Rancho El Chorro Staff

Program Director - Celeste Royer - (805) 782-7334

CelesteCeleste Royer (Blue Sky) is the Director of Environmental Education and has been with SLOCOE for 27 years.  She directs the Rancho El Chorro Outdoor School and the CREEC Network Region 8.  Celeste serves on the Environmental Literacy Steering Committee to California Department of Education and is State Chair of the California Outdoor School Association. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience about outdoor and environmental education to the program.  Celeste also teaches Wilderness & Environmental Education at Cal Poly in the Experience Industry Management Department. Celeste received a B.S. from UCLA, an M.A. from San Francisco State University, and an M.A. at Cal Poly SLO in Educational Administration where she completed her multi-subject teaching credential coursework.  Married with two adult children, Celeste enjoys nature, family and pet time, traveling, and reading.

Administrative Assistant - Amie Linscott - (805) 782-7336

AmieAmie Linscott (Meerkat) has worked for the County Office of Education for over 20 years. She keeps herself very busy with all the “behind the scenes” work needed at Rancho El Chorro but she always find time to stick her head out of the office to enjoy the children, animals, and day-to-day magic that happens here. Meerkat has been known to cook breakfast for the students, run the student store, and write the Rancho E-newletter (all in one day)! She’s been married to her favorite guy for over 30 years, has two wonderful “big” kids, a cat and two dogs.

Naturalists - 782-7335 or 782-7336

Karen PolandKaren Poland (Wolf) grew up in Alaska and has always loved being outdoors. She attended Humboldt State University to learn more about wildlife biology. Karen then served two years in Mongolia with the U.S. Peace Corps before coming to Rancho El Chorro where she has enjoyed working for 12 years. During summer breaks, Karen likes to travel to new places and study history, culture and wildlife.


Clara GonteroClara Gontero (Owl) received her B.S. in Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. At Cal Poly, SLO, she received a M.S. in Biology, a B.S. in Applied Art & Design Photography, and her multiple subject credential. Clara enjoys hiking, backpacking, and birdwatching. She raises exotic finches as a hobby and is always willing to help injured birds and animals. The highlight of Clara’s day is to share the wonder, complexity, and beauty of the natural world with her students.

Jim LittleJim Little (Stargazer Jim) has been a Naturalist at Rancho El Chorro for 20 years. He completed a B.S. in Astronomy with a minor in Mathematics. He also completed two years of graduate school in Astronomy, Astrophysics and possesses teaching credentials from four different states including California. He loves sharing his knowledge of the night sky with students. His favorite activity is teaching in the Bubble (Starlab Planetarium). He spends his free time photographing nature and wildlife and has won many awards including Best of Show at the Mid-State Fair. He has published over 60 photos and is active in the local photography club. His primary goal at Rancho El Chorro is to make kids excited about learning.

Valerie PowellValerie Powell (Sloth) hails from the great Evergreen state of Washington where she grew up making forts and mud pies with her sister in the woods. She attended Seattle Pacific University which were some amazing years! She started her education journey teaching marine biology at the Seattle Aquarium, completing two teaching internships and studying abroad in Belize and Galapagos. Directly after college, she moved to Port Townsend for a two year AmeriCorps position working at a marine center. After the two year commitment she hopped around to various seasonal jobs until she landed on the Central Coast teaching outdoor education! In her spare time she enjoys hiking and backpacking around the area, attempting to surf, and crafting!

Norma OchsnerNorma Ochsner (Pika) inherited a love and a curiosity for nature from her grandfather and father and spent her childhood climbing trees, playing in mud puddles and pretending to be various animals in the woods of Colorado. She started out as a psychology major at CSU in Fort Collins. While studying abroad in China, she realized that many children do not have as many opportunities for nature exposure as she did as a child. Upon returning, she decided to switch her major and focus on a career in doing her small part in preventing Nature Deficit Disorder. She earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies from CU Boulder and has spent the last three years working as a Naturalist in state and county parks. She loves environmental education because of the connections it fosters between children and the natural world. She enjoys spending her spare time with her husband outside, rock climbing, trail running, hiking and reading. She is ecstatic to join the Rancho El Chorro team and begin a new life in California! 

Sharlene LucionaSharlene Lucina (Goose) developed an interest in outdoor education after stumbling upon a Field Geography class in the Yosemite backcountry. After completing her degree in Geography at Sacramento State, she worked for a global satellite imagery provider and devoted spare time as an environmental restoration volunteer. She put her navigational skills to use while fulfilling her recent goal of hiking 2,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, from California to Canada. In her free time, you can find Sharlene on her yoga mat, climbing boulders, hiking trails with her husband and beagle, or volunteering with the SLO Botanical Garden.

Maddy Dalgarn (Seahorse) fell in love with the ocean and all its critters during a family vacation to Hawaii.  She remembers learning about the conservation issues regarding all marine life and feeling a need to protect and help these incredible animals. This deep respect for animals and nature led her to pursue a degree in Biology at the University of Washington. She is excited to share her knowledge with the students at Rancho El Chorro and hopes to inspire them to conserve and protect all kinds of wildlife. In her free time, Maddy enjoys relaxing with a good book or exploring the local beaches and hiking areas.

Interns - 782-7349 or 782-7335

Lizz Atwood (Lizard) grew up by the Atlantic Ocean in Portland, Maine. Her interest in the environment began while volunteering at the yearly Common Ground Country Fair, where she did everything from sorting recycling, to leading art projects, and even coordinating speakers to present during the fair. Her history of experiential, hands-on learning as a student led to a desire to learn more about biology, culminating in a Bachelor of Applied Sciences degree from the University of Maine. As a former babysitter and library/theater/chorus volunteer, Lizz has a passion for spending time teaching and learning from kids. Her adventures and the desire to escape Maine winters brought her to California, where she plans to settle and enjoy some sunshine.

Aubrey Pongluelert (River) Growing up in California’s Central Valley, Aubrey was privileged to have spent much of her childhood visiting the Sierra Nevadas. It was amongst the great granite faces and mighty redwoods that she fell in love with the outdoors. Aubrey left California to study at Oberlin College in northeast Ohio, where she earned her BA in Environmental Studies and Studio Art. At Oberlin, Aubrey gained experienced in environmental education working on the integration of the Environmental Dashboard (an energy and resource monitoring system) into local schools’ curriculum. Having become attached to the cornfields and rivers of the midwest, Aubrey spent an additional year in Ohio before returning to the west coast. Before joining the Rancho El Chorro family, Aubrey worked on a sunflower and lavender farm on Vashon Island in Washington. Aubrey is excited to see, learn, and explore with her students this year at Rancho El Chorro.

Rodolfo Santiago (High Tide) My love for nature, the ocean and the outdoors came from all the traveling and exploring in Guatemala and California at young age. Through the years, I realized the importance of nature and how living in a sustainable environment is the way to a new future.  That's why I decided to study environmental engineering at the Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala City. This gave me the opportunity to develop new ideas and become passionate about environmental management. During my free time, I enjoy surfing and exploring the outdoors that surroundd me everywhere I travel. 

Sammy Schupp (Marmot) has always had a love for the outdoors. Thanks to her father, she learned from a young age how to fish, hike, camp, and backpack; and also how to respect the environment that allowed for these activities. After growing up visiting the high sierras every year, she decided to pursue a degree in biology from Cal State Monterey Bay, with a minor in Outdoor Education. While there, she found her passion for teaching outdoors by volunteering at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and taking classes on California plant communities and outdoor leadership. Using her newly discovered leadership skills, she prepped, planned, and hiked the John Muir Trail in the summer of 2015. She loves to do anything outside, but mostly rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, kayaking and reading. She is excited to put all her schooling to work doing something she loves at Rancho El Chorro, and is very excited to explore and learn with the students.

Maintenance - 782-7336

Dave HeitDave Heit (Mountain Man)






Food Services - 782-7337

Shaun Daniel (Cypress) spent many of his younger years living in Half Moon Bay but he eventually landed in San Luis Obispo.  He developed a real passion for cooking and worked at Camp KEEP and really loved it.  He also worked as a Cook at Camp Westwood on the Oregon coast near Lincoln City.  He really enjoys the atmosphere and values taught at outdoor schools and feels very fortunate now to be cooking closer to home at Rancho El Chorro.

Aubrey Dorrough (Grey Heron) is starting his fourth year at Rancho El Chorro School as the breakfast cook. He is a native Californian growing up in San Luis Obispo County.  He interrupted his college education to serve in the Vietnam War. Upon his return, he worked for over 30 years at California Men's Colony in the Food Services Department. He also worked as a second generation private caterer in this area directing the same annual event for 34 years. He has vast experience in culinary arts, catering and cuisine. He retired from CMC in 2009 and now enjoys gardening, home improvement, cooking, spending time with his six children and ten grandchildren and is a tropical fish enthusiast. He also enjoys living on the Central Coast. He feels very fortunate to cook at Rancho El Chorro School and is happy to be in a kitchen again. He has been married to the same wonderful lady for 40 years and celebrated his 40th anniversary in March 2015.

Diane McCarthy (Honey Badger) has been cooking professionally since the early 1980s. While in Los Angeles, she focused on opening new restaurants and hotels which gave her valuable experience. She relocated to San Luis Obispo in 1989 to open her own restaurant. After starting a family, she owned and operated a catering business. During this time she had the opportunity to teach, consult for new restaurants, and donate her time to charity. She opened a second restaurant in 2009 that is currently operated by family members. She enjoys working at Rancho El Chorro and is excited about the future of the programs.

Substitute Naturalists

Cindy KonradCindy Konrad (Polaris) is originally from New York where she went to SUNY Maritime College and received her B.S. in Marine Environmental Science along with a Coast Guard Third Mate License. She worked for a few years aboard many different types of vessels that took her all over the world before heading back to school to receive a M.S. in Science Education. Cindy has worked as a science teacher in both NY and CA classrooms. She fell in in love with the beauty of the central coast on a camping trip and now makes the area her home along with her husband and two young children. She feels very lucky to live in such an amazing place and loves working at Rancho El Chorro.

Dave ShoemakerDave Shoemaker (Bear) has worked at REC since 1998. He earned a Liberal Studies degree and Multiple Subject Credential from Sonoma State University. Dave has worked with kids in a variety of situations for over 30 years. He also worked in the woods in Northern California, fished commercially, and is currently a Docent with Friends of the Elephant Seals. Dave brings his real life experiences, enthusiasm, and support of the environment to the instructional time with his students. Go Rancho!

Will GeikenWill Geiken (Barnacle) grew up in Los Gatos, CA which allowed him and his family to make frequent trips into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Eventually, going on hikes turned into going on runs, and from age 13 on Will has been an avid runner as well as outdoor enthusiast. Living in Los Gatos also gave Will easy access to the beaches at Santa Cruz where he learned to surf. So, whether it’s in the water or out in the hills and mountains, Will is happy just to be outside. This appreciation for nature carried into his education and while at Harvard, Will majored in Environmental Science and Public Policy to learn about the current issues with environmental protection and climate science. With that knowledge in mind, Will is excited to introduce younger students to the natural world and the beauty that it contains.

Tom ReillyTom Reilly (Ocean) - Tom’s love of the outdoors was fostered early on through the Boy Scouts of America. After reaching the rank of Eagle Scout, Tom realized how important nature was to his everyday life. This led him to complete a B.A in Environmental Studies at UCSB. Tom’s experience working with students began in college through their campus Ropes Course. He later became the lead instructor and helped to create a 5th grade team building course for local schools. He spent five years working for Island Packers and the Channel Islands National Park as a Naturalist and an Underwater Camera operator. This experience led Tom to pursue and complete a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Tom joined the Rancho El Chorro Staff in 2000 and continues to share the importance of science and nature to students of all ages.