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Escuela Verde
3628 W Pierce Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“Education either functions
as an instrument to...bring about conformity or it
becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate
in the transformation of their world" ~Paulo Freire




2017-2018 Printable Application

2017-2018 Printable Application Spanish

Child Find Notice

Child Find Notice Spanish




Learn more about our advisors.

Escuela Verde staff come from diverse backgrounds, but all share the same belief: that education is the key to personal liberation, that students must be owners of their education, and that learning is a life-long journey we are all traveling. All of our certified educational advisors are not only expert in their fields (some hold or are completing Master’s and PhD degrees), they are passionate about sustainability, student-led learning, and restorative justice. All have many years of teaching experience and comply with DPI standards.

2017-2018 Staff

Roberta “Bobbi” Aguero
Honorary Advisor

With over 20 years of experience as an educational reformer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Roberta “Bobbi” Aguero, has worked in
a variety of venues for school improvement and student success. She has been a middle/high school teacher, administrator, and consultant for over 20 years. Her areas of expertise emerged during her tenure as a “trouble shooter.” She was hired to “turn around” schools in jeopardy of being shut down into successful schools.

She coordinated professional development and educational research for Milwaukee and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) through the University of Wisconsin Center for Urban Community Development (CUCD). She was the research coordinator for CUCD contracted by CPS to conduct a full-scale efficacy evaluation for 55 new small alternative schools. She was Co Director of the Technical Assistance and Leadership Center (TALC) who received a 17.2 million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund planning, implementation and technical assistance for 60 new small schools in Milwaukee, WI. Among other places, she has provided consulting services for schools in Mississippi, Louisiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois. South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

In addition to these activities,She has served on the Committee to develop Technology curriculum standards for Wisconsin, the Truancy Prevention Coalition for the State of Wisconsin, City of Milwaukee Youth Pregnancy Prevention Coalition and the Wisconsin Environmental Education Strategic Plan for Environmental Literacy and Sustainable Communities.


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Jean Carlo Aleman 
Kitchen Coordinator


Zaynab Baalbaki
Advisor -- Social Studies & District Assessment Coordinator 

Zaynab Baalbaki is extremely passionate about social justice, and especially about social justice in education. Her passion as a social justice advocate stems from her various experiences.

 Zaynab was born and raised in Milwaukee's south side.  She attended UW-Madison, where she double majored in Elementary Education and Sociology and double minored in Educational Policy Studies and Chican@ & Latin@ Studies. During her time at UW-Madison she was able to study/teach abroad in London through the University of Roehampton. Additionally, she participated in an undergraduate research program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Next, she started her graduate school in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, but finished her graduate school at Marquette University in College Student Personnel Administration. Zaynab was one of two people selected for a graduate internship in the Middle East at American University of Kuwait. Prior to working at Escuela Verde, she worked at Northwestern University.

Zaynab enjoys playing and watching soccer. Cooking and trying new restaurants is one of her favorite pastimes. Traveling is another passion for Zaynab. She has been to 9 different countries. Camping, biking and grilling out are her favorite outdoor activities. She has four brothers and one sister. Zaynab is Lebanese and Mexican. Multilingual/Multiethnic/Multicultural.

Max Balan
Advisor -- Sustainable Facilities Coordinator

Max Balan lived the first part of his life in Moldova and landed in Milwaukee in 1994. After spending many years working as a facilities coordinator and handy man, he comes to Escuela Verde with a lot of passion to make the world a better place – through hard work, intentional decision-making, and meaningful relationships. 

Max believes that just about anything can be fixed
or built with time, intention, hard work, and critical thought. He is excited to work with young people to both learn from them and to teach them in a collaborative partnership so we can all move forward even better than we are today.


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Laurel Cutright

Laurel comes to Escuela Verde excited to learn from the amazing staff and students, and co-create a vibrant, welcoming community. 
Laurel was raised in Wisconsin and spent most of her childhood reading or playing outside. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, Morris (a small liberal arts school out on the prairie), she fell into the world of Environmental Education. She worked with youth to restore native habitats in Minneapolis & St Paul before becoming an educator at the Urban Ecology Center. She is eager to develop a sense of place in the natural spaces surrounding Escuela Verde.   
Her hobbies haven't changed much since childhood. She can be seen biking all over the city, gardening in her community garden, watching moonrise over Lake Michigan, or attending workshops about racial justice, history, and science. Each week she looks forward to a Sunday night potluck with friends. 

George Giannaras
Advisor -- English & Restorative Justice

George is a Milwaukee native, who is eager to bring his passion for social justice education to Escuela Verde. Having studied Secondary English Education at the University of Wisconsin-
Madison, he has had the pleasure of returning to his home city to work as a middle and high school teacher within Milwaukee Public Schools. His practice is largely informed by critical and culturally sustaining pedagogy. He has also earned a certificate in Alternative Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

While teaching, George recognized the unique needs of LGBTQ+ students in the Milwaukee area, and in seeking ways to foster and support this community, he began work as the Coordinator of Youth Programs at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. Looking to unite the fields of education and community activism, he is excited to have found Escuela Verde as a home that so authentically combines these two worlds.

In his free time, George likes to delve into his many nerdy fandoms (X-Men, Pokémon, & Game of Thrones to name a few), watch excessive amounts of streaming television, and connect with friends and loved ones.

Cynthia Gonzalez
Advisor -- Bilingual Education & Parent/Caregiver Engagement

Cynthia Gonzalez is a strong advocate for maintaining bilingual education in secondary school settings. Her extensive educational experiences with youth align with Escuela Verde’s vision to provide transformative education as a way to engage students in learning. She believes that students are agents of change and are able to actively participate in critical issues surrounding their communities.

Her capacity at Escuela Verde as an Advisor involves guiding students forge their own learning path and provide students with learning opportunities inside and outside the school environment. Her collective administrative roles include, student enrollment and recruitment, parent engagement, and development of bilingual program. Cynthia's research interest include language acquisition, bilingual and bi-cultural education, bi-literacy development, urban education, identity and culture, sustainability and environmental education.

Cynthia received her Bachelors from Alverno College in 2009 and a masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in 2016. She is researching how translanguaging as a pedagogical practice affect students’ bilingualism/biliteracy development and culture identity. She is a proponent of students reading, writing and speaking in their native language and cultivating an environment where this is the norm. She is part of the Latino task force of United Way of greater Milwaukee, currently sits on the board of Serve Marketing and is an active volunteer to many non-profit organizations.

She balances her life as an educator with biking, running, cooking/baking, reading, Netflix, and connecting with loved ones. Cynthia has traveled to several countries in South America, where she dreams to live and teach someday. She has a seven-year-old nephew who she adores and inspires her daily work.

Elizabeth Gonzalez
Advisor -- Administrative Coordinator

Elizabeth Gonzalez is excited and honored to be part of the excellent team at Escuela Verde. It is a privilege for Elizabeth to work with the students and parents of Escuela Verde.

Past positions she has held in the community have included work as a Bilingual English/Spanish Medical Interpreter. She has worked and volunteered in different clinics. She is delighted to be serving others! As a descendant of a Mexican family, she thanks her parents for teaching her the values and principles of life.

She loves spending time with her wonderful husband and two loving, caring children. Her oldest is a 9th grader that attends EV, and plans to graduate from there. She has always believed that the key to success is education and that our youth are our future.

Community Dog

Honey loves the days she gets to spend at Escuela Verde. Several students created a workshop to help her become an emotional therapy dog, and now she spends every Tuesday and Thursday working at school. Her goal is to help make everyone here as happy as they can be, and while doing so is happy herself. Her favorite subjects are wellness and lunch. Her hobbies are playing fetch, spending time with her family, canoe camping and chasing frogs in the pond on her land.

Kristal Krebs
Advisor -- Reading Specialist & Food Coordinator

This bio is coming soon.


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Laura Portillo 
Special Education Paraprofessional

Luisa Mejia
Building Caregiver

Luisa es oriunda del estado más bonito de México, Jalisco- que lleno de montañas y vida en todas partes dejó en ella toda esa alegría y belleza. Hoy Luisa nos regala su herencia todas las tardes con su gracia y amor cuidando de nuestra escuela.

Luisa llegó a Escuela Verde buscando un lugar donde sus hijas pudieran crecer más allá de lo académico y convertirse en personas que dirijan sus caminos según sus convicciones. Si nuestra escuela provee un ambiente acogedor y pacífico, es porque Luisa mantiene en mente que el ambiente educativo es crucial para el desempeño de los estudiantes y así contribuye ella a nuestra comunidad.

Luisa is originally from the most beautiful state of Mexico, Jalisco - which full of mountains and life everywhere left in her all that joy and beauty. Luisa gifts us her inheritance every afternoon with her grace and love taking care of our school.

Luisa arrived at Escuela Verde looking for a place where her daughters could grow beyond the academic and become people who lead their paths according to their convictions. If our school provides a welcoming and peaceful environment, it is because Luisa keeps in mind that the educational environment is crucial for student performance and this is her contribution to her community.

Alexandra Nichole Salazar
Advisor -- Emergent Bilingual Coordinator

Alexandra Nichole Salazar (Niki) is from the Rio Grande Valley, a border town in South Texas. She studied Literature, Culture and Media, and Philosophy at Eugene Lang, The New School for Liberal Arts in New York City.

Her focus of research is intersectional in that she connects queer, trans, social, feminist, reproductive, and environment justice. She is committed to empowering her community through education and activism.

Walter Sams
Advisor -- Math & Technology

A native of Northeastern Ohio, Walter has worked and been educated all over the U.S. Some of his notable previous employers are the National Audubon Society, 4-H, Y.M.C.A., Northern Illinois University, Stanislaus County Office of Education, and Milwaukee’s own Urban Ecology Center. An Associate’s Degree in Natural and Historical Interpretation from Hocking College helped get him started in the field of Environmental Education. Most recently, Walter earned his teaching credentials from the University of Wisconsin: Milwaukee.

Walter Sams comes to Escuela Verde from the world of informal Environmental Education. His 10+ years teaching students of all walks of life about science, history, and interpersonal relationships by exploring the outdoors contributes to his outlook and attitudes about personalized learning. The ultimate decision to bring his attention indoors to the young people of Milwaukee has been a long time coming and he has enjoyed settling in this fine city.

Walter currently resides in the Silver City neighborhood with his wife and 2-year old hound Cooper. He looks forward to Escuela Verde’s move into his neighborhood and enjoys watching the positive changes happening in the surrounding area.

Bethany Vannest
Advisor -- English & Special Education

Bethany Vannest has had many different job titles throughout her life, but the ones she likes the most – and the ones that fit her best – are student and educator. Her belief that literature has the power to free minds led her to pursue a BA from the University
of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in English Literary and Critical Studies and Women’s Studies in 2005. A passion to share her belief compelled her to complete a certification in Secondary English Education in 2011. And the passion to make education more just and accessible for learners of all kinds led her to add a license in Cross-Categorical Special Education in 2013.

 She has been involved in various capacities in a feminist bookstore, a natural foods cooperative, a bakery cooperative, a small farm, and a farmers market – all experiences that have contributed to her views that education happens everywhere, learning doesn’t end when the school day does, and teaching is not reserved only for those deemed “highly qualified”. 

While Bethany enjoys biking through many different neighborhoods in Milwaukee, her heart and home lie in the Baran Park neighborhood, where she hangs out with her husband, one little cats, one giant dog, and a garden full of weeds. 


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Joey Zocher, PhD
Advisor -- Science & Community Engagement

With nearly twenty years of urban science teaching experience, Joey is a passionate teacher researcher with scholarly interests
in ecopedagogical praxis and scientific literacy with urban youth.

Joey believes Escuela Verde’s student-centered, project-based learning approach to teaching and learning is the missing link
to student success. Through integrating sustainability and restorative justice into a school-wide curriculum, students not
only have the ability to make learning relevant to their lives,
but are encouraged to take action for positive change in their communities. Drawing from her experience as the Urban
Ecology Center’s Washington Park program director, she is passionate about including community voice and resources
 to provide authentic experiences for all students.

Joey’s hobbies include playing music in several independent bands, playing roller derby with the Brewcity Bruisers and spending time with family and friends restoring native prairie, wetlands and creating a permaculture orchard on a small plot of land in central Wisconsin. p> Joey received her B.S. in biology, psychology, women’s studies and secondary education and M.S. in environmental education at UW-Stevens Point. She completed her Ph.D. in Urban Education with a specialization in curriculum and instruction and science at UW-Milwaukee.  She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on curriculum ideologies and science pedagogy at UW-Milwaukee and has been an active board member for numerous local, state and national boards including Milwaukee Urban Gardens, Brewcity Bruisers, Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education and the North American Association for Environmental Education’s Environmental Justice Special Interest Group