meet our school board of directors!
abbie frank, executive director
Abbie is the founder of bluestem hall nature school and serves as executive director of our non profit organization. She is a designer and artist by trade, which helps her approach systematic issues through the lens of "if this is broken, how can we re-design it?". Abbie is a protector of wild things big and small, she waits all year for yellow tomatoes, loves to be in/near/on water, is a wife, and mama.
"I grew up along a creek and spent countless days exploring the shallow waters spotting fish, crawdads, skipping stones, and running barefoot. When my twin sister and I weren't hopping fences and hiding in neighbors trees, we could be found wading in the creek telling stories of buried treasure and mermaids."
amber barnhart, board member
Amber is a family physician and professor of clinical medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. She grew up in Philo, Illinois as the 4th generation on the same property the school is located! She helped establish the Barnhart Prairie and serves as Board President of this state protected nature preserve. She has been interested in the world of education throughout her life as a student attending the innovative University High School, as a teacher of family medicine, and as a physician doing extensive research in medical education at a national and international level . She is the mother of 5, grandmother of 4, and lives in Springfield, IL with her husband, dog, and her beloved flower and vegetable gardens.
"Growing up on our family farm, I played outside with my five younger siblings constantly, exploring a whole world inside a brush pile, building forts in the barn lofts and snow banks, making stick nests, and running towards the willow wetlands in the spring to see the migrating Canadian Geese. My grandpa who was born in 1895 helped farm the land and taught us a deep and undying appreciation for ecology and the natural world. Even after he went blind, he could still "see" and feel the beauty in nature. He took his afternoon nap under a tree every day that still stands on site. He was the best storyteller and I feel lucky to still see the world through his eyes."
tim voelker, finance + facilities director
Tim is the prairie steward (aka plant expert!) and building director of bluestem hall nature school. He is a skilled industrial designer and woodworker who has a mastery in making ideas come to fruition. He is what some people call an "animal whisperer," lives on site with his wife, Abbie, and child, and has never met a potato he didn't like.
"Some of my favorite childhood memories were spent exploring the Maine coast and beaches or summer nights at home in new jersey with my family. growing up near the Atlantic ocean was a source of wonder as I frolicked in the waves and built drip sandcastles with diligence. I also think fondly of late nights stargazing at the wonders of the universe with my parents."
lindsey moscoso anderson, board member
Elizabeth (Lindsey) Moscoso Anderson is a practicing School Social Worker, graduate student in the College of Education at U of I, avid reader, and a mediocre cyclist. She is passionate about social justice, education, experiential learning, traveling, baking, and finding any reason to celebrate!
"My favorite memory of being outside as a child... I grew up in northern Wisconsin and many of my favorite memories are outside in solitude. I lived in the country without any siblings for much of my childhood, and this became a ripe ground to grow a very splendid imagination. I took myself on long bike rides to race against horses or catch monsters with my invisible Scooby Doo Crew, ran through tall grasses and the surrounding forests to forage for antlers and other treasures, and enjoyed any trip to be by or in water to appease my mermaid form. My most valuable memories are with my grandmother walking around at dusk outside, collecting monarch caterpillars to provide refuge until they turned into butterflies, and giving ourselves spring manicures by coating our nails in dirt while weeding and tending her gardens."
nina carmichael, board vice president
Nina has worked as a private childcare provider for 15+ years coinciding with a decade in the non-profit and social service sector primarily as a crimes victims advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. More recently however, she spent 3 years as a lead teacher at a forest preschool in Olympia, WA which changed the trajectory of her career and is now pursing a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education with a duel focus in anti-bias and nature-based education.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I spent a lot of time in the Puget sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean and part of the Salish sea. I was notorious for being the first person in the water and the last to get out! Some of my fondest memories of being outside as a child include: circus camp on Vashon Island, weeping with a bison in Yellowstone National Park, tree climbing in my dad’s front yard in Tacoma, playing house with friends in the back of my mom’s red Nissan truck in Seattle, and harvesting produce from the garden with my Aunt in Putney, Vermont.
jordan conerty, board Treasurer
Jordan is an independent school educator who teaches social studies at Academy High in Champaign, where he helps students cultivate self-driven learning experiences and connect the classroom to their everyday lives. In his personal life he enjoy spending time outside with his wife and two dogs, reading everything he can get his hands on, cycling, and taking in live music.
"Whether fishing on the banks of area lakes, romping around my aunt and uncle's farm, building forts in the woods, or camping with my Boy Scout troop, I spent my youth outside in rural northern Illinois. Above all my experiences colored my understanding of the environment as something to be explored, studied, celebrated, shared, used, and also left alone. The conundrum of how to balance these outlooks, and how to manifest a natural world better than the one I inherited, is a question I sort through on a daily basis."
sue talbott, board secretary
sue has been in the field of education since the early 1990s and has taught kids from preschool all the way to graduate school. she currently works as a clinical experiences specialist in the College of Education at the University of Illinois and lives in Champaign with her husband, three sons, and assorted pets.
"I spent a ton of time outside when I was growing up. When I was very young, my mom used to amaze me by naming all the local wildflowers. Queen Anne's Lace, Bachelor Buttons, and Black Eyed Susans are some of the very first plants I learned to identify. Thanks, Mom!"
laura edwards, board member
Laura Edwards lives in White Heath with her husband, young son, puggle and backyard chickens. Professionally, she is a project manager and licensed nursing home administrator and has worked at Clark-Lindsey in Urbana for the past 10 years. In 2018 Laura launched Cultivate Illinois, an initiative aimed at supporting local women owned businesses through seasonal Cultivate Crates, co-operative marketing and special events.
"As a child my favorite memories are times when I was outside, with friends, family or even by myself. I loved my make believe world, pretending to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, traveling out west in my wagon and developing a homestead in the prairie (AKA my backyard). When I wasn't being a pioneer, I was usually pretending to be a witch, making potions and doing spells with things I found in the yard."
professional images on this page by wright photographs