Our Team

Emily Carlson (she/they) is the director of Art in the Garden and has been teaching for over two decades. She believes in the benefits of creating beloved communities that foster wisdom and compassion. Emily has worked abroad in Ghana with the School for International Training’s (SIT) program for high school students; in Italy and Brooklyn, NY teaching horseback riding; and in Beirut, writing with the support of a grant from the University of Pittsburgh’s Syria-Lebanon Nationality Room. They earned a BA in Poetry and African American Literature from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. Emily is the author of three poetry chapbooks, Why Misread a Cloud, I Have a Teacher, and Symphony No. 2. They serve on the board for Olmo Ling Bon Center and Institute. Emily lives in a community centered around an urban garden with their partner, Sten, and their three children.

Valerie Herrero (she/her) will be joining Art in the Garden as an assistant Administrative Director and Floating Teacher, with a focus on supporting our teen leaders; she is so excited to be returning to the team after being a Lead Teacher in the summer of 2020. As an avid adventurer, Valerie finds inspiration from closely observing everyday wonders–from tiny insect parades to the vast world all around us. Valerie has worked with children and teens at several organizations including Carnegie Museum of Art, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, Assemble, The Irma Freeman Center for Imagination, The Ellis School, and The Pittsburgh Glass Center. She is currently a Substitute Teacher in Pittsburgh Public Schools and is working on completing her MEd from Carlow University. Valerie loves cultivating collaborative spaces, making meaning through curiosity and connection, and sharing a home with her cat, Cow Kitty.

Montinique Ollison is returning to Art in the Garden as the Lead Teacher for the 4-6 year olds. Montinique has worked for Pittsburgh Public Schools for 7 years and is currently an assistant teacher in the Early childhood education program. Montinique has developed a passion for teaching and caring for children through her experience as an early childhood assistant teacher and numerous volunteer work for community gatherings and programs. Montinique is college graduate, with a bachelors in biology from Thiel College. “My love for children and the ability to educate them is something that I am extremely passionate about. Given a safe and healthy learning environment, every child has the ability to learn at high levels.”

Isabel Kinnane-Smith (they/them) is returning to work with Art in the Garden this summer as an Assistant Teacher for the 4-6 year olds. Isabel was born and raised in Pittsburgh and has been engaged in the city’s community of Black organizers for nearly a decade. Isabel is interested in earth arts, and counter mapping practices. They have worked as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisor for Oberlin College College Athletics.

Nina Ingram (she/they) is thrilled to be returning to Art in the Garden as a Lead Teacher for campers in grades 1 – 3. Nina is an artist, educator, and advocate who has worked with special needs youth for over a decade. Nina has a BA in Social Work and enjoys focusing on social-emotional development, trauma-informed care, and fostering joy and connection in her work with children and communities. Originally from Oregon, Nina now lives in Swissvale with her partner and two cats.

Princes Gonzalez (she /they) is feeling blessed to be joining Art in the Garden this summer as an Assistant Teacher for grades 1-3. Princes graduated from The University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas with a concentration in painting. Princes currently works as a paraprofessional at the Environmental Charter School. One of the ways they practice mindfulness is spending time outside and looking inward to notice what changes they can implement for true care. Princes loves working with children, as they bring a light and energy that is propelling and humbling strength and honesty. Princes believes that gardening is important for all of us and hopes to share this importance through leading by example.

Becca Liddle (she/her) is elated to teach campers in grades 3 -5 this summer at Art in the Garden. Becca recently graduated from Duquesne University with a BSeD in English secondary education and enjoyed student teaching at Brentwood Middle/High School. In her free time, Becca enjoys going kickboxing and relaxing with her English Bulldog, Peaches. Becca is originally from rural Pennsylvania and served as a County Fair Queen and PA State Miss Congeniality. She has a love for gardens and agriculture and is excited to foster that love in the campers in her group this summer. She can’t wait to spend the summer learning and growing with everyone at Art in the Garden. 

Ayanna Mallory is returning as an Assistant Teacher at Art in the Garden this summer for grades 3 -5. Ayanna is a rising senior at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania majoring in early childhood education with a concentration in special education. As a member of the Honors Academy on campus, Ayanna works hard to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Ayanna is part of the Arts and Healing Committee as well as the Sexuality and Gender Alliance Club on campus. Furthermore, Ayanna’s hobbies include drawing, yoga, making jewelry, and playing video games. Ayanna also likes to garden when she get the chance; she acquired the skills from working at Phipps Conservatory as a summer intern for two years. Ayanna’s passion for working with children comes from her experience being an older sibling and cousin. Teaching makes Ayanna feel proud because she knows that she can influence children with education.

Paulina Braverman (she/her) is returning to Art in the Garden as a co-lead teacher for students in grades 5-7. She graduated from the University of Michigan with the BFA in Art & Design, focused in painting. In her own art practice, as well as her experiences facilitating art lessons for children, older adults living in assisted living homes, and people who are incarcerated, she has observed the immense benefits an art-making practice can have on our mental and physical well-being. She is excited to encourage Art in the Garden students to engage in a practice that is exciting and meaningful to each of them!

Jodi Iddings (she/her) is returning to Art in the Garden as a co-lead teacher for grades 5-7. Jodi graduated from Slippery Rock University with a dual bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Special Education. Upon graduation, Jodi began working for the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park. She currently teaches 3rd grade math and environmental literacy.  Jodi loves hula hooping and creating art and music. Her biggest passion of all is being present in the moment for children to feel safe to express themselves.

Molly Zacharias, LSW (she/her) is a therapist and gardener who is so happy to be returning to Art and the Garden as the camp therapist after being part of the team as a teacher and director in 2017/18. Molly has worked with children and adults as a teacher, therapist, and one-on-one aide at the Environmental Charter School, Sprout Center for Emotional Growth and Development, and Forward Wellness Counseling. Her therapeutic approach is holistic, nurturing, responsive, and curious, and she often incorporates mindfulness, movement, and art. Molly loves animals, trees, cooking, getting muddy, and she is currently learning how to weave on her loom!

Substitute teachers and volunteers

Dee Armagost (they/them) is joining Art in the Garden as a substitute teacher this summer. Dee is a musician, multidisciplinary artist, arts educator, Peer Support Specialist, and life-long learner. They believe that accessible knowledge, resources, and creative experimentation are transformative tools for understanding the mind-body-spirit connection and combating the oppressive systems that traumatize us. They are immensely grateful for every opportunity to cultivate healing in vulnerable populations. Lately Dee can be found enjoying long aimless walks, reading, sewing, cooking, painting stickers and found objects, making music, and going to the cinema.

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Monica Daniels (she/her) is returning to Art in the Garden’s summer program as a substitute teacher. She received her Master of Arts Education from Chatham University and is currently a Visual Arts Teacher with Pittsburgh Public Schools. Monica is a Pittsburgh native, a practicing artist in fashion design, painting, and more. Her teaching philosophy is rooted in the strong belief that it takes a village to raise a child and nurture them to excel. The lessons she instructs students are rich with S.T.E.A.M, Arts Integration, and culturally responsive practices.

Elizabeth Mulenga (they/she) is excited to join Art In The Garden as a substitute teacher this season. Elizabeth has a background in Early Childhood Education and Youth Services. Elizabeth has worked with Art in the Garden during their Fall and Spring Festivals. As an aspiring multidisciplinary artist, they are excited to share in learning alongside the campers as well as to provide a space for creativity that is supportive, nurturing, and and full of play.

Helena Lawrence (she/her) is joining Art in the Garden as a substitute teacher this summer. Helena is a preschool arts educator, musician, artist, and nature lover. Working with theatriQ+ and Carnegie Museum of Art in her teens, she learned the importance of community leaders that value diversity and a therapeutic approach towards art. A Pittsburgh Native returning from Reading, she is excited to expand upon the work she has done at Yocum Institute of Arts. Helena enjoys baking, traveling, gardening, and looking at synthesizers out of her budget.

Takeela Washington (she/her) is returning to Art in the Garden as a substitute teacher. Takeela has been in the education field for over 15 years and is teacher, community advocate, and founder of Sensory Superpowers. Takeela has a Masters Degree in applied developmental psychology and has always been passionate about education, specifically education for minority children and youth. Her passion for helping children with the development of self-regulation skills grew when her son was diagnosed with childhood anxiety and sensory processing disorder (SPD). Takeela believes success comes first through children and families learning how to creatively express their emotions in their homes and communities. As self-regulation skills develop, children excel in other areas of their lives. That’s the goal, to help our children become well rounded human beings. 

Sabrina LeClair (she, her) is a returning to Art in the Garden as a substitute teacher this summer. Sabrina has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and graduated Suma Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s in Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology and is completing a RBT certification. Sabrina also has an Associate’s in Health Science & Technology and an EMT-B certification. Her graduate research focused on mitigating the development of racial dysphoria and promoting resiliency and positive self-identity in students. She currently works in a special education classroom at Pittsburgh Public School; she also taught in a local Reggio Emilia inspired ECDC for three years, where she led a toddler class, and ran the Math and Science program for preschoolers. Sabrina is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, a student-centered, constructivist approach, which motivates children’s passion for learning, with a focus on social emotional development and naturalism. In her free time, Sabrina enjoys cooking, sports, hiking, biking, traveling and volunteering with her pediatric therapy dog, Callie.

Camila Pulgar Machado (she/her) is a translator and collaborator at Art in the Garden and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. Camila has a PhD in Cultural Studies from Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), where she was a professor of Latin American Literature. There she taught every level of UCV’s undergraduate curriculum, including subjects such as “Archives, Creation and Urban Imaginaries.” She first came to Pittsburgh as a visiting Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. Camila enjoys teaching with materials that stimulate passion for cultures in the Hispanic world, including photography, cinema, TV, music, and digital media. She writes a regular column on archives, pedagogy, art, literature and migration for Venezuela’s Papel Literario.

Art in the Garden is made possible by volunteers from OMA Center for Mind, Body, and Spirit, including:


Gail Hunter, LCSW, BCD, is a Founding Member and the President of the Board of Directors for OMA. Gail has been in Private Practice as a psychotherapist in the Pittsburgh area since 1979 and is a holistic practitioner using EMDR, Brainspotting, Reiki, Source Point Therapy, ‘Bars’, Theta Healing, TFT, EFT and other Energy Techniques. She is a holistic practitioner and  has always believed in everyone’s inner capacity to heal into life, to remember the ‘truth’ of who we are innately and the abundance of possibilities we can create. She loves to spend time with her family, friends and pets, and she enjoys Swing/Lindy hop dancing, gardening, and fitness.

Joanne Riley (she/her) is the director of operations for OMA. Joanne practiced as a Critical Care Registered Nurse for sixteen years until going into Health Care Administration. She has a passion for assuring individualized quality care, and management allowed her to do that. After management positions including Director of Nursing, and completing her Masters Degree in Hospital Administration from Carnegie Mellon University, she accepted a position as Senior Administrator for General Internal Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh where she stayed for 25 years before retiring in 2017. Her responsibilities were broad including: residency training programs, research programs and clinical programs. Joanne’s last project prior to retiring was obtaining a state grant to create an Addiction Clinic for UPMC. Since retirement she has been filling her life with volunteer work, gardening, creation with stained glass, and her wonderful husband and family.

Callie Gropp (she/her) heads OMA Pittsburgh’s Surviving to Thriving Programs. A native of Pittsburgh, Callie earned a BA in History and African American/Black Studies from Oberlin College. She has been an educator since 2007, and increasingly spends her time working to create awareness about the science of trauma and resilience. She is hopeful that through education, awareness, and advocacy we can establish awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, and all forms abuse as a major public health issue. In order to break cycles of silence and harm, Callie believes we must collaboratively respond to the collective arena of trauma and its effects throughout the generations. Through collaboration with individuals and organizations city-wide, she hopes to help reveal possibilities that emerge when communities come together to provide all people with access to holistic, trauma-informed and healing centered care. She believes that when we heal ourselves in the present, we heal the generations to come.

Paul Clough is OMA’s treasurer. Husband, Father, Helper, Fixer, Programmer, and Data Manager, Paul was born and raised in New York, raised his family in Northwest Arkansas and Houston, Texas, and lived various other places. Paul moved to Bethel Park after marrying Joanne Riley and, there, is enjoying retirement and working in a backyard forest among the wonderful trees. Paul also enjoys fixing things and creating IT solutions for friends and family. Prior to retirement, Paul worked as a data manager at the University of Pittsburgh. His interest in personal growth and spirituality began at a young age. With other wonderful members of our spiritual community, Paul helped create an organization called Site Nite, and is an active member in Unity Center of Pittsburgh. Paul is passionate about encouraging people to consider if they are still being served by long-held beliefs, or if the beliefs are automatic reactions to life.

OMA’s Art in the Garden celebrates and supports a community of individuals with varied experiences and expression, including socioeconomic status, race, national origin, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and ability.