Executive Director and founder of Growing Leaders Long time teacher, chef and gardener extraordinaire!
Matt is the founder of Growing Leaders and he is the heart and soul of the garden and cooking programs at Willard Middle School. This is his 26th year teaching gardening and cooking at Willard.
Matt started as an Americorps Vista helping run school gardens at 6 different BUSD school sites. He began making soup, salad and pizza with his students and the idea for a cooking program was born. Over the years Matt has built this program up from a school garden into cooking classes, a summer program, food pantry, and high school internship program. When faced with budget cuts, Matt started the non-profit, Growing Leaders, to add a business element to the cooking program. When Matt is not in the kitchen or garden he can often be found on the Ultimate Frisbee field coaching the Bay Area Women's Team Fury to another National Championship or spending time with his family and 2 daughters.
Head Teacher-Growing Leaders
After spending time teaching Science at Willard Middle School, Malcolm X, and Berkeley High School, Debra is back at Willard this year as our head Growing Leaders teacher.
Debra left her hometown of Los Angeles to move up to Berkeley for college. While there she enjoyed cooking for large groups in the co-ops with friends. Shortly after finishing college she worked at Nabolom Bakery where she fell in love with baking and learned how to make every type of baked good imaginable. She then switched to being a science teacher where her cooking skills came in handy as she incorporated cooking chemistry into her curriculum. Now she gets to combine her skills in baking, cooking, gardening and science at Growing Leaders.
Debra enjoys spending time in water, especially the Klamath River on her stand up paddle board. Debra also stays busy with her family of 4 kids along with their 30 chickens, 2 dogs, and 2 cats.
Head Cooking Teacher
Susanne has been with working Growing Leaders for 24 years! She's been here from the beginning and we could not run this amazing program without her. She is the founding cooking teacher and has been teaching cooking to our students since 1999. She loves teaching at Growing Leaders because she loves to see students get excited about school and cooking. Her favorite days with students are meal prep days when all the students are engaged and busy in the kitchen helping to prepare the meal.
Originally Susanne is from Denmark but moved to the U.S. in 1980 where she studied Natural Healing and Cooking with the Kushi Institute and became a cooking teacher. She then moved to California to study yoga and eventually she owned her own catering business in San Francisco for many years. Susanne has a passion for natural foods and vegetarian cooking. In her free time she likes to cook, practice yoga, read, knit and spend time with her grandson.
Hailey manages our Willard garden and this is her 4th year working with Growing Leaders. She appreciates Growing Leaders because it gives students the opportunity to be agents of change within their lives and larger community. Tending to and taking care of the land, harvesting food, and cooking meals together gives students powerful knowledge and skills that they can bring into their everyday lives.
Hailey has a degree in Public Health and Nutrition from Southern Connecticut University. She has tended to several community gardens and urban farms in New Haven, Connecticut. When Hailey is not in the garden, she loves to hike, camp, read, and spend time with family.
Teacher- Growing Leaders
This is Amy's 2nd year working with the Growing Leaders Program. She is a 20+ year public school teacher in Oakland and in San Francisco and has taught grade K-12 over the years. After teaching high school Spanish for several years in SF she switched gears and started teaching Making and Design. She ran a Maker Space at Lighthouse Community Public School in Oakland, teaching Making, Art & Design for over a decade to K-8th grade students. She loves working with alternative education and in creative spaces that are student centered and teach real life skills. When she's not in the kitchen at Growing Leaders she is often coaching girls' soccer, paddling with her outrigger canoe team, baking or spending time with her 2 daughters.