Shawn Sears: Co-Founder, Executive Director and Instructor
Shawn grew up in West St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended The Colorado College for a degree in psychology. He then moved to the Mississippi Delta to teach 4th grade for two years (1999-2001) in underfunded public schools. Since then he’s been working with V.V. and living in the country near Half Moon Bay, CA.
Shawn loves athletics, adventure in the outdoors, good food, working hard, thinking and learning, and sharing all of this with friends, family and his wife Laura. He also enjoys music with most things, even if it’s just singing the only line of a song that he knows, over and over again.
In Vida Verde Shawn has found a perfect
fit. It’s a job that suits him well, and is therefore the dream job.
There’s always plenty of work, and the tasks are varied and
challenging (from the business side: planning, troubleshooting,
budgeting, raising money, working with donors and running an office; to the program side: working with and exploring with children,
hiring managing and learning with the staff team; to the physical
and maintenance side: building projects, maintaining the vehicles,
landscaping, working with farm animals, etc.) Finally, and perhaps
most importantly Shawn finds meaning in it, in that it’s exactly
what he feels is the best way that he can use his skills to help the
world be a better place.
Jody Peterman, Office
Jody started her work in summer camp in 1997 at Camp Miller and was excited to give back to the community where she first realized the far-reaching impact that positive outdoor programs can have on youth. Jody has worked in various summer camp programs over the years, most recently directing Camp Unique in Portola Valley. She has witnessed the sorts of amazing transformations that can happen in children who have the opportunity to try new activities, interact with their peers and positive adult role models, and learn about the natural world around them. Jody believes strongly in the Vida Verde program, and loves being part of the Vida Verde team!
Jody gets the most excited about camping, swimming, reading, running on the beach, hiking, cooking, baking, biking to work, sailing, knitting, and sleeping outside.
Kyle Macdonald, Operations Leader
Kyle's experience in the outdoors began on family camping and ski trips in the Northeastern United States. This experience brought him to work in 1993 with the Appalachian Mountain Club for five seasons, maintaining backcountry facilities and leading groups of youth and adults in Maine and New Hampshire. He has worked with the Great Hollow Wilderness School, UC Berkeley's Cal Adventures Program, and The Bay Area Ridge Trail. He has worked as a 4th grade teacher in New Orleans and has worked both in and out of the classroom setting with urban youth in Boston, Detroit and Oakland, California.
Kyle is known for his work as founder of Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT). While at BAWT, he was recognized by Stanford University’s School of Education for valuable contributions and outstanding service to the education of low-income children and youth. He is thrilled bring this passion and service for “Educational Equity in the Outdoors” to Vida Verde.
In addition to working locally with Vida Verde Kyle is working regionally, with the Bay Area Children and Nature Collaborative, and nationally, building The Outdoors Empowered Network, which will replicate his success at BAWT. He lives in San Francisco’s Portola neighborhood with his wife and two children, where he particularly loves both playing and watching baseball and soccer, and exploring San Francisco’s MacLaren Park.
Leslie "Osprey" Beach, Head of Program
Leslie grew up on a tidal creek, eating pickleweed, watching the patterns of migrating birds, and squelching her toes in the mud as often as possible. She considers the outdoors to be an extra parent, teaching strength and connection and playfulness, and feels strongly that every child should get a chance to explore its wildness. Working at summer camp and at two other residential outdoor programs, she's been lucky to spend more time outside than in and to create safety and comfort for those who join her. She also taught English to indigenous youth in Guatemala for a year, and is astounded by the similarities between learning language and learning comfort in a new world.
When she's not running around with kids outside, Leslie can often be located behind the pages of a book of poetry or myths, chopping up vegetables for some sort of delicious soup, foraging for the component parts of forest tea, or writing letters to the friends she's scattered over the world.
Muriel Vinson, Office Assistant
Muriel was born in Hampton, VA and raised
primarily in Southwestern Virginia in Blacksburg and
Christiansburg. She attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and
State University and received a B.S. in psychology with a minor
in biology. She then worked with Teach for America employees in
Radford, VA elementary schools, implementing an afterschool
program called Micro Society, promoting critical thinking
skills, management skills, negotiation skills, and leadership
skills. She then moved to Santa Cruz, CA with the intention of
attending graduate school for social psychology. Soon after she
moved to Santa Cruz she really found her niche in music and
dance and is considering a Masters in one of the two.
"Farmer Bobby" Kinnare, Farm and Facilities Manager
Bobby is a transplant, originally from the
suburbs of Chicago and drawn west after college by the romantic
ideas of simple living, wilderness and mountains. Attending St.
Olaf College was a very formative time, exposing Bobby to the
environmental, economic, and social aspects related to
“environmentalism.” Bobby led conservation crews of at-risk
youth in the southwest and eventually worked for the National
Claire "Luna" McMurtry, Grants Manager,
Claire loves to play her banjo and guitar, to prepare and eat healthy, nourishing, fabulous foods, to lose and find herself in wild places, to be near the ocean, and African dance which she dances as if no one is watching. She is nourished and sustained by these things, as well as by her connections with dear friends and family.
Sam "Huckleberry" Modest, Summer
Sam moved to California in the fall of 2010 to teach as a naturalist at San Mateo Outdoor Education, where he realized the sheer awesomeness of outdoor science education as a means to open students’ minds to the amazingly intriguing world in which we live. He is a firm believer in education through experience.
Sam loves to swim, bicycle, run, surf, ski, backpack, travel, and play Ultimate. He bakes, ferments, and eats. He takes photographs, writes, and reads. He is fascinated by foreign languages, fungi, and funk music.
Former Instructor Staff See photos, lower right
Vida Verde Former Instructor Staff