Our Team

Emily Carlson (she/they) is the director of OMA Center for Mind, Body and Spirit’s program Art in the Garden. She has been teaching for over 20 years. Emily earned a BA in Poetry and African American Literature from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. She worked at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, led The Experiment in International Living’s program for high school students in Ghana, cared for horses in Italy and Brooklyn, NY, and studied poetry in Beirut through a grant from the Syria-Lebanon Nationality Room at the University of Pittsburgh. Emily is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Symphony No. 2 and I Have a Teacher. Emily lives with her partner Sten and their three children in a cohousing community.

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 she 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 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 show 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.

Kastler Joseph (he/him) has been an Assistant Teacher at Art in the Garden since 2018. Kastler is originally from Newark, New Jersey. He has a degree in The Applied Sciences of Electronic Engineering Technology and in Electronic Computer Technology. Kastler has always had a love, passion, and joy for working with children. After his son was born he realized that working with children is a calling. Kastler has a desire to assist parents who do not have the ability to aid their children for numerous reasons. As a Para-Professional in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Kastler has enjoyed working with children of all ages. He has observed that pre-teens and teens, who society says are supposed to be more independent, are the ones who are most dependent. Why? They often do not know how to navigate inner conflicts, conflicts they experience with others, and conflicts with the world around them. Kastler also runs a tutoring service to aid children who are below reading level and children who are learning to read. Working with youth has been a wonderful experience for Kastler and he looks forward to opportunities to extend what he does in every and any way possible.

Camila Pulgar Machado (she/her) 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. Her PhD project on literary and artistic archives of democratic culture in Venezuela included a five-year collaboration with 30+ students, who curated their archival discoveries in digital form, co-creating a website. Right now, Camila tutors Spanish and translates for Art in the Garden, and teaches Hispanic Literature in Pitt’s Osher program for life-long learners. 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.

Jordan Taylor (he/him) is a dancer and photographer that believes all emotions can be expressed through art. He graduated with a BFA in Cinema and Photography from Edinboro University, where he spent his four years leading and choreographing for his dance team. Originally from Akron, Ohio, he enjoys to travel with friends and has taken several pictures of the many cities and towns he has been to. Jordan strongly believes in expressing himself and encourages everyone around him to do so in their own artistic way. He typically spends his free time writing, studying constellations, and hanging out with his black cat, Santiago. He currently lives in Aliquippa.

Behlin Newman (he/they) is a freelance botanist that believes in using the earth’s resources to heal one’s body and spirit. Spending the majority of his childhood in rural southern Ohio with his grandparents, he spent most of his childhood gardening and learning how nature communicates with the body. He currently lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, but makes frequent trips to Pittsburgh to explore the city and its rich culture. Behlin hopes to start community gardens in low-income communities of color like his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia.

Allison Watkins (she/her) is an Art and Gifted Educator who strongly believes in the transformative power of the arts to aid in the development of students’ empathic potential and understanding of self. In 2013, she graduated from Seton Hill University’s Honors Program with her BA in K-12 Art Education and has been teaching within the public school setting ever since. As someone inspired by the community and social impact of the arts, she and her students have created and assisted with several mural and mosaic projects within Allegheny County and the surrounding area.  In 2019, Allison graduated from the Art Education Collaborative’s Leadership Academy, where course content highlighted the importance of culturally and socially responsive pedagogy, an area she strives to celebrate within her own arts curriculum. She is formally trained in a multitude of arts media, but her primary focus as an artist centers around photography and digital collage. In her free time, she enjoys camping and hiking, travelling, yoga, and coaching her school’s volleyball team.

Montinique Ollison is currently an assistant teacher with Pittsburgh Public Schools Early childhood education program. She teaches children ages 3-5 years of age. 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 has worked for Pittsburgh Public Schools for 4 years. 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.”

Angie Meyers (she/her) has been an art teacher in Pittsburgh for the past 2 years, recently graduating from Edinboro University with her degree in Art Education and Ceramics. She strongly believes that being immersed and connected in the outdoors, coupled with art-making, has powerful healing properties. Angie has worked alongside students of all ages and can’t picture herself being anything but an art teacher. She believes that learning is a process of everyday life and is never-ending. It is so important to seek out learning opportunities, big or small, in order to always be expanding oneself. Her passion is to help others learn about and teach them the arts, which can help them in more ways than one. Angie loves being outdoors participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and rock climbing. Her favorite place to practice yoga is in her backyard beneath her large tree. Traveling and being immersed in different cultures is one of her favorite things. She loves volunteer work and being involved, giving to others, out in the community. Angie lives in Swissvale with her partner and her orange tabby cat, Monty.

Teona Wakefield (she/her) is a native of the Pittsburgh area. Teona has worked as a paraprofessional with Pittsburgh Public School’s Early Childhood Center for three years, preparing children for kindergarten. Teona also has a background in social services and has worked in community neighborhoods’ Family Support Centers for years before joining PPS. Making education enjoyable for children is a passion of hers. Incorporating creative arts with learning is something Teona knows makes learning fun and more intriguing to children. “Every experience is a learning experience” is a life motto that Teona reminds the children after teaching a lesson.

Dahlia Rao (she/her) is an education specialist and leader in arts programming, always seeking opportunities to engage creatively with children and address issues of inequity in education. She has a wide range of experiences with university-community partnerships, both in Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor/Detroit area. She holds her bachelors in History/Anthropology and Communication Design from Carnegie Mellon University and a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dahlia lives with her husband Shiv and three children in Squirrel Hill.

Joanne Riley (OMA Youth Programming) practiced as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (pediatric and adult) 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 Master 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 large 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.

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.