Educator Council Members

Renée Eli holds a Ph.D. in Transformative Studies with a concentration in Consciousness Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Her research explores the expressiveness of the body and life itself and proposes that an expressive ontology of the body may shift human attitudes toward a flourishing human and more-than-human world. Renée is a retired physical therapist who began her life-long inquiry into embodiment and consciousness as a young adult working with individuals suffering from chronic and complex pain syndromes. Recognizing constraints inherent in singularly allopathic approaches to complex health issues, in the face of what she consistently witnessed in her patients as a living desire to flourish, she began exploring embodied consciousness through yoga and meditation. It was this personal exploration that inspired her interest in the subjectivity of the body and inquiry into the nature of life as a dynamic urge “to be.” Ren&eactue;e is a recipient of a doctoral research fellowship from Esalen Institute’s Center for Theory and Research for her doctoral dissertation’s potential to contribute to and advance co-founder Michael Murphy’s The Future of the Body project based on his award-winning book, The Future of the Body: Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature. She serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for both the Society for Consciousness Studies’ academic journal, Consciousness: Ideas and Research for the Twenty First Century, and the Center for Ecozoic Societies’ scholarly journal, The Ecozoic. Renée is a graduate of the Inner Life of the Child in Nature Program, class of 2012.


Dr. Mary Hartsell is both a Family Nurse Practitioner and a Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. She received her Bachelorette in Nursing from UNCG in 1981. She returned to graduate school and received her Master in Science of Nursing with a concentration in Administration of Systems at Duke University in 1996. Dr. Hartsell was committed to health of individuals and returned to school and achieved a Post-Masters at Duke University in 1999 as an FNP. In 2004, She attended Rush University in Chicago and received another Post-Masters as a PMHNP-F in 2006. She holds a Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Duke University. She has worked in many capacities of nursing including Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Home Care, Internal Medicine, and Family Health. She currently provides care within a private practice in Durham, NC, where she practices as a nurse practitioner and therapist where she specializes in providing holistic care to individuals with complex chronic medical and psychiatric illnesses. Dr. Hartsell has studied extensively the art of contemplative meditation and has incorporated these practices as the foundation of her clinical work. Mary is a graduate of the Inner Life of the Child in Nature Program, class of 2014.


Andrew Levitt holds a BA in English from Yale University and a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. He trained as a mime with Marcel Marceau and with Paul J. Curtis at The American Mime Theatre. Andrew performed and taught mime professionally for over thirty years and then helped found the high school at the Emerson Waldorf School in Chapel Hill, NC where he taught Humanities and directed theater for seven years. Andrew co-created a performance piece, “The Meadow Across the Creek: Words from Thomas Berry” for the Thomas Berry Centennial and is the author of All the Scattered Leaves of the Universe: Journey and Vision in Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Work of Thomas Berry, published by the Center in the Fall of 2015. As Dr. Merryandrew, he currently works as a clown doctor in the Pediatric unit at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, NC. Andrew is a graduate of The Inner Life of the Child in Nature Program, class of 2008.


Marie Nordgren is the founder, director and a teacher at The Children’s Garden Preschool, a nature and play based early childhood program in Durham, NC. She received her training in Waldorf early childhood education from Sunbridge College in Spring Valley, New York. Marie has engaged in an in-depth study with the Choreocosmos School of Cosmic and Sacred Dance. Her three grown daughters, two grandchildren, and husband, Carl, are also a never-ending source of new learning experiences. Marie is a graduate of The Inner Life of the Child in Nature Program, class of 2008.


Colette Segalla holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in California and is a practicing therapist in Raleigh, NC. Before returning to graduate school, Colette was an AMI certified Montessori teacher in a lower elementary classroom of six-to-nine year old children. The work of Steiner and Montessori has contributed to her current Jungian-based exploration of children's spirituality and how a relationship with the natural world contributes to the child's spiritual development. Colette is the author of I am You, You are Me: The Interrelatedness of Self, Spirituality and the Natural World in Childhood, published by the Center in the Fall of 2015. Colette is a graduate of The Inner Life of the Child in Nature Program, class of 2008.


William Wallenbeck was born in Washington DC, a military baby, who would live in many places, most being in the Western high desert regions and often under the watchful eye of the Sierra Madres. He is father of four wonderful children; Amy, Melissa, Luke and Ben and proud “Papa” of two precious grandchildren; Wren and Calder. After 28 years of traditional pastoral work in one church in Western New York, Bill left in order to step out into a broader way and sense of what God was up to in the world. He has experienced a steady and irresistible pull into simplicity and a contemplative exploration of life. Bill is a graduate of The Living School at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His present work, along with daily practice of silence and prayer, is teaching Wellness and Body Life at Exploris Middle School in Raleigh, NC. EMS mission: “To create a challenging and supportive learning community that engages each student in understanding and building a connected, just, and sustainable world.” A key to living into that mission is a commitment to providing hands-on learning in and experience of our natural world. Bill is a graduate of the Inner Life of the Child in Nature Program, class of 2014.


Advisory Board


Jonathan Eakle (Ph.D., University of Georgia) recently joined the George Washington University's Graduate School of Education and Human Development as an associate professor. His research is about language, literacy, and culture with a focus on museums and the arts. For nine years, Jonathan was a research professor at Johns Hopkins University where he directed the Language, Literacy, and Reading education program, taught masters of science and doctoral students, designed curriculum, and served on the Faculty Advisory Board of the Johns Hopkins University Press. Jonathan's most recent article is a study of museums in Mexico City and his latest book is about current debates in education. He also co-edited Secondary School Literacy: What Research Reveals for Classroom Practice published by the National Council of Teachers of English. In addition to his advisory work with the Center for Education, Imagination, and the Natural World, Jonathan presently serves on the boards of the Journal of Literacy Research, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, and the International Journal of Creativity & Human Development. In addition, he has worked on grants and panels for the National Science Foundation, Maryland State Department of Education, and Smithsonian Institute, among others. Jonathan lives with his wife Rosa Aurora and daughter Maya on the border between the Rock Creek forest and metropolitan Washington, D.C.


John Shackelton has been an educator for thirty-six years. His twenty-two years of teaching experience have included lower elementary, middle and high school, and college; he has served as head of three alternative schools, most recently Rainbow Mountain Children’s School in Asheville, N.C. John is presently involved in mentoring the Sacred Mountain Sanctuary in Candler, NC. He also does educator training workshops focused on teaching as a sacred work. He has one published novel, The Lowly Papers, a story of Appalachia. John is a graduate of the Inner Life of the Child in Nature Program, class of 2008.


Katherine Ziff is on the faculty of the Counseling Program at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. A former elementary school counselor in Athens, Ohio, Katherine is also an exhibiting artist. She was born by the ocean in Jacksonville, N.C., raised in the piedmont area of the state in Winston-Salem, and lived in Athens, Ohio for sixteen years with her husband Matthew and son Benjamin before she and her family decided to return to the foothills of North Carolina in the Summer of 2014. Katherine holds a doctorate in counselor education and is the author of Asylum on the Hill: History of a Healing Landscape, published by Ohio University Press in 2012. Katherine is a graduate of the Inner Life of the Child in Nature Program, class of 2012.

“In ordinary sensing, perceiving and thinking, everything around us exists “outside” and “over there.” We are spectators to ourselves and to the world. But in Silence everything displays its depth, and we find that we are part of everything around us . . . We discover that each thing of the world lives deeply within us. But more, we discover that each of us, in the region of the soul, lives deeply within the soul of the world and the crossing point is the centering heart.”


~Robert Sardello, Silence