Staff


Nature Program Instructors

Eliot Rhodes, Nature Program & Archery Coordinator

Eliot grew up playing in the creeks and parks of Franklin, Indiana. He studied English Literature and Philosophy/Religious Studies at Elmira College in New York and then spent the next 6 years traveling around the country (and the world) studying and teaching environmental education, including stops at High Trails Outdoor Science School in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California and Hava v’ Adam, an ecological farm in Modi’in, Israel. He believes that spending time outdoors is important, and that everyone should learn a little bit about how to grow their own food and cook it, too. His hobbies include: making music, cooking, hiking, gardening, scrabble, frisbee, watching football and just being outside.

Sophia Fox, Garden Coordinator, Nature Program Instructor

Sophia grew up in rural Oklahoma camping, fishing, and gardening with her grandparents. She studied school counseling, and has a Masters in Education. Some of her experiences include: working with the youth of the Choctaw Nation in college-prep programs and facilitating challenge/ropes courses, a 6 month permaculture internship in Hawaii, and most recently teaching and administrative positions at two outdoor science schools here in CA.

Sophia is very excited to be spending her days at the ranch playing, sharing knowledge, and letting Mama nature be the lead teacher! She believes in cultivating a love and respect for our planet by allowing children to explore, and learn from their natural curiosities. Some hobbies include: yoga, crafting, baking, snorkeling, camping, disc golf, dancing, and reading in the sunshine. 

Khadijah Massoud, Nature Program Instructor & Special Events Coordinator

Khadijah was born in Saudi Arabia but moved to California as a child.  Since then she’s continued traveling all around the world, something she loves very much. She comes to the Ranch as a Special Events staff with teaching and event experience, noting that “Being passionate about giving everyone equal love and respect is a huge part of who I am.”  Working with diverse populations, including helping children and adults with disabilities, she shares, “I feel strongly that the outdoors and activities such as hiking are the absolute ultimate experience!”

Katia O’Connor, Nature Program & 7th-8th Science Instructor

Katia has dedicated her life to working (and playing) to build a better world.  She has a degree in physics, with a focus on sustainable energy and technology.  In college, she worked with Engineers Without Borders on international projects and locally in leading an outreach group that taught about sustainable science in the schools.  She also did renewable energy research in the U.S. and abroad in the Netherlands.  Since graduating, she has spent years learning and teaching about science, nature, sustainable living, and natural medicine.  She also is a slam poet and puppeteer and likes to bring performance art and poetry into her work in education and activism. She has been teaching in various, vastly diverse settings for many years, from college classrooms to nature classrooms.  She most recently taught middle and high school science at a therapeutic school in Asheville, NC.  She is always trying to find fun and interesting ways to teach science that helps people and the planet.

Nature Program Instructors (continued)

Jessica Groetsch, Nature Program & 5th-6th Science Instructor

Jessica is an east bay native who’s steadfast love for all things nature has led her on many adventures, the most recent landing her at Sienna Ranch.  She has her Bachelors of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary biology from UC Santa Cruz. Birds are her greatest passion, spending two field seasons in Yosemite National Park working as a bird bander, collecting data from migratory passerines during the breeding season. This experience left her with a strong knowledge of local bird species and a love for leading bird hikes. 

Working as an Education Specialist at Lindsay Wildlife Experience she found her love for teaching and working with children. Lindsay gave her the avenue to fuse her two great joys; working with animals and sharing that passion with other people. Sienna Ranch is an exciting  venture for her where she can implement her previous experiences.   

Xander Tartter, Nature Program Instructor

Growing up in New York City, Xander enjoyed access to a diverse culture and amazing food but took every opportunity to explore nature outside the concrete jungle.  He studied Biology and Environmental Studies at Oberlin College in Ohio before moving out to California in 2012.  Over the last four years he has taught at two residential outdoor schools, San Joaquin Outdoor Education and Walden West.  During the summers, he has enjoyed running a backpacking program and teaching leadership development for diverse Bay Area teens at YMCA Camp Jones Gulch.  When not sharing his love of nature with youth, Xander enjoys hiking and backpacking, making pottery, cooking (and eating!), playing ultimate frisbee, juggling, and playing board games.  Xander is excited to be joining an incredible community of nature explorers at Sienna Ranch.

Sharif Musaji, Woodshop Coordinator & Nature Program Instructor

Sharif was born in California but raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He’s glad to be back, but he does miss fireflies. And rain.

After studying film production in college, Sharif spent a year teaching high school freshmen how to make mini-documentaries about their community. Realizing that he had a knack for working with youth, and becoming increasingly passionate about social justice and youth empowerment, he served three years as an Americorps member all around the country, working as a mentor, school garden educator, and community farm apprentice. Most recently, Sharif spent two years in the Emerging Farmer program at Pie Ranch, a non-profit educational farm in Pescadero, CA.
Working on farms has helped Sharif realize all the things he didn’t know how to do, from basic carpentry to tree pruning to goat milking. More importantly, it allowed him to learn and develop these skills. As he sees it, whether it be working the land or working with animals or working with wood, traditional skills have become undervalued, and we are all worse off for it. That’s why he is excited to continue to work and learn and grow alongside the youth that come to Sienna Ranch.

Lindsey Knea, Nature Program Instructor

Born and raised in California, Lindsey has a passion for learning about and teaching California natural and cultural history. Her love of nature, especially redwood forests, was sparked while studying Environmental Education and Interpretation at Humboldt State University. Her time spent as a Living History Interpreter at Fort Ross State Historic Park and as a naturalist at CYO Camp, both in Sonoma county, have deeply enriched her awareness and appreciation for the outdoors and historic skills. As a mother, Lindsey recognizes the need for encouraging outdoor play and a positive connection to nature as a way of raising a generation of environmental stewards so that  we and our children can have a healthy planet to enjoy.  Lindsey also enjoys teaching Zumba and Aqua Fitness classes, as well as knitting, crochet, paper craft, and spending time with her family and friends.

Riding and Horsemanship School

Chelsea McMullen, Horse Riding Instructor

Chelsea has been riding horses since she was five and has been part of the Northern California equestrian community riding, attending and recently teaching at Dreamcatcher Ranch near Sacramento since she was 9.  She was a camper for many sessions each year, then moved into a CIT after attending counselor training.  After a year a Senior Counselor, Sienna Ranch is excited to have her since Fall 2015 in the Riding and Horsemanship School as a Riding Instructor.  Chelsea has a compassionate heart and builds close relationships with her students and co-workers.  Chelsa loves to be a kid and bring fun and enthusiasm to our camp.  She has owned her own horse, Dillon, for 7 years and is a member of Pony Club.

 

Katie Webb, Animal Care Coordinator, Riding Instructor, Apprentice Supervisor

Katie Webb, a UC Davis graduate with a degree in Animal Science and Management, and an emphasis in Equine Science, has been riding horses since the age of 9, and teaching riding since high school.  She is a United States Pony Clubs, Inc graduate, with a competition background in dressage, polo, hunter/jumpers, and western. Katie was invited by the US Polo Association to be a demo rider and polo instructor at the US pony clubs Festival at the Kentucky Horse Park.  She currently competes in dressage with her best friend, a Norwegian Fjord Horse named Bjorn.

While at UC Davis, Katie foaled out mares, cared for foals, performed equine neonatal first aid, and trained yearlings.  Her well-trained yearling took a top price at the auction!  In addition to horses, Katie has significant experience with management of all sorts of livestock, including goats, sheep, swine, beef cattle, and dairy cattle.

Amity, SRRHS Instructor

Amity grew up roaming the hills of Lafayette with her older brother in search of lizards, snakes and any other wildlife that could be caught, inspected and released.  She was often seen on the back of her horse, Freckles, with a gopher snake wrapped around her wrist.

After discovering Sienna Ranch, Amity says, “Everything I know and love is all within this one place.  To learn respect for animals and the world around them is something that many kids are missing out on today.”  The ranch is offering all this for kids to discover.

Mel Hill, Special Events Instructor & Pony Ride Staff

Howdy! Mel is a transplant from Houston, Texas, where they grew up on a cattle ranch. Mel has been working with horses for most of their life, with 25 years Western riding experience and 5 years learning natural horsemanship training.

When they’re not doing that, Mel can be found tramping through the woods, backpacking, and climbing trees. They’re a decent archer, and they enjoy dabbling in many outdoor skills, from basketry, firestarting, and whittling, to leatherworking and edible plant identification. Self-sufficiency is fun!

Mel is a graduate from Rice University and is an accredited public school teacher. Their most favoritest thing to do in the whole world is share the wonder of nature with city kids who don’t ordinarily get to experience it.

Special Events Staff

Stefani Buzzard, Special Events Instructor

Stefani comes to the ranch as an active advocate for all animals.  From fostering kittens, rallying for the support of no-kill animal shelter programming in Contra Costa county and being part of a team that helps relocate pets in need, she appreciates a chance to facilitate public interactions with the animals at the Ranch.  Look for this smiling face at Sienna Ranch Birthday Parties, Family Days and Camp Outs.    

Domonique Williams, Special Events Instructor and Facilities Assistant

Domonique is excited to join the Sienna Ranch family and is thankful for the opportunity to continue teaching, learning and sharing experiences with the youth that use the ranch.

Born and raised in Southern California, Domonique moved to Northern California in 2004. She currently attends CSU, East Bay as Environmental Studies Major with a focus on Sustainable Resource Management. Her knowledge of plants and the Bay Area terrain have grown tremendously since moving to the East Bay. This has instilled in her a passion for park services. Domonique has extensive experience working in outdoor education and park stewardship, she has worked for both Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park and East Bay Regional Park District.

Lindsay Shannon, Special Events and Wellspring Enrichment Instructor

Lindsay grew up in Medfield, Massachusetts. What was supposed to be a temporary move to the Bay Area turned into a 25 plus year love of California. She graduated from Hayward State University with a degree in Social Services and Psychology. She enjoys hiking, reading, sewing, riding horses, walking her dogs and hanging out with her two daughters. Lindsay worked as a ABA Behavioral therapist and behavioral consultant for over 15 years and her love of working with children with autism, as well as other special needs, has been a long lasting passion that continues to grow. Lindsay started working at Sienna Ranch in the summer of 2016 as part of the Special Events staff and now has a group during the week. Her love of nature, animals, children and Art has given her the opportunity to continue to nurture these skills with the wonderful staff and amazing kids at Sienna Ranch. 

Barbara Jerabek, Special Events Instructor

Barbara was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area on a garden and animal-filled acre of the Los Altos hills.

From horse back trail guiding near Shasta, to roller skating to work at a Montessori pre-school in Monterey, she grew from a shy student into an outgoing, yet nurturing educator. Having most recently developed a Nature Program at Redwood Day School, she’s spent sixteen years empowering students to know that if they can think it and they should try it! Learn by doing!

Recently WWOOfing in Homer, Alaska, Barbara continues to value time outside her comfort zone and applies a renewed sense of empathy for farmers, workers, and my students at school who are constantly being asked to step outside their comfort zones too. In life she strives to look for the underdog, the sensitive child, or the one with boundless energy and support them in their journey of learning to navigate and explore the natural world around them.

In her down time Barbara loves to draw, take light hikes with her Labrador basset and family and loves to swim in open water!

Animal Care,  Facilities & Administration

Mike Jennings, Facilities Coordinator

Born and raised in the east Bay Area, Michael enjoyed hiking, camping and gardening throughout his childhood. He studied horticulture in Santa Cruz and the Sierra Foothills before attending Prescott College in Arizona, where he received a degree in agroecology and permaculture design.  He has 14 years of experience in horticulture and has also worked as a botanist for the National Forest Service–in Sonora and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

A member of the Sienna Ranch family since May 2012, he is thrilled to put to use his expertise in sustainable land stewardship. He enjoys using his plumbing and carpentry skills to maintain and improve amenities at the ranch.  He is also excited for his daughters, Lillian and Alice, to attend Sienna Ranch once they are old enough.

In his spare time, he enjoys plant propagation, especially edibles, succulents, and native plants. His garden in Lafayette is a yearly stop on the East Bay “Bringing Back the Natives” garden tour, where his passion for drought-tolerant, sustainable gardening is on display.  A self-taught musician, he loves to sing and play the guitar, mandolin, banjo, and piano. 

Amy Roth, Business Manager and Special Events Director

Amy earned a degree from Westminster College in Elementary Education and a Pennsylvania teaching certificate for grades K-6.  Student teaching at the McKeever Environmental Education Center in Slippery Rock, PA, led Amy to her first job at the Newfound Harbor Marine Institute, where she taught marine science in the Florida Keys.  Next, she moved to the mountains of Southern California to teach and direct at High Trails Outdoor Science School outside of Big Bear for six years taking on the roles of Medical Director, Program Director and Site Director for 50 staff and 10,000 public school visitors each year!

Amy enjoys riding her bike over the hills from Oakland when she is not returning emails and phone calls. She strives to spend weekends camping as often as possible.  Amy is grateful for her family’s love and support as she travels and works far from home.  Stop by and see the new shipping container office Mike and the facilities team renovated for her and Chris next to the green yurt!

 

Chris Lauf, Director

Chris grew up in Australia where he spent most of his childhood weekends in the shed, building go-carts, toys and tree forts, doing science experiments, or backpacking in the mountains around his hometown of Canberra. As he grew up, the urge to build things, experiment and explore the world never left him.

 

While studying Biology and Jazz at UC Santa Cruz, Chris began teaching basic bicycle mechanics to developmentally disabled adults, sharing the feeling of empowerment which comes from the building process. He also studied education theory and philosophy which led him to complete a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication at the Australian National University. 2008 he co-founded the Cycling Scientists, a 100% bicycle-mobile educational organization which ran hands-on science and technology workshops for remote Indigenous schools in the Australian Outback. In 2009 Chris lived and worked in Jakarta, developing and delivering a wide range of programs with the Indonesian National Science and Technology Centre.

Chris began working at Sienna Ranch in 2010.