Charaf Abourached was born and grew up in the beautiful city of Marrakech, in Morocco. When he was young he helped on his great uncle’s farm that had vegetables and olive, apple, and orange trees. This awakened Charaf’s love of food and spices and his drive to give back to his surroundings. A person of many interests, Charaf has run a restaurant, made public art and giant puppets and sculpture, built his own furniture, and used to teach P.E. at LHA before joining the garden team. He loves to learn, and is excited to combine his experiences with food and farming in Morocco with growing practices in the U.S.. He is confident that in his classes students will take care of each other and learn life skills that they will be able to use throughout their lives. In his homelife, he is often immersed in one of his many hobbies, like woodworking or drawing.
A native New Orleanian, Claudia Barker comes from an Italian family with a love of good cooking and enjoying food in community. A strong proponent of teaching children where food comes from and how to prepare it in healthy ways, she also believes that we can change the world by attending to children’s social and emotional needs and teaching them respect for life. When Claudia’s not leading the charge for development and communications at FirstLine and ESYNOLA, she can be found reading and writing, hanging out on her screened porch with family and friends, or walking in City Park with her dog, Red Bean.
Lead Chef Teacher, Green
Megan Brummer grew up in Colorado, has lived in Iowa and Washington D.C., but New Orleans is her heart and forever home. She earned her Masters in Social Work and Public Health at Tulane University. Megan worked in the HIV social work field before finding her calling in culinary education. As a chef educator, she is passionate about cooking and trying new foods, exploring other cultures and cuisines, eating for joy and nourishment, the trouble with sugar, and the necessity of salt. She believes our work promotes equity, and has the power to decrease violence, increase educational success, and foster happiness in students’ lives. When she’s not in the teaching kitchen, Megan might be lifting heavy things, running as fast as she can, listening to live music, or eating and laughing with her family.
Angel Chung Cutno
Lead Garden Teacher, LHA
Angel Chung Cutno, a fifth generation Louisianian, is from an Afro Asian home in LaPlace. Growing up, she loved to eat the harvest from her father’s fruit and vegetable garden, and to invent skin products from the same harvest with her mom. Angel has channelled her upbringing into a legacy of investing in youth. She has developed project-based curriculum for several organizations and has been in and out of classrooms for the last ten years. Angel is passionate about guiding children to the dirt to connect with the earth and those who came before us. She believes that the skills and wisdom we pass onto children today have long-term positive ripple effects on them physically, mentally, and spiritually. When she’s not teaching, she’s beading with the Black Seminole Black Masking Indians, playing music, cruising on her skates or bike or longboard, or learning survival skills like archery or making tools.
Associate Garden Teacher, Green
Associate Kitchen Teacher, Green
Associate Garden Teacher, Ashe
Lead Garden Teacher, Ashe
Lead Garden Teacher, Green
Zach O’Donnell, the son of science teachers in Chicago, has been an educator since 2006. He has a science teaching certificate from San Francisco State University, a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, and a B.S. in Biology from Saint Louis University. Before joining ESYNOLA, Zach lived in Mozambique where he worked as a field agronomist. Using gardens as educational spaces combines Zach’s passions for science, growing food, education, and playing in the dirt. When he’s not teaching garden classes or laying under trees and looking up, he is probably going for a very long run.
Director of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans
Originally from Mobile, AL, Kerrie Partridge grew up in a family of gardeners and fishermen. After exploring teaching children in sculptural welding, dance, and Montessori pre-school, Kerrie earned her B.A. in Education and Human Development from the University of New Orleans. After years as a school teacher, Kerrie became interested in the ways social determinants of health impacted children’s learning and development. This led her to a Masters in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from Tulane University. After serving children for more than 15 years, Kerrie holds the conviction that we build a strong community when we nourish children as whole and precious beings, and support them in their path to self discovery. When she is out in the world, Kerrie is a creator, dog lover, dinosaur-glitterer, dancer, star seeker, and yoga teacher.
Lead Kitchen Teacher, Ashe
Network Gardener & Volunteer Coordinator
When Jessica Spencer was a child in Los Angeles, CA, she used to lament that the vegetable garden at her elementary school went without care or use. Being able to work with ESYNOLA school gardens fulfills her childhood dream! She holds degrees in fashion design and history. Part of what fuels her work with ESYNOLA is a passion for hands-on learning outside the classroom. She believes that patience and curiosity can take a person a long way, and the garden is the perfect place to practice both. When she’s not gardening and communicating with volunteers, Jessica might be cooking with her husband and three-year-old, sewing anything from clothes to stuffed animals, tending to her indigo plants, or chipping away at her history reading list.
Lead Garden Teacher, Wheatley
Charlotte Steele hails from New Jersey, but it was in Michigan where she discovered the magic that is local food and farmers markets that inspired her lifelong love for food and the people who grow it. As an educator, she places importance on the therapeutic aspects of nature and community. Charlotte uses Emotional Freedom Techniques and other brain-based strategies to help children learn how to identify their needs and meet them self-sufficiently. She has been garden education staff at Wheatley since our program began there, and she believes that food is life. Don’t be surprised if you see the garden teacher students lovingly know as “Ms. Charlotte Cantaloupe” fiercely skating with the Big Easy Rollergirls.
Associate Garden Teacher, Wheatley
Braian (pronounced Brian) Tomé was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and grew up in Miami, FL. He first became interested in horticulture at Florida International University, where he studied environmental science. Braian has worked at farms, nurseries, and botanical gardens, and was an agriculture extension agent in the Peace Corps in Paraguay. Cultivating lush gardens and cooking and eating delicious food is Braian’s passion. He wants to live in a world where children have a deep appreciation for nature, and learn to grow their own food and cook it at home. When he’s not teaching and gardening at Wheatley, he might be playing soccer, practicing yoga, gardening and cooking at home, or running out of oxygen in a steam room.