Woolman Staff and Board

Staff Listing 

Amy Cooke, Executive Director
Amy came to the Woolman campus with her husband Chamba and daughter Nora in 2000 as Head of School of John Woolman School. Fifteen months later, the four-year boarding program was suspended and the vision for The Woolman Semester was born. Amy continued in her role as Head of School until 2005, and she stayed on staff until 2006, when she and Chamba built a home next to the school. After a brief stint in the film industry, Amy and Chamba bought Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli in nearby Grass Valley. Serving food in the community and connecting with local farms became a second passion. As she returns to Woolman after a 10 year hiatus, she marvels as the full circle her life has taken.

   Laura Carroll, Marketing Director
Laura was raised in Nevada County in a large family of outdoor enthusiasts. From a young age Laura harbored a sense of belonging among the tall trees and large granite slabs that cover the Sierra Nevada landscape. After high school Laura relocated to Humboldt County to pursue her education. Growing up in the Sierra Nevada and being surrounded by enthusiastic environmental stewards as a child brought Laura to a degree in Ecological Restoration and a deep understanding and appreciation for the natural systems upon which we rely. Laura has since returned home to pursue a vision of a sustainable future.
Xylem Larla Dey, Programs Director
Xylem has lived on Nisenan land in these Sierra Foothills for fifteen years, and is thrilled to bring her passions for outdoor education, curriculum development, and youth empowerment to the beautiful campus of Woolman. Xylem earned a Master's degree in Education from CSU Chico, with her thesis project in pedagogical design for an environmental high school. She has held positions as a youth backpacking guide, teen leadership camp director, and as an LGBTQ+ youth mentor. Xylem is a practitioner of NVC, and has a long history of environmental activism and social justice work as an ally in indigenous-led spaces. She is an herbalist, gardener, and writer, who loves dancing, drumming, and singing in her free moments.
   Jessica Haro, Operations Manager 
Jessica grew up in a small town in Northern Germany. She spent a student exchange year in the Bay Area and fell in love with San Francisco. After graduating high school, she hurried up to come back and that was 30 years ago. Jessica holds a BA in International Relations from San Francisco State University and has spent the last 10 years supporting CEO's in tech and helping make Augmented and Virtual Reality apps. Her life completely changed when moving to Grass Valley on a whim. She now loves the new contemplative pace her life has taken and hosts spiritual retreats at her home. At Woolman, she uses her cat herding skills to further the new and exciting ways Woolman is taking.
Sonja Feinberg, Camp Director & Outreach Coordinator
Sonja first came to Woolman as a Semester School student in 2013. After falling in love with the pastures, ponderosa pines, and uniquely supportive community she has returned each summer to work at Camp Woolman, both as a counselor and Teen Camp Co-Director. She now comes to Woolman as the Outdoor School and Camp Woolman Outreach Coordinator. After three seasons of working at outdoor schools in Colorado and Oregon, she is excited to bring her passion for outdoor education to such a magical community, and to work year round on making Camp Woolman the best that it can be.
   Chris Benfield, Maintenance Supervisor
Chris Benfield grew up in the north of England. His interest in art led him to move to New York in the 90s after completing  a B.A. in Fine Art (Painting) at Wimbledon Art School. After moving to San Francisco during the Dot Com Boom he became involved in activism via Art & Revolution's street theater and prop making for demonstrations.  Burning Man was a main focus for him for many years with its large art building through collectivism and wild, edgy possibilities, until a spiritual hunger that couldn't be satisfied in the desert, demanded a grounding in earth based traditions which he has been devoted to for the last 10 years.
Sarah, Bookkeeper
Sarah grew up on Banner with her grandparents, where she enjoyed long walks on the Cascade Canal Trail. At 19 she decided to move to the Sacramento area to start a family. During her time away she acquired degrees in Biology and Natural Science and lived in Santa Cruz. As her children grew, Sarah realized that she really wanted her children to be able to experience the beauty and tranquility of her hometown of Nevada County. Sarah homeschooled her children for a few years, where they were involved in Fox Walkers, Sierra Streams Institute, and Food Love Farm. Sarah is now in the process of acquiring an Accounting degree.
   Hilary Ellis-Lavigne, Housekeeper
Hilary came to Woolman in 2006 as an intern. She has taught Nonviolent Communication, has worked many hours in the kitchen and the garden, still cooks for camp and other events, and is also Woolman's housekeeper. Prior to her Woolman days she worked as a professional actress, an Outward Bound Instructor and a white water raft guide. She was co-owner and operator of G.A.I.N. Inc. (Growth and Adventure in Nature), an outdoor adventure team-building business. She was born in Yaddlethorpe, England, grew up in Derbyshire, rescued worms from the garden pond, bred rats and guinea pigs, walked dogs, and rode horses and motorcycles.

Board of Directors

Sandra Schwartz, Clerk
Sandra is an activist, social worker, member of a Quaker Meeting for 34 years, mother, friend, passionate about social justice and progressive education. She joined the CPFEA Board because she wanted to support the effort to offer a progressive educational model based on justice, peace and sustainability with a healthy dose of Quaker values to high school students. She was particularly intrigued by the partnership with MetWest and other Big Picture schools. She loved the idea of including urban youth in an experience that is often only available to the privileged, meaning people who know how to find and access these kinds of programs.
   Dan Shoemaker, Board Member
Dan Shoemaker brings with him to the board more than twenty years of experience in higher education, and a passion for values-driven institutions. Dan holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of New Mexico, a Master’s degree in Popular Culture from Bowling Green State University, and a BA in Communications and Media Arts from Antioch College. Dan is also a 1990 alumnus of the Scholar Intern Program at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, in Atlanta, where he studied the history of the Civil Rights movement and Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence.
Sarah Tyrrell, Treasurer
Sarah graduated from John Woolman School in 1978.  She has been active on the CPFEA board for many years, and is a dedicated and ardent supporter of all things Woolman! Sarah is a Release Engineer, currently working with Cisco Corporation.  
   John Inman, Recording Clerk
John has had five years of experience in the environmental science industry. His skill set includes environmental modelling,GIS analysis, stream flow and water quality monitoring, wetland delineations, and plant and wildlife surveys. 
Pat Phillips, Member at Large
Bio pending.