Staff Members

Overview


 

“Asombro” is the Spanish word for “wonder,” which is exactly what the Asombro Institute’s programs bring to the thousands of children and adults who participate each year. The Asombro Institute for Science Education (formerly the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to increasing natural science literacy through engaging, place-based education.

 

To achieve this mission, we currently serve more than 22,000 K-12 students and 1,500 adults in New Mexico and West Texas with inquiry-based, science education programs each year. Programs take place in classrooms, schoolyards, and at the 935-acre Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park site located north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

 

Learn more about our programs that engage students in hands-on, scientific research by watching the video below.

 

 

Staff Members


 

 


Stephanie Bestelmeyer, Ph.D.
Executive Director
stephanie@asombro.org
As the first paid employee of the Asombro Institute for Science Education in 2000, Steph has been thrilled to help Asombro develop into a leader in K-12 science education. Steph has a Ph.D. in Biology from Colorado State University as well as a B.S. in Biology and minor in Teaching from the University of California, San Diego. Her favorite thing about working at Asombro is seeing students’ imagination and interest spark when they participate in an Asombro program. Outside of work, Steph loves hiking, running, reading, going to plays, and traveling, most often with her husband, son, and dog.

Stephanie Haan-Amato
Assistant Director
s.haan-amato@asombro.org
Stephanie joined the Asombro Institute for Science Education in March 2012. She has a BA in Environmental Studies and Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz; an MS in Wildlife Science from New Mexico State University; and an MA in Education from New Mexico State University. Stephanie worked as a biologist for several years studying a variety of organisms, from giant sequoia trees to salamanders, and then she taught high school biology for three years. At Asombro, she feels lucky to be able to share the excitement of science with students and develop ways to improve students’ critical thinking skills and understanding. Stephanie likes running, swimming, cycling, hiking, reading, and spending time outside with her husband, two children, and dog.

Emilia Linley
Program Leader:
Special Projects
emilia@asombro.org
Emilia joined Asombro in August of 2019. She grew up splitting her time between Southern California and Northern New Mexico. She holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction as well as a BA in Cultural Communication Studies, both from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. After graduating, Emilia has worked in elementary education within Las Cruces and Gadsden public school districts. She has presented at numerous science conferences for educators in Southern New Mexico and has been recognized as a science educator with the Science Tools in the Classroom Fellowship Program. Emilia’s passion for science education has been a driving force in her curriculum and instruction in the public schools and at Asombro she is able to further share her passion for hands-on science education. When not at work Emilia enjoys spending time with her family, the culinary arts of baking and cooking dishes from various cultures and regions, camping, hiking, reading various forms of literature, and watching Anime, Korean Dramas, or British programming.

Ryan Pemberton
Program Leader:
Elementary Education
ryan@asombro.org
Ryan grew up in north-central Texas before attending the University of Georgia to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Forest Resources in Forestry and one in Wildlife & Fisheries Biology. He then went back to University of Georgia to earn his Master of Natural Resources in Environmental Education. He has also worked for Nature Centers teaching all ages about the wonders that can be found in their own backyards and using nature to teach science concepts. Ryan joined the Asombro Institute for Science Education in August 2015. When he is not working, Ryan can be found reading, birding, fishing, or hiking with his dog.

Kelly Steinberg
Program Leader:
Secondary Education
kelly@asombro.org
Kelly joined Asombro in 2019 and is excited everyday she gets to share her love of science with students. Kelly grew up playing in the mountains of Northern New Mexico before heading to the University of New Mexico to study biology. She spent six years as an environmental educator in classrooms around Albuquerque and on the banks of the Rio Grande, training students to collect and analyze data to understand how local environments are changing. Kelly returned to UNM to further her own understanding of our changing landscapes and earned her Master’s degree in biology researching the impacts of climate change on the Rio Grande cottonwood trees.  As an avid hiker and backpacker she loves the opportunity to explore new parts of the Land of Enchantment, but when she’s not teaching or hiking, Kelly is often found knitting or playing the cello.

Anne Hoylman
Science Educator:
Elementary
anne@asombro.org
Anne joined The Asombro Institute in March 2020.  She is excited to combine her love of science with teaching students about the natural world. Anne grew up in West Virginia and most recently moved to New Mexico from Missouri.  She received her PhD in Ecology from the University of Tennessee and has 15 years of teaching experience of diverse students from elementary classrooms to university settings. Anne is an avid naturalist and enjoys travel, bird watching, botanizing, and hiking.  She is also an avid equestrian and loves to ride every chance she gets.

Abi Miller
Science Educator:
Abi started at the Asombro Institute in August of 2019. Abi grew up in Austin, Texas before attending Colorado State University where she completed degrees in Forest Management and Natural Resource Management. Throughout college, she worked as an environmental educator for a small nonprofit run through CSU and discovered her passion for sharing her appreciation for nature with others. After graduating, Abi continued working in environmental education at Rocky Mountain National Park where she loved working with a team of rangers, educators, and researchers to develop field trips and other educational programs. Abi is excited to experience New Mexico’s diverse outdoor opportunities through hiking, camping, swimming, backpacking, and hammocking. When not exploring nature, she can be found reading, cooking, and listening to live music.

Board Members


Justin Van Zee - President
Justin Van Zee
President
Justin works at the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range as a Soils Biologist in the National Wind Erosion Research Network group, and has been developing rangeland vegetation and soil monitoring methodologies since the mid 1990s. Since 2008 he has collaborated with scientists in Mongolia to develop a national rangeland monitoring system. He deeply believes in service and giving back to the community, and in promoting development of critical thinking skills through exploration, activity, and experimentation in nature. Justin has been volunteering for the Asombro Institute since 1995, assisting staff with curriculum development, teaching at public events, and implementing site development projects at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park.

Gene Gant
Vice President
Gene was primarily raised in a small town in Kansas. He graduated from Wichita State University in 1972 with a BBA in Economics. Gene retired as an US Army Air Defense Artillery Officer in 1990. He then worked in the corporate world until turning 66 when he figured there were better things to do with his time. Gene’s main interest now is doing what he can to help students with their education. In addition to serving on Asombro’s Board, Gene is also currently serving on the NM Public Education Commission, NM Public School Capital Outlay Council, NM State Library Commission, Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors, LCPS Foundation, and several committees for the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce. Gene also served eight years on the LCPS Board of Education.
Mark Sechrist - Secretary
Mark Sechrist
Secretary
Mark is an archaeologist who has worked in southern New Mexico, eastern Arizona, and western Texas since 1986. He joined the Asombro board in 2003 because he believes in and is inspired by the success of its mission to bring science education to students through hands-on field experiences.
Donna Yargosz - Treasurer
Donna Yargosz
Treasurer
After teaching for more than 30 years, Donna takes pleasure in giving back to the community alongside people she thinks are terrific. She helps with field trips, classroom lessons, public events, and teacher workshops, as well as translating materials into Spanish and creating new materials.

Gil Tellez
Board Member
Gil is a Master Electrician, qualifying party and Project Manager for B & H Mechanical Inc. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but was raised in Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley. Gil is currently Vice President of the National Electrical Contractors Association, a board member for the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee for electricians, as well as a board member for the new Electrical Golf Association. Whether it is hunting, fishing, camping or motor sports, Gil loves the outdoors and has a strong belief that children who spend time outdoors are healthier in body and mind. Gil contributes his time and knowledge to further the mission of the Asombro Institute and its dedication to increasing scientific literacy.