Sara Street, Executive Director
Sara begins her career with High Park Nature Centre in late November 2017. She is excited to join a very passionate and dedicated team of volunteers and staff at the centre. With over 6 years’ experience in the role of Executive Director with the Wye Marsh in Midland, ON Sara is eager to continue to connect people with nature. Having grown up on a small farm in Simcoe County Sara has always been connected to nature. This translated into an academic career focused on the environment with a Bachelor’s of Science majoring in Zoology and an Ecosystem Management Technology Diploma. Over her years’ experience in a management role Sara has also developed a passion for coaching and leadership. She finds helping members of her team thrive and succeed to be very rewarding and at the same time contributes to organizational success – a true Win/Win. In her free time Sara likes to hike, canoe/kayak, do yoga and take photos in nature.
Jon Hayes, Program Director
Jon Hayes is an outdoor educator with a particular fondness for moths, bats, plants and tiny things. Working as a nature interpreter at the High Park Nature Centre since spring 2007, Jon explores ways for people of all ages to appreciate and connect with nature. Jon loves photographing High Park’s nature. Take a look at some of his photos here! Jon is an apple connoisseur and his favourite smell in High Park is white pine needles on the forest floor.
Jaime Wu, Office Administrator
Jaime is super excited to support the amazing team of creative program coordinators and passionate educators at HPNC. She brings over ten years of experience in administration, plus a couple other nifty skills, like pie making and front-end coding. When she isn’t organizing stuff, Jaime is climbing the escarpment on two wheels, feeding her Red Wigglers, staring at her unfinished knitting project, and working in her garden – not all at the same time.
Full-time Teaching Staff
Katrina Maurer, School Programs Coordinator
Katrina began working at the Nature Centre in 2011. Working her way through the ranks from Naturalist Intern to School Programs Coordinator, Katrina is a lover of all things High Park. She enjoys experiencing the natural world through crafts and play. When not enjoying the Great Outdoors hiking, camping or cycling, Katrina can usually be found at home knitting.
Mallory Parks, Camps and Community Programs Coordinator
Mallory is a cyclist, nature-lover, and global trekker. A graduate of the University of Toronto Master of Forest Conservation program, she has explored through the forests of New Zealand, Latin America, and the North American west coast. Her newest adventure involves the urban jungle of Toronto, where she hopes to spread her passion for conservation, environmental education and stewardship in the amazing wilderness that is High Park.
Julie Read, Community Programs Coordinator
Julie started volunteering at the Nature Centre because she loves spending as much time as she can in High Park. She joined the Nature Centre full-time in February 2015. Julie is a qualified teacher with a background in outdoor education and social justice who considers it a privilege to help everyone from babies to seniors foster a deeper connection to the natural world. She was raised in a house in the forest by two Naturalist parents who took her birding in Point Pelee every spring (even before she could walk), proving that her love of nature has been a lifelong adventure. In 2016, she developed a new program called Urban Naturalists, a biweekly Nature Club for adults. Julie is a member of the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario and has also presented at their annual conference Make Peace with Winter. When not at the Nature Centre, Julie is often found hanging out on Toronto Islands, riding her bicycle, dancing or making music.
Chantale Spencer, Naturalist Teacher & Volunteer Coordinator
Chantale began volunteering for High Park Nature Centre in early 2014 and joined as staff in the summer of 2014 . She has an bachelor degree in Psychology and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto. She has over 10 years experience developing and implementing children’s programming across the city.
Chantale was drawn to High Park Nature Centre due to her love of children and connecting them to nature. She especially loves exploring High Park in the spring when the spring ephemerals appear and the park seems to come alive again after the winter. In her spare time she loves crafting, knitting, yoga and gardening.
Kami Valkova, Communications Coordinator & Program Instructor
Having recently completed a Master of Education degree studying outdoor integrated programs in Ontario, Kami is excited to be trading in her computer and textbooks for binoculars and field guides. She has been engaging youth and adults in various educational programming since 2009 and has no plans to slow down: she hopes to help others make meaningful connections with the natural world when they visit the High Park Nature Centre. Kami’s favourite thing to do in nature is learn about and identify fungi, and the coolest thing she has done is kayak with beluga whales in Churchill, MB! In her spare time, you can find Kami rock climbing, hiking, painting, or burying her nose in a good book.
, Nature Interpreter
I began volunteering in winter 2014 at the Nature Centre to share my love and fascination of the natural world. Currently I am finishing my Masters of Science at the University of Toronto studying plant leaf structure to estimate carbon uptake for climate change modelling. I grew up spending lots of time on the Niagara Escarpment where my curiosity for all things nature first blossomed, and am so happy to be sharing and sparking this same curiosity with everyone at the Nature Centre while helping build connections between children and adults to our local ecosystems. When not in the park, I spend my time making stained glass creations, writing, and exploring our city and beyond. My favourite part of High Park is witnessing the small signs of nature when the seasons begin to change, and seeing the kids’ faces light up through outdoor learning and play.
Antoine Boyer, Nature Interpreter
Antoine is a recent graduate from Dalhousie University where he studied environmental engineering. Hailing from Alberta, he fell in love with the outdoors through family explorations in the Rocky Mountains. He is curious about the movement of water and finds himself following it on foot or in a canoe through wetlands, rivers, lakes and even oceans. Antoine previously worked leading hikes through the Canadian Rockies and canoe trips in the northern Canadian Shield for youth. Through these experiences he developed an understanding of the value of connecting youth to their natural ecosystem. In this regard, High Park is a perfect space to explore new plants, bugs, vegetation and fauna. Antoine is excited to develop new connections to the natural environment that surrounds him in his new home!
Chanel joined the Nature Centre team as a volunteer in the winter of 2015 and teaching intern in the spring of 2016. She is a graduate from Queen’s Faculty of Education and is currently qualified to teach primary and junior grade levels in Ontario. Paired with her undergraduate degree in Biology and Psychology, Chanel is passionate about engaging students in curriculum-based experiential learning beyond the classroom. Inspired by her mother, a former educator and father, an avid naturalist, Chanel loves connecting students to meaningful moments in nature everyday.
Cindy Hignett, Nature Interpreter
I fell in love with High Park when I moved to Toronto in 2009 – so much that I moved right beside it! I started as a volunteer at the Nature Centre and I’ve been fortunate to spend many of my days exploring with school groups, clubs, birthday parties and family nature walks.
I graduated from Sir Sandford Fleming College in 2003 with diplomas in Terrain & Water and Environmental Technology. Since then I have worked for environmentally conscious not-for-profits, conservation authorities with a focus on restoration, aquatics, watersheds and wetlands, and a few years as an archaeologist.
Haya is a recent graduate of the Environmental Sciences program at the University of Guelph. She has lived most of her life in Mississauga but has recently moved to Toronto and is excited to learn more about the natural history and biodiversity of the city. Having spent about two months in British Columbia as an Avian Rehabilitation Intern, Haya is particularly fond of birds. Through her academic background, she is highly passionate about the relationships between people and the environment making High Park the ideal place for her to share her excitement in creating memorable outdoor experiences and generating interest in nature.
Lesley Marino, Nature Interpreter
After 15 years in adult education, Lesley is transferring her teaching skills to the children’s outdoor education programs at the Nature Centre. She fell in love with the programming after her son started in Nature Babies and began volunteering soon after. Lesley has a Masters degree in Geography from the University of Waterloo and is currently completing her Masters of Teaching at OISE. She has always had a strong interest in conservation, environmental issues, place-based learning, and animal rights. Lesley is also a photographer and enjoys camping, collecting acorns, exploring High Park, and spending time with her family.
Magali Meagher, Nature Interpreter
Magali fell in love with the High Park Nature Centre after participating in Nature Babies with her daughter. Since moving to the area 12 years ago she has been drawn to the ecology and social history of the park, the traditional territory of the Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and Mississaugas of the New Credit. As an artist and musician Magali has participated and led imaginative projects that bring diverse people together with their environments for over 15 years. She is currently completing a Masters degree in Environmental Studies at York University with a focus on Environmental Education.
, Nature Interpreter
Laura Nguyen has a bachelor’s degree in Forest Conservation from the University of Toronto and is happy to share what she has learned with eager stewards in the High Park community. She is back after previously working with the HPNC for 2 years and excited to continue to help others connect with the natural world. In all her years of academia, she has learned that nothing can replace the precious learning moments that come from engaging, hands-on outdoor education.
Kristina Banatova, Nature Interpreter
Kristina joined wonderful HPNC team to learn more about Toronto’s ecosystems and to contribute to the restoration of the relationship between humans and nature. After traveling throughout Europe and North America, she decided to dedicate her life to nature preservation with a career in Landscape Architecture. Since 2015, Kristina has been organizing canoe tours to Algonquin Park and engaging hundreds of international people of all ages into educational camping activities. Traveling, assisting children with special needs and teaching people about natural world have inspired Kristina to work in the Nature Centre, and to continue raising environmental awareness through outdoor education. In her spare time Kris enjoys painting, reading non-fiction, hiking and canoeing with loons.
Sebastian has been working in environmental education since 2011. He began as an instructor with Toronto Region Conservation Authority’s Outreach team. Sebastian returned to school in 2017 to pursue a master’s degree in education at York University specializing in environmental education and exploring themes of sustainability. In addition to being an instructor at the High Park Nature Centre, Sebastian also delivers programs at the McMichael Art Collection in Kleinburg. Sebastian looks forward to exploring high park and getting to meet students who enjoy being outdoors as much as he does.