roaming the San Gabriel Mountains, exploring vacant lots full of fennel in East LA, hiking dry canyons, chasing tumbleweeds in the Mojave Desert, and catching what she thought were tadpoles, and investigating a decomposing raccoon in the depths of the gully behind her grandmother's home, all with only the company of other children.

Liana serves on the Board of Directors for the California Association of Forest Schools. She was also accepted as a steward for the Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee for Yosemite National Park in 2018.

 
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Ashleigh Shepherd

Forest School Teacher              Family Programs Manager

she/her pronouns

Ashleigh is a creature of the Appalachian mountains who has been listening to the trees with her ears and feet for as long as she can remember. She has a particular affinity for wind and loves to watch birds surf the air currents.

She considers children her primary teachers in this lifetime and is continually inspired by their beautiful depth and complexity every day. She considers herself an activist for the wisdom of our incredible living, moving bodies and feels committed to holding space for children to move freely and discover the world (and themselves) through all the senses and their whole body-brain.

Ashleigh’s experiences living and teaching in Guatemala influence her practice today.

 
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Allie Gordon

coyote club mentor

she/her pronouns

Allie grew up in Olympia Washington, with countless experiences camping, picking blackberries, building forts, eating oysters, riding bikes, clam digging, and climbing everything! Her experiences of swimming in the Puget Sound, and the lakes and rivers all around Washington state has influenced her relationship with the environment. Allie has lived in the Bay Area since 2003, and has been a BFS parent since 2015. She is joining us as a Coyote Club Mentor this year, and we are so excited to have her.

“I’ve loved having my kids in BFS. Watching them explore the wild outside & learn about all the bugs, plants, animals has been an incredible gift. I see a fearlessness in them I attribute in great part to their days being much larger than any classroom. There is chaos in what nature can bring - could be the weather, the fauna or even the people we meet walking in the woods. In my time within this community I’ve also learned so much. Patience, wonder, compassion & SO MUCH MUD.” 

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Colin Roach Bentley

Forest school teacher          coyote club aftercare

he/him pronouns

Colin was born and raised in a small town in Vermont where playing in the woods, fields and snow created all his richest memories. His stories of catching bullfrogs are some of the children's favorite stories to hear. These experiences and memories created a life-long sense of curiosity, playfulness, and wonder. 

While attending Guilford College,  a small Quaker school in North Carolina, his passion for social justice led him to study education as a means to pursue a more equitable society. His studies inspired him to seek out seasonal work with children, which is where he discovered the magical world of Early Childhood Education. Before joining the Berkeley Forest School, he worked in a number of programs, including over 7 years at Step One School in Berkeley. 

When he is not working, Colin can usually be found riding a bike, backpacking, or working on his next Halloween costume. 

 
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Ray Gistarb Jr.

forest Teacher-in-training   

he/him pronouns    

Born and raised in the East Bay, Ray has an embodied connection to the plants and parks we work with every day.

Ray finds his artistic inspiration from nature, the children he works with, and skateboarding through the neighborhoods that connect us all. Although Ray is newer to the world of forest school, he has a natural sensitivity to the needs and curiosities of young children, and a true talent for helping children feel cared for and secure. Ray is being mentored by Liana, and is receiving additional training while working in our preschool class.

Ray also works with our dear friends at Peace Out Loud.

 
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Resham MacFarlane

Substitute Forest teacher 

she/her pronouns        

Resham pays great attention to the beauty and restlessness of the wandering creative spirit. She sees the unseen and underspoken, taking note of patterns in nature. She would witness lines of ants along the trunk of a tree, how the small beings moved in search together and how they would become divided with an introduction of barriers to learned paths.

Resham is committed to redefining ways we relate to each other, the spaces we inhabit and the stories we weave. A beautiful quotation suggests that “we think we are a guest, but instead we are a host” speaking volumes of the connective powers we wield if we realize and unlock potentials to expand ideas of what is possible. Our bodies are containers for stories in motion. Whether with the human body or body of people, Resham's vision and hope is for children and adults to discover tools to empower themselves to connect hand in hand to take care of each other.

Resham also works with our dear friends at Peace Out Loud.

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Zeina Tarek Morad

Forest school teacher

she/her pronouns         

Zeina is a natural storyteller, and considers children and nature to be the greatest teachers. As an advocate for children's’ freedom. She strongly believes that holding space for others allows for the magical unfolding of their truest version of themselves; which she believes is the solution for beings living in harmony and ease. She is on a constant journey of remembrance, and returning to that simple open state of being; that level of realness, playfulness and curiosity.

As an Aquarian child of nature, Zeina is born and influenced from her ancestors, Egypt, Arabic, Islam, community, energetic healing and the Moon. She is an outgoing sensitive introvert, in constant pursuit of delving into the unknown, less trodden realms; inwardly and outwardly. 

Zeina is also the Arabic-immersion garden teacher at Golestan School.

 
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Mariam el-Quessny

Coyote club art teacher

she/her pronouns

Every since joining BFS as a parent in 2014, Mariam feels she became part of a new family. “As an immigrant, brown, Muslim mom, I want my kids to be strong, adaptive, imaginative, truthful, respectful of the earth and its creatures. I want them to be independent, self-reflective, resourceful, curious, kind and in touch with their feelings and the feelings of others. That's what I strive to cultivate in my kids (our kids) and hopefully, I could learn to more effectively transfer these characteristics out in nature, through nature, and for the love of nature.”

Mariam is an artist, and also the founder of a traveling open mic project since 2009, which has hosted over 2000 events around Egypt.

 
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Alex Mandel

Substitute Forest teacher 

she/her pronouns        

Alex is an educator with a passion for the outdoors. She has worked with young children over the last ten years as anything from a teacher to a tutor to a camp counselor. She has split her time between workings with kids, working on local organic farms, and traveling the world. Growing up her curiosity was encouraged and her parents had a fairly hands off approach.  She was generally in overalls, covered in dirt, barefoot and outside until the streetlights came on. She spent her childhood swimming in the ocean, hiking in the woods, and camping with her parents. In her free time she enjoys riding her bicycle to pretty places, camping, making things out of clay/fabric/wood, and gardening. She believes that outdoor space can create resilience, provide therapy, and promote imagination in both children and adults. She prefers learning and teaching outside and strives to create a wonderful experience by establishing a positively influential relationship with children through the promotion of curiosity and learning.

Alex also works for All Trails.