Jennifer brings more than 10 years of experience in nonprofit leadership and place-based environmental education to Connolly Ranch. Her passion for outdoor spaces led her to pursue an academic and professional career focused on cultivating stewardship through hands-on experiential education and unstructured play in natural environments. Prior to joining Connolly Ranch, Jennifer worked as executive director for the Conrad Foundation, a nonprofit whose programs combine education, innovation and entrepreneurship to inspire solutions for achieving global sustainability through the fields of aerospace, clean energy, cyber security, health and nutrition. In addition to working with several garden-based education programs in San Francisco, Jennifer spent a year working in conservation and education on a remote island in the Netherlands Antilles. Through the St. Eustatius National Park, she developed environmental education curricula and supervised international volunteers in habitat restoration, trail building, turtle monitoring and the development of a children’s educational garden. Jennifer’s love of education and nature stems from childhood adventures at a ranch in West Marin and a family home in Napa, California.
With an MA in education of exceptional children from Whittier College, Thom was a teacher in the Vallejo City Unified School District from 1971 to 2010. Thom began his career as a special education teacher of severely handicapped students and held that position for five years. For the next 26 years he was the administrator of the Loma Vista Farm and Garden Center. Thom currently teaches young adult handicapped students. Thom has been with Connolly Ranch since 1991.
Combining her diverse academic education and extensive world travels with the life experience of growing up on a farm, Hylah’s commitment to people, animals and a healthy planet Earth shines through in her programs. With a unique vibrancy, she inspires and cultivates a passion for being a steward or caretaker of this world. Starting as a math tutor at age 12, Hylah has been educating children and adults in such varied subjects as anatomy, holistic bodywork, art, movement and dance, horseback riding, animal husbandry, gardening and her specialty, early childhood education. Utilizing costumes and characters she has created like the Barn Faerie and Grandma Luna, she playfully brings an understanding of big concepts such as ecology and sustainability to even the youngest preschool-age students. Hylah studied international relations and Spanish at San Francisco State University and the University of Salamanca (Spain), early childhood education at Napa Valley College and has a BA degree in culture, ecology and sustainable community from New College of California. From 2002 to 2011, Hylah worked with the City of Napa Parks and Recreation Department running its preschool program at Connolly Ranch. She has also worked directly with Connolly Ranch and the Napa Valley Unified School District, activating people’s connection to our natural world.
Josh joined Connolly Ranch in spring 2015 and is responsible for leading, managing and overseeing field trips and seasonal camps. Prior to joining the Ranch, Josh was a family advocate for Marin Head Start, where he served as a liaison between preschool teachers and parents. He has also worked as a program manager for an art therapy day program for developmentally disabled adults, as a behavioral interventionist for Comprehensive Autism Services & Education, as an after-school enrichment teacher, and as a leader of backcountry camping expeditions for middle and high school students. He began his career at Caritas Creek, where he spent eight years running an environmental education program for schools and a summer camp that together served nearly 5,000 children and youth each year. Josh also studied in Costa Rica and has a small business leading groups through Buenos Aires, Argentina, his mother’s home. He is fluent in English and Spanish.
Farm and Outdoor Educator
Natalie Knight was born and raised in the Napa Valley. She has lived a life of gardening, caring for laying hens and many family pets, and has worked with children as a child care provider for 12 years. Natalie attended Napa Valley College and graduated from San Francisco State University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Minor in Geography and Human Environmental Studies. She grew up in a family of educators and is inspired to continue that legacy.
Whether Natalie finds herself teaching preschoolers at Earthlings Outdoor Playschool, leading activities in one of our seasonal camps, hosting a birthday party or helping run the business side of the nonprofit, she feels her work combines her passions, experiences and interests, and allows her to continuously learn new skills. Natalie also values environmental stewardship and makes a conscious effort to live an eco-friendly sustainable lifestyle.
Farm and Garden Educator
Emily Newman is a fourth generation Napan and an avid gardener, cook, crafter and lifelong adventurer. Her background in fine dining restaurants in Napa Valley led her to live and work in New York City before moving on to fulfill a childhood dream of extensive travels abroad through Europe and Africa. During this time, she became interested in sustainable lifestyles domestic and folkloric arts, and homesteading. Emily first discovered her passion for children’s outdoor education as a volunteer at Connolly Ranch’s preschool programs in 2010. She then became a preschool teacher at the Ranch, and is currently working as a Farm and Garden Educator, and Volunteer Coordinator. She loves to design structured, hands-on projects where kids get to exercise creativity while at the same time practicing stewardship of the Earth.
Karen Kelly brings a lifelong love of children to her days at Connolly Ranch. Throughout young adulthood, she cared for children while pursuing a degree in comparative religion at Washington University in St. Louis. After graduating, she worked in fine gardening, farming and eventually in the culinary world for over a decade. When her twins arrived in 2007, she returned to school to pursue studies in early childhood education. She is passionate about child development, social and emotional skills and being with children out in nature.
Tracy McDaniels got her early childhood certificate in the 1990s. Before joining Connolly Ranch in 2009, Tracy taught traditional preschool for over 20 years in the Napa Valley. She is a single mother and has lived on her own farm since childhood. Tracy and her daughter are major animal lovers and together they actively and lovingly rescue dogs (over 30 in thepast year) from local shelters.
Farm Educator and Animal Care Coordinator
Kim Duimstra has been a certified early childhood educator since the late 1980s, teaching in such diverse places as a parent co-op in Beverly Hills and a corporate daycare center. As a child, she dreamed of being a farmer, but realized her dream only when she became a mother and moved to Napa. A former 4-H mom, she and her family have raised chickens, goats and rabbits. She and her husband own a small business and live with her two young adult children in the Carneros region. Kim joined the team at Connolly Ranch in 2009.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chairman of the Board
Gene is the founder and president of Accelerated Technical Training Institute (ATTI) from 1983 to the present. ATTI specializes in distance education in the mechanical trades, with a focus on nationwide training of individuals in specific trades skills via video instruction. He conceptualized, developed, produced and marketed these video courses, which have been approved by the California Bureau of Private and Postsecondary Vocational Education. Current courses include welding, locksmithing, gunsmithing, plumbing and machining. He is also the founder and president of Executive Protection Products Inc., established in 1986. The company specializes in high-end commercial security, surveillance and VIP protection in the USA and abroad. He was president of the Rotary Club of Napa 2004-2005 and chairman of Napa Young Life 2001-2004. Gene is a 40+ year resident of Napa.
KRISTOPHER S. COSCA, Ed.D.
Kris is the director of assistant superintendent for the Novato Unified School District. He has served public schools for the past 20 years as an elementary school teacher in Fontana, Napa and Vallejo; an assistant principal and principal in Vallejo; a director of curriculum and instruction for Santa Rosa City Schools; and as director of human resources with NVUSD. Kris and his wife, a biology teacher at Vintage High School, have lived in Napa since 1994. Their daughter and son attend Napa public schools and have enjoyed several Connolly Ranch programs through the years. Kris received his doctorate in organizational leadership from the University of La Verne in 2010.
Jeff is an attorney at the law firm of Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty (DP&F), where he focuses on land use and environmental law. After earning his B.A. in Political Science and History from the University of California, Santa Barbara, he received his J.D. from the University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law where he graduated cum laude and served as Chief Symposium Editor for the McGeorge Law Review. Before joining DP&F’s Napa office, Jeff worked for Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye at the California Supreme Court. Jeff has served as a political organizer and consultant for campaigns on the federal, state, and local levels. Born and raised in Napa, he continues to stay very active in politics and governmental issues today, along with his wife, Kelly Williams Dodd.
SARAH MITCHELL HANSEN
An avid gardener and cook, Sarah grew up in St. Helena, where her family still lives in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse on five acres of land on the west side of the valley. Sarah’s husband Chris is the North American sales manager for Seguin Moreau (based in Cognac, with a cooperage in Napa), and they live in Napa with their son Alexander. Sarah is co-owner of The Model Bakery, which has been in her family for over 30 years. She has been in charge of the bakery’s growth, and opened the Oxbow Public Market store in 2008.
Elizabeth Healy is Director of Government Relations at The Doctors Company, the nation’s largest insurer of physicians and surgeons. In more than 20 years in government relations, she has been involved in political campaigns and fundraising, grassroots organizing, state government and legislative advocacy. She has also worked on development and advocacy of higher education policy in the United Kingdom. Elizabeth directs lobbyists and political action committees in several states and Washington, DC, with 16 states in her territory. She is also responsible for corporate charitable giving and Napa community relations.
Before joining Connolly Ranch’s board in 2011, Sarah served as Vice President of Business Development for Fair Trade USA. It was there where she developed her respect for global farming families and the origins of our food. Prior to her role in the Fair Trade movement, Sarah held global leadership positions in the high tech sector for Cisco Systems and successful start up firms. Sarah holds an MBA in International Business from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business and Economics from the University of San Francisco. She moved to Napa in 2005 with her husband and has since had three children all of whom adore their adventures at Connolly Ranch. She is passionate about empowering girls and exploring obscure spots in the world.
Denise Renteria moved to Sonoma in 1983 and attended Justin-Siena High School. She received a BS in business with an emphasis in finance and a minor in economics from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. After college, she worked for a pension fund as well as for the City of San Francisco in its Health Service System. In 1994, she moved back to the Napa Valley. She and her husband Oscar are the proprietors of Renteria Vineyard Management and Renteria Wines. They have three young daughters who have attended classes at Connolly Ranch and benefitted from their amazing programs. She also supports organizations such as Aldea Children and Family Services and Cope Family Center. Denise is very involved with Blue Oak School (she and Oscar were auction chairs for this year’s fundraiser) and is a strong advocate of progressive education and the benefits of hands-on learning, of which Connolly Ranch is a prime example.
ARTHUR S. ROOSA, CHBME
Arthur is the founder and chief executive officer of SyMed Corporation. SyMed specializes in software development for physicians’ offices and medical revenue cycle management for physicians, outpatient clinics and optometrists. He has created and guided the development of medical billing services that currently manage over $20 million in claims annually. He is responsible for the strategic planning and growth of the company, along with overseeing software development and client relations. Arthur and his wife Keiko have lived in Napa since 1995. His community involvement includes having served as chair of the City of Napa Planning Commission; chair of the City of Napa’s Community Development Block Grant committee, an important funding source for the city’s non-profit agencies; and on the board of the Rotary Club of Napa where he continues to maintain his membership. He mentored students at New Technology High School shortly after it opened.
Michele Crane Truchard is a fourth-generation Napan. Together with her husband John Anthony Truchard, she is the proprietor of John Anthony Vineyards and JaM Cellars. Michele has her degree in nutrition and dietetics with extended study in neonatal and pediatric nutrition and development. After a career in nutrition at UCSF Medical Center and St. Mary’s Hospitals in San Francisco, Michele followed her heart and her passion for food, wine and events back to Napa, and became special events director for Rutherford Hill, Chimney Rock and the Terlato Wine Group. In 2005, with the birth of their first child and the release of their first John Anthony wine, Michele moved on to working full time in the family business. Michele is an active supporter of the V Foundation; Wine, Women and Shoes; and Auction Napa Valley. She loves to cook, entertain and most of all spend time in their gardens with their three young children.