Photo courtesy of the Tulsa World
Maryann first encountered Global Gardens when she visited a Rosa Parks after-school program in 2010. She was amazed to find students gardening, cooking, and exploring other cultures, but she was even more impressed by their obvious confidence, cooperation, and helpfulness toward one another. She knew then that she wanted to work for Global Gardens one day.
In 2012, Maryann became Global Gardens’ grant writer and outcome measurement specialist. In this role, she substantially increased grant funding and was instrumental in helping Global Gardens become a TAUW partner agency. She also worked closely with Child Trends to develop theories of change and assessment plans for Global Gardens, and she implemented an outcome measurement program that greatly increased the organization’s ability to demonstrate its impact on students and communities.
As Executive Director, Maryann brings nearly 20 years of experience providing fundraising, program development and outcome measurement services for nonprofit organizations. In addition to Global Gardens, she has worked with diverse organizations in Tulsa and Maine to secure public and private funding for mental health, health care, education, youth development, racial justice, immigrant/refugee, and arts programs. She also brings experience providing strategic direction and financial oversight for nonprofits as a Board Member and Board Chair. She enjoys collaborating with staff, volunteers and partners to help organizations develop projects, accomplish goals, and take steps toward growth and stability.
Maryann has a Doctorate in English from the University of Tulsa and a Bachelor’s in Nursing from the University of Southern Maine. Her current position combines her interests in education, prevention and public health. She is committed to helping students become self-motivated, lifelong learners who make choices that foster their own well-being and that of their neighbors. In her free time, Maryann is an avid gardener, reader, runner, sewist, traveler, mom and grandmother. She believes that Global Gardens is creating the kind of community in which she is proud to have her son and granddaughter grow up.
With thirteen years teaching experience and inspired by the success of school garden projects around the country Heather Oakley began Global Gardens. Determined to see students ask their own questions, and inspired by the concepts of peace and hands-on science education, she developed an inquiry-based program to empower students to dream big, work together, and have confidence that they will reap what they sow – that in fact, they are responsible for their future.
Raised in Tulsa, OK, Heather left for France at 18 and gained valuable experience living, learning, and teaching abroad. She has taught in classrooms from Uganda, East Africa to Naples, FL, to Harlem, NY. In New York Heather gained masters degrees in both Urban Science Education and International Development/Peace Education from Columbia University. While working toward her advanced degrees Heather continued as an educator; consulting with elementary school teachers about how to better teach science, teaching at the UN International School, where she saw peace education in action, and in Harlem where she taught 1-6th grade science and piloted two small-scale community garden projects.
Returning to Tulsa in the fall of 2006 Heather used her diverse experience in urban education, botany and community organizing to create a program that would empower high-risk students to become agents of change in their communities.
Heather is a dreamer and a doer. In addition to her love of students, science, nature, and art, she likes to create and is an avid traveler. She likes to take walks with her husband, spend time with her two daughters, collect driftwood and rocks, take pictures, knit, and of course, garden.
Raised by parents who always put an emphasis on the importance of giving back, Jordan Didier began regularly volunteering for nonprofit organizations at a young age. Moving to Tulsa in 2004, Jordan quickly realized that her new home was one of the most philanthropic communities in the country. This realization furthered her interest in the nonprofit world, and she continued to seek out ways to help her community. In 2009, Jordan graduated from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville with a degree in Political Science. After a brief stint of living in DC, Jordan realized her love for philanthropy remained. In 2013, Jordan returned to Tulsa to pursue a career in nonprofit in city that one would consider a Development professionals dream. Jordan served as the Development and Community Relations Coordinator at a local Tulsa nonprofit for two and half years. Through a collaborative effort, Jordan met Heather Oakley and was enchanted by Heather’s vision and mission for teaching children through science and peace education in the Tulsa community. When Global Gardens’ decided to hire their first ever Development Director, Jordan knew it was where she was supposed to be and became the Director in February 2016. In her spare time, Jordan can be found researching and preparing difficult recipes from scratch. Jordan also enjoys traveling, spending time with her family, Arkansas Football, and reading.
Symon Hajjar joined Global Garden in the summer of 2010 to launch the middle school program in conjunction with Union Public Schools and Asbury United Methodist Church. After over 10 years of experience working with kids both inside and outside the classroom Symon was looking for a place where kids were listened to and given the space to make their dreams happen. As the Middle School Educator Symon is seeing first hand how the philosophy and practices of Global Gardens are making a tangible difference during the formative middle school years of students lives. As an extension of the middle school program Symon also facilitates the community garden at Asbury corner. When he’s not at the garden house Symon is working on his latest music album or competing in a triathlon.
Faith is a Tulsa native and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. After working several years in advertising and marketing, Faith decide to stay home and invest in the lives of her young children. During that time she spent much of her free time developing programming, organizing volunteers, and marketing events in her local church. She quickly learned she loved sharing a vision with others and then organizing people and processes to make that vision happen. Most importantly, Faith realized the depth of her desire to love, inspire and ultimately transform the world around her. During her free time, Faith loves spending time with her husband, two little boys and new puppy, cheering entirely too loud during OU football games and relaxing on a beach with both a cocktail and good book in hand.
After returning from a stint in the Peace Corps in 2009, Emily arrived back to Tulsa to discover that childhood friend Heather Oakley had started a non-profit teaching young people how to garden. Loving the idea, she signed up to volunteer. Within the first hour of her first day, she realized Global Gardens was so much more than teaching students how to plant seeds. She quickly recognized the program was designed to empower young people to achieve much greater goals than having a garden. She saw the same elements at play she had used in her community organizing days of empowering adults, being used with children. She also quickly realized the design of the program was better than any she had seen abroad or at home, better even than programs being implemented with the international NGOs she had worked with. All this in her hometown of Tulsa, OK – she was hooked from day one. She volunteered for a while with Global Gardens and then came on staff as the Administrative Coordinator in 2010. She continues to be one of Global Gardens’s fiercest advocates. In her free time, when she’s not taking care of twin boys and volunteering in her community, she dreams of the next trip she will take and maybe of the day she will live abroad again.
Kristen graduated from Stonehill College in 2014 with degrees in Sociology and Gender Studies. After graduating she packed up her car and drove from Massachusetts to Oklahoma to begin her journey with Teach for America Greater Tulsa. Kristen taught kindergarten where she fell in love with social emotional learning, hands on experiential learning, and equal education opportunities for all students regardless of zip code. Teach for America also created a passion for community empowerment and creating spaces for conversations about race and identity development among educators. Kristen is beyond ecstatic to begin working with Global Gardens at the Rosa Parks Elementary site. When Kristen isn’t working with Global Gardens she can be found cooking for friends, taking walks with her poodle Curley, and traveling to New England to see her family!
Mary Carter joined the Global Gardens staff at McAuliff elementary to help facilitate the Family Food Farm. She has watched the organization for years and since first hearing of the amazing approach the curriculum takes has looked for an opportunity to sow into the communities that Global Gardens serves. She has years of experience working with children in the community through art camps and programs at the juvenile detention center. Mary has a passion to know that children feel seen and empowered to become their authentic selves. She has a deep respect for the bond and lessons that the gardens gives the families that work together to see a harvest. Family Food Farm not only allows her the chance to emphasize the garden curriculum but see real change in the lifestyles of families who are eager to create healthier habits.
Colby Craige joined the Global Gardens team in the summer of 2016. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with degrees in history and Spanish. Colby’s passion for growing food began in southern Oregon where he and his wife worked on a small organic farm. He has worked in construction, garden education, landscaping and environmental consulting. Colby loves teaching kids how to grow, harvest and cook food. When he is not in the garden you can find him playing ultimate frisbee, running or working around the house.
Jasmin began her journey with Global Gardens in 2015 as a volunteer at McAuliffe Elementary’s after-school program, where she was immediately captivated by the inquiry-based teaching style implemented in virtually all aspects of the Global Gardens classroom. With an ardent love for learning and problem-solving, she knew she had to make Global Gardens a part of her future. Jasmin is thrilled with the opportunity to expand the Family Food Farm program to McAuliffe and Eugene Field Elementary, and looks forward to sharing her love of gardening, cooking, and learning with the families involved. Jasmin currently studies Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at Tulsa Community College, with hopes to continue into the field of education.
Jenny Nemec was one of Global Garden’s first team members. She met Heather Oakley in December of 2006 to discuss the phenomenal idea of empowering children through gardening. During the program’s inaugural semester at Eugene Field Jenny volunteered weekly while she finished her studies at OSU-Tulsa. After graduating in May 2007 with a degree in Liberal Studies she joined the staff as a full-time employee. In November 2007 she gave birth to her first child and is now a full-time mother and part-time Global Gardens Educator. Influenced by her mother’s passion for gardening, Jenny created and maintained a community garden at the apartment complex where she used to reside. She now lives in a house with two daughters and cat, where she continues to dig up the yard to accommodate her ever-growing and fluctuating collection of plants.
Jenni Yoder has had her eye on Global Gardens since she began volunteering at the Eugene Field site in 2013. It was significant to see the curiosity, depth, and delight in kids’ eyes at Global Gardens. Jenni grew up gardening with her dad, and has never gotten over the excitement of growing something. After completing college with a degree in Psychology, she worked at a local behavioral health agency, supporting families involved with the child welfare system. This fostered a growing interest in practical ways to help develop emotional intelligence, curiosity, and self-efficacy in children, something she saw happening at Global Gardens as a volunteer. Jenni is thrilled to continue her time with Global Gardens in a new role, at the site where her journey began! In her free time, Jenni likes fixing things, spending time outside, and making smoothies.
Annie Ferris became the Art Director and Global Gardens Educator for Rosa Parks Elementary after being captured by the program at Eugene Field. As an artist and Global Gardens volunteer Annie was inspired by the student’s eclectic garden art projects, garden brainstorming lists and garden journals. The inspiration moved her to crate a series of paintings expressing her love of the program. The creative possibilities of Global Gardens along with the program’s commitment to peace and cultural diversity education lead her to join the staff. Annie has 12 years experience working with children including as a VISTA volunteer and through art therapy. In addition to working with Global Gardens Annie continues to fill her days with painting, crafting, reading and traveling with her husband Scott, daughter Bea and their dog, Tupelo Honey.
Sylvanna started volunteering at Eugene Field Elementary with the Global Gardens afterschool program in 2017 and now serves as an AmeriCorps Member with the during-school and after-school programs at Rosa Parks Elementary. After transferring from Tulsa Community College, Sylvanna earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Apparel Design and Production from Oklahoma State University in 2002. She returned to TCC in 2008 to study Horticulture. For the past few years, she has been working on building a small sustainable farm in Sand Springs, where she has raised chickens, pigs and managed beehives, as well as a vegetable garden. She is passionate about the environment and keeping a healthy ecosystem by learning about native plants and cultures, nutrition and herbalism, and social systems, including finding ways to help our cultures be healthy and more at peace. Sylvanna is passionate about Global Gardens’ hands-on, student-led, inquiry-based educational philosophy that is focused around the sciences of gardening, cooking and peaceful engagement within community. She believes that, while practicing these activities, no matter how difficult, we are always growing and developing our skills in our dynamic environment. She says, “We evolve together as we all find our gifts in and for our world. Empowering ourselves and each other is how we can build a better future.”
Kate joined Global Gardens as an intern in August, 2016. Kate is studying Social Work at Northeastern State University and graduates in Spring 2017. Kate has always enjoyed working with children and loves the concept of empowering students through peace and science education. When she isn’t interning, at school, or babysitting, Kate enjoys being active outdoors, as well as spending time with friends and family.
Karen Vega joined the Global Gardens team in 2016 as an AmeriCorps Engagement Specialist. She is a former Global Gardener and a Union High School alum. Karen is currently at The University of Tulsa pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. In her free time she enjoys composing music, playing the flute, writing, and spending time with her family and two dogs.