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fun fact! Morgan was the very first email we got the day our smile politely article came out! She was so excited about our program that she reached out to introduce herself, has been involved ever since, and we hired her 8 months later!
morgan duerksen, director of education + lead teacher

My name is Morgan Duerksen-Balk (she, her) and I am thrilled to serve as the Director of Education and Lead Teacher. I ask to be addressed as Morgan as opposed to Mrs. Duerksen or Ms. Morgan by my students and their families in order To build collaborative relationships and establish equal trust, responsibility, and ownership over our school environment. I grew up in Belvidere, Illinois and now happily reside in beautiful Urbana with my husband, Matt Balk, and our young son, Forrest. We love to take bicycle rides together around town and hike in our amazing parks and natural areas.

what is your Favorite time of year and why?

My favorite time of year is late summer and early autumn as the tree leaves become brittle and the nights get cooler. I feel the most connected to nature when I am breathing in the popcorn-like smell of Prairie Dropseed grass on a chilly early-morning walk or bike ride.


What is your background in education?

I first became a teacher by leading programs, including Nature Day Camp, for the Urbana Park District. Those experiences sparked my enthusiasm for environmental education. For the last ten years, I have loved my job as a preschool teacher at a local daycare center, especially the singing and the science projects. I incorporated the ecological concepts that I learned while earning my bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences from the University of Illinois into my preschool lessons whenever possible. I left my teaching position to complete my master’s degree in Elementary Education, and I am delighted to unify my education and work experiences into my true passion: nature-based education.

What are your thoughts on nature-based education?

People learn best when they are asking and answering their own questions, and nature provides the perfect learning environment to have authentic experiences that activate all aspects of academic and personal discovery. I believe that understanding environmental processes and having a profound connection to the natural world are essential attributes of people who will be successful in the future.

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