Meet the CELF Summer 2021 Team!
Katie Isaak Ginsberg — Founder, Executive Director
Ms. Ginsberg launched CELF in 2003 after she saw the need to educate young people about the links between human health, poverty, consumption, conflict and the environment.
With twenty years of experience in program design and management, marketing and business development, Ginsberg works with leading experts from around the world to bring best practices in sustainability education to K-12 educators and schools. Under Ms. Ginsberg’s directorship, CELF’s client base has grown from a start-up organization to over 4,000 schools nationwide. Today CELF programs have reached more than 13,000 teachers and over 1 million students.
Ms. Ginsberg presents at a broad range of seminars, conferences and courses on sustainability and on re-orienting education through place-based and project-based education. She was a featured presenter at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. She served as Chair of the County Executive’s Westchester Climate Change Task Force for the education sector, which developed a blueprint to integrate sustainability across the campuses, curriculum and communities of Westchester, NY schools. Ginsberg has a BA in Psychology from Northwestern University.
Victoria Garufi — Director of Education
As Director of Education, Vicky is responsible for guiding CELF’s educator team in the planning and implementing all professional development programs. Prior to joining CELF, Vicky spent 12 years at the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB) in Yonkers. There she designed, implemented and oversaw all K-12 environmental education programs focused on the Hudson River. She provided outreach to connect school districts, community groups and Hudson River organizations to develop partnerships with CURB.
Vicky is most passionate about teaching and learning through connecting children and teachers to the environment. She has collaborated on several educational initiatives which include: the development of the Three Rivers of Yonkers curriculum designed for 4th and 5th graders in the classroom, creation of a climate change resiliency program for high school students focused on coastal implications, and support of a research grant on student assessment titled the Importance of Field trips and Cultural Awareness in Education.
Vicky holds a BS in Psychobiology from Long Island University’s Southampton College and a Master of Science in the Art of Teaching from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the subject area representative for environmental science through the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS) and serves on the advisory board for the Regional Environmental Educators Forum. She also enjoys being a mentor to graduate students in the field of science and education.
Lisa Mechaley — Educator and Professional Development Facilitator
As a CELF educator, Lisa collaborates with other education staff on the design, implementation and delivery of professional development programs. Prior to joining CELF, Lisa spent more than fifteen years teaching middle school science, served as education director for the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, worked as a staff developer through Bank Street College, and developed and conducted environmental programs for Hudson Valley conservation and educational organizations.
Most recently, Lisa worked for the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, developing and presenting the River of Words program — mixing poetry, art and watershed science — in the region’s schools. Through personal experience, she has come to appreciate how creative writing and drawing have deepened her connection with the natural world.
Lisa holds a B.A. in Biology with an Environmental Specialization from Central Connecticut State University and an M.S. from Southern Connecticut State University in Elementary Science Education, as well as an Advanced Certificate in Education for Sustainability from Manhattanville College. She is on the education advisory board of Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary and a board member of the Putnam Highlands Audubon Society. Lisa is also a certified yoga instructor.
Lisa Gianukos, Program Director – Houston
As the Program Director for CELF, Lisa is responsible for implementing professional development programs on the Education for Sustainability for schools across the Greater Houston Area. Prior to joining CELF, she spent seventeen years in the classroom teaching higher education and secondary students. Lisa began teaching in the Middle East as an adult-language instructor for the Kuwait petrochemical industry. Subsequently, she taught at the American University of Kuwait’s Center for Continuing Education to multinational working-professionals. Upon moving to Houston, Lisa taught English at the University of Houston-Downtown, Lone Star Community College, and within the Houston Independent School District. As a secondary teacher, she collaborated in blended classrooms and administered a linked-learning collaborative which incorporated Environmental Science, Engineering, History, and English. Lisa has written and applied curriculum for Project-Based Lessons (PBL) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in urban school populations.
Lisa is passionate about connecting her students with the community around them. Through their learning journeys, her students have partnered with state and national organizations such as Air Alliance Houston, Texas Wildlife Association, Sierra Club-Houston, Houston City Council, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, Houston Public Media, and the University of Houston.
Lisa’s educational background includes a Master of Liberal Studies from Rice University’s Glasscock School, a Master of Arts in Education – with a focus on Educational Leadership – from the University of St. Thomas, and she holds a Texas Administration/Principal certificate.
Amanda Brown — Educator and Professional Development Facilitator – Houston
As the Houston-area Educator & Professional Development Facilitator, Amanda is responsible for collaborating with the education staff on design, implementation, and delivery of professional development programs. In addition, she cultivates new and existing partnerships and works collaboratively with community partners in program delivery, mentoring and community outreach.
Building upon the intrinsic need to better the world, Amanda found joy for teaching and education. Prior to joining CELF, she spent seven years as a middle school science teacher in both Pearland ISD and Houston ISD. As a secondary teacher, she crafted TEKS-aligned multi-sensory, hands-on inquiry-based activities and used personalized and/or blended learning strategies to engage discovery. In addition to teaching, Amanda has over eight years of experience as an Environmental Educator. She worked as a project planner for an award-winning regional citizen science program, conducted science education outreach programming for both the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Park Service (NPS), and served as Education Director at the Bayou Preservation Association. As an Education Director, she often merged informal and formal science learning opportunities and also developed a grant-award place-based watershed program for elementary students. Partnering with state and local environmental organizations, such as Houston Arboretum, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and Houston Audubon’s Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary, the program engaged students in bayou-related learning opportunities and stewardship.
Most recently, Amanda served as Galveston Bay Estuary Program’s Public Participation & Education (PPE) subcommittee chair. In this position, she facilitated working groups to find creative ways to collectively engage teachers and communities to preserve Galveston Bay through stakeholder and partner education opportunities, outreach initiatives and campaigns that activated change to improve perception and understanding.
Amanda’s educational background includes a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science – with a concentration in Biology – from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and a Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction from Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Pallavi Mehta — Finance and Business Manager
As the Finance and Business Manager, Pallavi is responsible for all the financial operations of the organization including financial reporting, budgeting, compliance and risk management. Prior to joining CELF, Pallavi has spent over ten years working at investment banking firms with a focus on asset management and equity research. Most recently, she was an Equity Analyst at Citigroup covering small-mid capitalization companies within the consumer sector. She also taught finance to Chartered Financial Analyst candidates in New York City. Pallavi is a long-time community volunteer including seven years as a member of the Junior League of Central Westchester where she served as the Finance Chair.
Pallavi’s educational background includes an MBA in Finance from the NYU Stern School of Business, a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, and a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Rutgers University.
Laura Steinberger — Director of Operations
As Director of Operations, Laura believes that an organization that promotes environmental sustainability should itself be sustainably engineered, with smooth and efficient operations and strategies modeled for the long-term. This approach values teamwork, partnerships and innovation in the pursuit of CELF’s mission of educational transformation.
Laura joined CELF from Neuberger Berman, an investment management firm with a record of leadership in environmental, social and governance (ESG) integration. She played a key role in increasing the prevalence of ESG in the investment process, as well as the prominence of ESG in corporate messaging. The satisfaction of driving positive change in the corporate arena inspired Laura to re-direct her career into the nonprofit world.
Laura holds two degrees from Columbia University: a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Business Administration.
Rachel Bogin — Director of Advancement
Rachel is responsible for the strategic growth of CELF’s community of supporters and for creating innovative opportunities to engage with and amplify our mission. After working in the private sector for eight years, she was eager to leverage her experiential marketing & traditional advertising experience to fulfill her life-long passion for catalyzing positive change. Prior to joining CELF, Rachel worked at the DreamYard Project, where she was responsible for creating and managing opportunities for donors, volunteers, and corporate partners to engage with and invest in DreamYard’s transformative work.
Rachel received a B.A. in Psychology from Boston University, an M.A. in Criminal Justice from John Jay College, and a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s School for Professional Studies. She was also a member of the 2018 New York Community Trust Leadership Fellowship cohort.
Benji Mathot – Social Media Strategy Intern
Benji (he/his) is a rising senior at Vassar College, double majoring in Biology and Earth Science. His research focuses on environmental management, such as stream restoration, conservation biology, and biogeochemistry. As a liberal arts student, Benji has a passion for both science and the humanities and is an active member of LGBTQIA+ organizations. By working with CELF, Benji hopes to further engage with environmental activism and help create a better world for us all.
Jenna Spillo— Communications Intern
Jenna is helping CELF market, deliver, and publicize its educational projects and events. She recently graduated from Pace University with a major in Communications and a minor in Environmental Studies. She is currently continuing her education at Pace and is working toward a Masters in Communications & Digital Media. Jenna has experience with digital storytelling, journalism, public relations, and environmental research. Along with that, Jenna has a passion for education and plans to eventually become a university professor in the field of Environmental Communication.