Our Staff









Colin "Jackrabbit" Waite, Director


The 2016-17 program year marks Colin's 14th year at the Cooper Center.  His love of nature started during his childhood in Upstate New York, exploring the fields, forests, and creeks near his home. His high school biology teacher, Mr. Coaster, sparked his interest in environmental science and a family trip west in 1994 carried him to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff in 1996. 

Colin graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science in 2000 and decided to focus on communicating environmental issues and concepts to the public at large.  This began with work on grassroots campaigns with the Fund For Public Interest Research as a Field Manager in Oregon and later Canvass Director in North Carolina, building membership and political support for such groups as Sierra Club, Human Rights Campaign, and the State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGS).  In 2001, Colin's love of the West brought him to Tucson, AZ, where he worked briefly for Bookman's Entertainment Exchange before joining the staff of the Cooper Center in 2003.  He received his Master's Degree in Elementary Education from NAU in 2005.  Colin has served the Cooper Center as an Environmental Education Specialist, Program Coordinator, Assistant Director, and Director, building strong relationships with teachers across Southern Arizona and with the community at large.  He can't imagine working anywhere else.

Colin is married to University High School math teacher Leiba Schuneman and together they have 2 sons, Gavin and Sawyer, and 2 cats, Angie, and Rusty.  In addition to his duties at the Cooper Center, Colin officiates high school and youth football.  He also enjoys cooking, reading, hiking, video games, music, and movies.




Constantinos "Black Bear" Manoli, Assistant Director


Constantinos holds a BS in Renewable Natural Resources (Wildlife, Watershed and Rangeland Resources) and a Master's and PhD in Teaching and Teacher Education (Environmental Learning) from the University of Arizona. His research interests focus on children's environmental values and attitudes and their effect on ecological actions and behavior as a result of participation in educational programs.

Constantinos has worked as a visting professor and an associate researcher in the Department of Educational Sciences at the University of Cyprus (UCY). As a visiting professor, Constantinos taught undergraduate environmental science courses. As an associate researcher, his duties included the development of innovative science education with state-of-the-art technology through European-funded programs such as Science Created by You (SCY) and Global Science Labs (Go-Lab) for Inquiry Learning at School.

In parallel, during the last two years, Constantinos served as an instructor of Environmental Education and Education for Sustainable Development in the Department of Education at Frederick University. At Frederick, he taught several undergraduate and graduate courses. In addition, he supervised Frederick students' work at the Master's and PhD level and served as a committee member.

Currently, Constantinos is a University of Arizona affiliate with the Earth Education Research and Evaluation Team (ERRET) in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies. His association with the EERET dates back to its origins in 2003, when he served as a researcher and later as Team Coordinator. Constantinos has been an associate of The Institute for Earth Education since 2002 and has led numerous earth education programs (particularily Earthkeepers) at different environmenal centers both nationally and internationally. Currenty, Constantinos is the Pilot Coordinator of the Earthkeepers program at the Cyprus Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CYCERE), where the program has been translated and interpreted in Greek.

Constantinos's return to the University of Arizona and the Cooper Center fulfills the goal of a lifetime and reflects his love for the Sonoran Desert.



Kellie "Night Hawk" Sheehan, Lead Educator 

Kellie graduated from the University of Arizona in May 2016 with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Sustainable Built Environments. She specialized in sustainable landscape design and also completed a minor in sustainable plant systems. Kellie's first time working with elementary school students in an informal setting was through the UA Community and School Garden Program in which Kellie was partnered with a kindergarten teacher at Manzo Elementary to develop school garden curriculum.


Kellie has been involved in curriculum and intern development for school gardens and has also done work with agriculture education as a member of the professional agriculture sorority, Sigma Alpha. Through her sorority Kellie competed in a national challenge for agriculture education curriculum development and was named one of the finalists to win a $2,000 scholarship.


Kellie grew up in San Diego, California and moved to Tucson in 2013 to complete her bachelor's degree. Her love of working with students and her passion towards environmental education has made her appreciate how the Cooper Center encourages environmental stewardship.




Gabe "Tortoise" Gerson, Instructional Specialist

Gabe grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts, and after graduating high school, his desire to explore a new part of the country brought him to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. He graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television with a focus on Outdoor Production.


Gabe has spent many summers of his childhood attending summer camp, where his appreciation for the outdoors first began to develop. In high school he spent his summers working on volunteer projects around the world, and would later continue his natural adventures by working in various National Parks of the western United States.


At the University of Arizona, Gabe became involved with Camp Wildcat, a student-run, non-profit organization that works to provide at-risk youth in Tucson with cost-free camping trips and other outdoor recreational activities. Gabe continued to work with children in an outdoor setting at an outdoor adventure camp in Tahoe National Forest, where he designed and instructed environmental education courses, and led backpacking trips through the California wilderness.


Nothing makes Gabe happier than being able to inspire in young people a connection and passion for the natural world and its life. He feels that now more than ever there is a need for children to develop a relationship with the environment and learn how to live responsibly on our Earth. He is grateful to be part of an organization like the Cooper Center that provides students with hands-on environmental learning, creating a lasting impact on their lives.




Deanna "Aspen" Kulbeth, Green Funds Project Leader

Deanna was raised in Colorado with a family lifestyle of exploration in the natural world, especially in mountains, canyons, and deserts!  Consequently, she loves learning about literally everything and teaching others how to enjoy and use the earth resourcefully and sustainably.  Deanna feels a connection to the Aspen tree because, like her, it also thrives in mountainous places!
As an undergraduate at Brigham Young University in Utah, she studied Recreation Management and Youth Leadership.  Following her studies, she traveled and taught in Canada and worked for the Boy Scouts of America in Texas. Along the way, Deanna witnessed just how critical environmental education is for children and society, and that it was largely missing from most school curriculum. 
Looking at this as a new direction for her life’s journey, she began attending classes with various organizations that highlighted informal learning and promoted environmental knowledge being taught in schools.  To engage more fully in this effort, Deanna chose to pursue a graduate degree in Teaching and Teaching Education, with an emphasis in Environmental Learning, at the University of Arizona. 
After moving to Tucson in August 2017, she also started working as a manager for the Cooper Center’s educational project that is funded through the Green Fund at the University of Arizona.  Deanna leads a team of student undergraduate workers in bringing the educational component from the Cooper Center into collaborative partnerships and sustainable initiatives with student organizations across campus.  She delights in this opportunity to help others develop environmentally responsible behaviors, connect to the natural world, and attain a more comprehensive view of life on Earth.



Ryan "Dubu" Shortal, Peace Corp Fellow

Ryan Shortal is from St. Louis, Missouri. He earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Missouri in 2009 and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Environmental Engineering at the University of Arizona as a Peace Corps Coverdell Fellow while working part time at the Cooper Center.

Ryan served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the United Republic of Tanzania in East Africa from 2013-2015 where he worked as an Education Development Facilitator teaching Biology to rural secondary school students. Additionally, he helped develop students' critical thinking skills through the creation of a science club, whose members met weekly to investigate scientific concepts using limited materials available in the local environment. He was given the nickname "Dubu" (Swahili for "Bear") during his time in Tanzania.

Ryan has worked in Education in several capacities in addition to teaching high school Biology in Tanzania. While living in Colorado, he volunteered at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC) where he worked as a snow skiing instructor, teaching skiing to individuals of all ages and abilities, including veterans with physical disabilities, children and teenagers with developmental disabilities, and at-risk youth populations.  During high school, Ryan worked as a summer camp counselor for teenagers with developmental disabilities and remembers it as the best job he's ever had. When he learned about the Cooper Center, he knew it would be the perfect place to continue cultivating his love of teaching and the outdoors.



Green Funds Team, University of Arizona