Photo courtesy of the Tulsa World
In 2012, Maryann became Global Gardens’ first grant writer and outcome measurement specialist. While helping GG increase grant funding and demonstrate its positive impact on students, she fell in love with the organization’s unique model and commitment to educational equity. In 2016, when Founder Heather Oakley decided to relocate to Florida, Maryann eagerly accepted the challenge to lead the next phase of Global Gardens’ development.
Maryann brings 20 years of nonprofit experience to her role as Executive Director, including experience providing fundraising, program development, assessment and strategic planning for diverse, child-serving organizations in Tulsa and New England. She is most passionate about collaborating with staff, volunteers and partners to help small organizations take big steps toward growth and stability. She sees a bright future for Global Gardens.
Maryann has a Doctorate in English from the University of Tulsa and a Bachelor’s in Nursing from the University of Southern Maine. In her free time, she is an avid gardener, reader, runner, sewist, traveler, mom and grandmother. She is inspired every day by the brilliance and heart of Global Gardens’ teachers and students.
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.
After over 10 years of experience working with kids, Symon Hajjar was looking to work for an organization where kids were listened to and given the space to make their dreams happen. Symon joined Global Gardens during the summer of 2010 to launch the middle school program in conjunction with Union Public Schools and Asbury United Methodist Church. As the Middle School Educator, Symon saw first hand how the philosophy and practices of Global Gardens were making a tangible difference during the formative middle school years of students lives. In 2015, Symon took on the position of Program Director. He now works with educators across the garden sites to ensure the quality of Global Gardens’ during school and after school programming. Symon spends his free time working on Hot Toast Music, a pre-school music company he started with his sons Isaac and Ezra, both of which are in preschool.
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. Teaching in Tulsa also created a passion for community empowerment and creating spaces for conversations about race and identity development among educators. In Spring 2018, Kristen received her Masters of Education Administration and Curriculum Supervision from The University of Oklahoma. Kristen now serves as the Instructional Excellence Specialist for Global Gardens. She works with garden educators to provide both instructional coaching opportunities and professional development. Kristen also continues to teach early childhood classes at Rosa Parks Elementary. When Kristen isn’t working with Global Gardens she can be found trying new recipes with friends, spending time with her partner and dogs Brooklyn & Curley, and traveling to New England to see her family.
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.
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.
Katie earned her bachelor’s in graphic design from Oklahoma State University in Fall 2013. Since that time, she has moved around a bit – spending time in Brooklyn and Jersey City, but is so happy to be back home in Tulsa. Katie came to Global Gardens as an AmeriCorps member in September 2018. Having worked as a Graphic Designer professionally for five years, Katie has developed and gathered a diverse set of skills that she now employs as the Community Outreach Coordinator. Katie oversees Global Gardens’ volunteer program as well as all in-house graphic design. Katie enjoys spending time with her husband and two dogs, exploring all Tulsa has to offer, and perusing recipe books.
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.
Originally, Mary joined the staff to work with the Family Food Farm at McAuliffe Elementary and has since transitioned into a garden educator role at Rosa Parks Elementary working in the during and after school programs. She has worked with youth for over a decade in a variety of avenues including running art camps and teaching at the juvenile detention center. It is her hope that her deep respect for her students and the garden creates a safe and empowering place for them to grow. In her free time, Mary likes to bake and spend time with her three beautiful daughters.
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.
Raven recently relocated to Tulsa from Atlanta, Ga. As a business graduate from Point University, she never imagined that she would be working with children. However, following graduation, Raven began working as an after school counselor for elementary school kids in Decatur, Georgia. Instantly, she fell in love and has been working with children ever since. She is passionate about guiding our youth to develop as well-rounded, goal-oriented individuals, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to continue that with Global Gardens and Unity Learning Academy. During her free time, Raven enjoys bowling, playing basketball, and listening to music.
Kate joined Global Gardens as a social work intern in August 2016. She is now attending grad school at OU and will graduate in May with a masters degree in social work. After interning, Kate was not ready to leave Global Gardens and joined the team as an AmeriCorps member. Kate has always enjoyed working with children and loves the concept of empowering students through peace and science education. She has also fallen in love with gardening and is excited to bring what Global Gardens has taught her into her own personal garden. In her free time, she enjoys being outside, long boarding, and planning trips.
Relocating from Northern California, Kalie Miller joined the Global Gardens team in the summer of 2019. She graduated from the University of California Davis with a degree in International Agriculture Development, and minors in Communications and Human Development. Founded from her time living overseas, Kalie loves working with kids and communities to battle food insecurity. She has been gardening from a young age and the opportunity to teach others what she knows is beyond exciting. In her free time, Kalie can be found eating ice cream, visiting coffeeshops, or enjoying the outdoors.
Karen Vega joined Global Gardens in 2016 as an AmeriCorps member. She is a former Global Gardener and was one of the first students to participate in the middle school program. Being a Global Gardener taught her valuable life lessons that she still carries with her today. She has learned to always follow her dreams; no dream is too big to accomplish. Learning how to grow and maintain a garden, as well as healthy eating habits and recipes, are some skills she has acquired both from being a former student and now a staff member. Karen is proud to be at McAuliffe Elementary where she gets to inspire and work one-on-one with kids from all different backgrounds. Aside from her love of animals, nature, and working with children, Karen enjoys writing, playing the flute, and singing. Karen will be graduating in May 2019 from The University of Tulsa, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a minor in Law, Policy, and Society.
Katherine began to develop a passion for serving families through positive and effective programs while completing her bachelor’s degree at John Brown University. Her interest in Global Gardens began after moving to Tulsa to work in child welfare in 2016. Katherine saw the need for programs that would allow children to develop self-efficacy and that would also value space for children to grow outside of a school or home environment. Katherine believes that the impact of a program such as Global Gardens in a developing person’s life could be immeasurable, and she is delighted to be working with middle school students at the Asbury Corner site. Outside of programming, Katherine enjoys sports and board games with friends, playing with her ridiculously fun baby, reading aloud with her husband, and of course cooking and eating interesting food.
Bailey joined the Global Gardens community as a volunteer at McAuliffe Elementary’s after school program in January of 2018. She was captivated by the community Global Gardens grows through peace education and inquiry-based teaching. Bailey is now an AmeriCorps Engagement Specialist at Rosa Parks Elementary School and is continually inspired by the students’ curiosity and passion. She is also a student at The University of Tulsa pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and a minor in psychology. When Bailey is not in the garden, you can find her drinking coffee, reading, cooking, or jogging with her two dogs.