NoVA Outside Board of Directors
Elenor Hodges chairs the board and as such, focuses on overall coordination for NoVA Outside, organizing board meetings, and writing grant proposals. She has been involved with NoVA Outside since the beginning, helping to found the organization in 2009. Additionally, Elenor works as the executive director of EcoAction Arlington, a community nonprofit promoting sustainable lifestyles. Her previous experience includes environmental consulting with DynCorp, developing the Animal Tracks environmental education program for Wal-Mart, and program management in the education department at National Wildlife Federation. She lives in Arlington with her husband and two daughters. Elenor earned a BA in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia and a MEd in Education from George Mason University.
Steph Dean serves as vice-chair on the board and as one of the School-Aged Green Educator (SAGE) committee leaders. She is passionate about working collaboratively with teachers and sharing ideas with educators seeking to develop outdoor lessons and engagements. Steph is a place-based educator and director of outdoor education at a private school in Vienna. She is also pursuing her PhD in science education research with a focus on curriculum and instruction in outdoor and environmental education. Steph is currently working on various research projects, involving a sense of wonder in elementary-aged students, national park interpretation, and science practices in environmental education. In her spare time, Steph enjoys rock climbing and hiking in nearby Shenandoah. She is known to escape Northern Virginia from time to time and backpack for a few days in the wilderness. Steph records all of her adventures through her blog, The Park Pilgrim, explorer of wild spaces and natural places.
Kurt Moser serves as the treasurer and co-chairs the SEAS committee. Kurt has studied social network analysis and the Network Weaving approach to partnership building, and he infuses this in his work with NoVA Outside. In addition, he co-chairs NoVA Outside’s annual School Environmental Action Showcase, building partnerships to coordinate multi-organization involvement and sponsorship in this signature event.
By day, Kurt is an independent researcher/ecologist and president/co-founder of the Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the conditions and park lands on lower Four Mile Run. His past experience includes leading professional development and environmental education as a program manager for Earth Force, a national nonprofit focused on youth-driven civic action to improve the environment. Kurt earned a BA in History from Dartmouth College and an MS in Environmental Science and Policy from George Mason University.
Elaine Tholen is a co-founder of NoVA Outside. As a member of the board, Elaine helps lead strategic partnership building. She is co-chair of NoVA Outside’s signature Student Environmental Action Showcase. She shares her content expertise in environmental education to advise on programming and partnerships. Elaine lives in Great Falls with her husband and is the mother of two college-age sons.
Nancy Striniste serves on the board where she focuses on programming and outreach for NoVA Outside. Founder and principal designer at EarlySpace, LLC, Ms. Striniste has a unique background as both a landscape designer and an early childhood educator. From her Arlington, Virginia design office, she has worked with schools, childcare centers, municipalities and organizations to create sustainably designed natural play and learning spaces and to teach teachers and others about how to use the outdoors for teaching and learning.
Ms. Striniste is the author of Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children to the Natural World. She teaches at Antioch University New England in their Nature-based Early Childhood Education Graduate Program, serves on the Nature Play Work Group of the Maryland Partnership for Children and Nature, and on Board of NoVA Outside. She founded the Arlington Living Schoolyard Initiative, and since June of 2020 has been a leader of the National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative.
Debra Lane, PhD, serves on the board and the School-Aged Green Educator (SAGE) committee. Dr. Lane has been an educator for more than 25 years, as a teacher and administrator in the U.S. and abroad. She has led several schools as principal, including most recently at one of the world’s leading international schools, Shanghai American School. She taught grades from pre-K through middle school, as well as ESOL, Literacy, and Gifted and Talented classes in Fairfax County Public Schools and in the Dominican Republic. Recently she was Director of Talent Development at Alexandria City Public Schools. She holds a BS from Baylor University, master’s degrees from Virginia Tech and George Mason University, and an Ed.D. from the University of Virginia. She has taught undergraduate and graduate classes at George Mason University and the University of Virginia. As part of her work with the National Staff Development Council she applied current research in adult learning to her work on staff development, focusing on professional learning communities. Currently she is working on federal government grants focusing on transformative leadership and increasing teachers leadership and instructional roles across the U.S., Central and South America. Dr. Lane has also participated in accreditation teams in China and Hong Kong with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. She was nominated as Virginia Principal of the Year and won the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Educator of the Year Award in 2009. She is currently an educational consultant at Lane Leadership Group,LLC.
Christine Connelly Montagnese serves on the board and spent years as an environmental educator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge, the National Park Service at Assateague Island National Seashore, and the Audubon Naturalist Society at the Rust Nature Sanctuary. Now an attorney, she works in financial compliance for Burke and Herbert Bank in Alexandria. Still passionate about creating young environmental stewards, she enjoys serving NoVA Outside and helping to promote getting kids outdoors. She has a bachelor’s in communication from the University of Maryland and juris doctor from the Penn State School of Law.
Morgan Occhuizzo serves on the board and has been working in the field of education for over 15 years. She worked for Fairfax County Public Schools for ten years. While in Fairfax, she worked as an educational specialist in the areas of gifted and STEAM and most recently has served as a School Administrator at a nationally known green ribbon school and the first elementary school to receive a 4th and permanent green Eco Flag from the National Wildlife Federation.
Her educational experience includes degrees in gifted education and educational leadership with a background in science curriculum development and large scale grant writing while working for Penn State University. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley and spends time exploring the outdoors with her two young children.