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Home » Education & Programs » Meet the Instructors

Meet the Instructors

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Within each area of adult education classes, the Desert Botanical Garden has assembled a team of experts to teach the exciting programs we offer.

Use the links with the letters below to search for a specific instructor by last name and to learn more about their experience and interests.

a | b | d | e | g | h | k | l | m | p | s | u | w | y


To sign-up for a class, visit the Classes & Trip page.


Rachel Albert

  • Teaches: Cooking and Wellness
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Rachel Albert, has led over a thousand cooking and nutrition classes in eight states. A natural foods chef, cooking instructor, and freelance food and health writer for more than 25 years, Rachel has published widely in national and regional periodicals. Her publications include The Ice Dream Cookbook: Dairy-Free Ice Cream Alternatives with Gluten-Free Cookies, Compotes & Sauces and The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook. She leads group and private cooking classes and cooking parties. Some of her great recipes and other resources can be found on her blog. She enjoys connecting with Desert Botanical Garden students as she shares their appreciation for herbs, gardening, ecology, and cooking and eating home cooked, fresh, local and artisan foods.

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Kristen Battafarano

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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In 1996, Kristen Battafarano was invited to help a new found friend at his three acre organic farm—she was hooked. Since then, Kristen has managed five organic school gardens throughout the Phoenix area and co-organized two local food festivals to promote sustainable agriculture. Kristen’s 17 years of horticultural experience includes landscape supervisor, landscape designer, florist, and plant biologist for the National Park Service. Kristen brings her expertise to the Desert Botanical Garden as an instructor specializing in organic, edible landscaping. Her own yard is an urban farm, designed to teach and inspire sustainable garden living.

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Martha Burgess

  • Teaches: Cooking and Wellness and Explorations in Natural Sciences
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Ethnobotanist and artist Martha Ames Burgess began her career in the sciences, studying desert ecology, geology, archaeology and tree-ring dating at University of Arizona. Martha was “adopted” by a Tohono O’odham elder who fostered her learning of the traditional uses of our Sonoran Desert plants, their names in the Native tongue, proper collection and preparation for food and medicine, as well as how to grow indigenous crops. Martha has founded the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s field study program and has worked with the conservation organization Native Seeds/SEARCH since its inception. She uses watercolors as well as words to express appreciation for the desert’s flora and habitats.

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Pierre Deviche

  • Teaches: Explorations in Natural Sciences
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Pierre Deviche is a professor of environmental physiology in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He earned his Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Liege, Belgium. Pierre has studied odonates (dragonflies) in Arizona since 2005 and traveled widely throughout the Arizona to find, identify, and photograph them. Pierre is the author of the website on Arizona odonates. He has extensive experience teaching various audiences and leading field trips. Pierre’s interests also include birding and wildlife photography.

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John Eisenhower

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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John Eisenhower is the owner of Integrity Tree Service in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is an ISA Certified Arborist®, Master Gardener and Certified Tree Care Safety Professional. He is a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists, Past President of the Arizona Community Tree Council and holds a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. John enjoys working with trees and teaching others how to care for them. Facilitating adult classes at the Desert Botanical Garden is a special pleasure, because of the high level of student interest and commitment to proper tree care and sustainable landscape practices.

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Jack Gilcrest

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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Jack Gilcrest found his vocation in environmental sciences and landscape architecture—a perfect blend of his interests in nature, art and engineering. With undergraduate degrees in Environmental Studies, Landscape Architecture and a master’s in Environmental Resources, Jack is impacting our local environment. His thesis received an American Society of Landscape Architects National Merit Award and his study helped gain support to establish the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. Jack received international recognition from World Landscape Architecture for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Jane Rau Interpretive Trail. He is an associate faculty member at ASU College of Design and has been a member of the Desert Botanical Garden for nearly 30 years. Jack enjoys sharing his knowledge of preserving, designing, constructing and managing Sonoran Desert natural environments and hopes to inspire his students to create more appropriate and sustainable landscapes for our urban environments.

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Gay Hendricks

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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A lover of cacti and succulents, Gay Hendricks has been growing them for more than 15 years. She is intimately familiar with their growing habits, light and watering needs, as well as their tolerance of the extremes of our Sonoran Desert climate. Gay particularly favors aloes—she grows more than 120 varieties in her own garden, as well as a variety of other cacti and succulents. She is a member of the Central Arizona Cacti and Succulent Society and enjoys sharing her years of experience and love of growing these unique desert plants with her students.

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Elaine Hultgren

  • Teaches: Photography and Art
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Elaine Hultgren graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art, four-year program, with a major in painting and a minor in printmaking. Elaine’s interest in scientific illustration and art led her to complete the program in Botanical Art and Illustration at the Desert Botanical Garden. Illustrating and painting plants make the perfect marriage of right and left brain activity for Elaine. It allows her to combine her extensive drawing and painting skills with her lifelong curiosity about all things botanical. She lives her dream illustrating plants at the herbarium at the Garden and also teaching botanical drawing, painting, nature sketching and journaling with a special emphasis on Sonoran lizards and beetles.

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Shari Keith

  • Teaches: Photography and Art
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Shari Keith is a collector of junk extraordinaire. She creates jewelry and art from found and discarded objects, and her work has been featured in galleries throughout the U.S. Her unique way of using discarded items to decorate her home has been featured in several newspaper articles, and almost all of the clothing she wears is recycled. Shari Keith holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a M.A. degree in Education. She works as a teaching artist and shares her passion for the environmental and artistic benefits of creating with scrap with students of all ages. Her students know her as The Junk Lady.

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Cindy Kovak

  • Teaches: Photography and Art
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Cindy Kovack is a mixed media artist who found her creativity despite adversity, or perhaps, because of it. Coming from a large, economically challenged household, young Cindy lacked funds for her creative projects.  Determined to express her inner artist, she would hike to the local dump where she would reclaim pieces and parts to create her art. By the age of 10, Cindy taught herself to paint using what she had on-hand, leftover house paint and brushes from her brother’s model airplanes.  A child of the ‘60s, Cindy fused her love of painting, collage and upcycling into a way of life. Teaching at the Desert Botanical Gardens enables Cindy to use natural, dried botanicals in her works. She also enjoys the “Zen-like quality” the Garden brings to the teaching environment. Through her creative classes, Cindy hopes to share her values of recycling, upcycling and respecting the earth with her students.

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Jeff Lee

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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Jeff Lee has been putting his knowledge of landscaping and irrigation to use since the 1980s. Jeff is also certified in central control hardware and software. He worked at Rainbird, helping distributors, contractors and homeowners troubleshoot their irrigation issues. Since the late 1990s, Jeff has worked with a number of local government agencies and municipalities to help conserve water, including ADOT and the City of Mesa. He has worked with the City of Gilbert Water Conservation Office since 2006. Jeff enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with homeowners and professional landscapers to help them to better manage their landscape water use and to conserve our precious water.

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Robert McBride

  • Teaches: Photography and Art
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Robert McBride is an award-winning photographer whose photographic experience runs the gambit—from weddings to commercial, from studio to portrait. But, his passion has always been “Bringing the natural world into focus.” His images of nature are found in numerous magazines, calendars, books and have been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution. Bob receives immense satisfaction sharing his experience and passion for photography with students, “Teaching at the Garden provides the ideal environment for sharing my love of nature and photography. I want every student to leave my classes with both an enhanced appreciation of photography and an insatiable desire to create their own extraordinary images.”

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Scott McMahon

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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An ISA Certified Arborist®, Scott McMahon currently serves as manager of the Desert Botanical Garden’s world-class cactus collection. He holds a Bachelor of Science and M.S. degrees in Plant Protection from the College of Agriculture, University of Arizona. Scott’s professional experience includes more than 25 years of experience in landscaping and maintenance in the Phoenix area. A native Arizonan, Scott has been collecting cacti and succulents for over 30 years. Scott is a past president of the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society where he still serves as an active contributor.

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Kim Pegram

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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Kim Pegram is fascinated by butterflies. Not only does she enjoy working at the Desert Botanical Garden as Exhibits Specialist for Butterflies, Kim is a PhD candidate in Behavioral Ecology at Arizona State University. Butterflies and their interactions with the environment have remained the focus of her research for more than eight years. Kim enjoys teaching classes related to butterflies, moths and other insects and sharing her enthusiasm for and knowledge of butterflies with visitors and students at the Garden’s Marshall Butterfly Pavilion.

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Pamela Perry

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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Pamela Perry started gardening at a young age—she remembers planting tomatoes with her mom when she was only three. Her passion for plants continued as she grew. Wherever she went, Pam enjoyed working with all things green. She became an Advanced Master Gardener and worked as a grower at an herb farm. When she moved to Arizona, Pam discovered a love of desert skies and the new palette of plants available. Today, she shares her enthusiasm for gardening in the desert with others, “I enjoy teaching at the Garden because it reaches so many folks who share my love of plants. I find satisfaction helping folks who are passionate about growing the food they eat and who want to learn more about all that is possible [to grow] here.”

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Chefs Jason Wyrick and Madelyn Prior

  • Teach: Food and Well-Being
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This husband and wife team loves to share their passion for healthy, good food with others who are interested in the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Co-author of New York Times Bestseller 21 Day Weight Loss Kickstart, Jason Wyrick was diagnosed with diabetes in his mid-20s and was told he would have to be on medication for the rest of his life. Instead, Jason became vegan, reversed his diabetes in eight months and lost more than 100 pounds over two years. Jason left his job to become a chef and help others learn how to eat healthy, compassionately and well. He became the first vegan culinary instructor at Le Cordon Bleu -Scottsdale Culinary Institute and founded the world’s first vegan food magazine, The Vegan Culinary Experience. Though he has catered for prestigious organizations and has been featured on local and national television, what Chef Jason enjoys most is sharing how to make good food. Madelyn Prior started her career as a chef when she decided she would much rather teach people how to make delicious food than teach psychology. She joined Jason’s magazine, The Vegan Culinary Experience, and began catering and teaching cooking classes across the nation. She created a vast library of recipes. When asked what her specialty is, Madelyn often replies, “Easy recipes for life, because I love creating the perfect recipes that people turn to after work, for parties and for events. For me, food and helping others create it is my life’s work.”

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Steve Sheard

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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To say Steve Sheard has a passion for growing roses might be a bit of understatement. Born in Zimbabwe to British parents, Steve remembers his father fervently planting and tending roses. When Steve moved to Arizona as a young man in 1980, he quickly planted 20 rose bushes. Eighteen died. Still, his passion drove him to persist. When he built his new house a decade later, Steve used his skills as an engineer to design his landscape around his love of roses. He joined the Mesa East Valley Rose Society and through the society, enjoys tending Mesa Community College rose garden with more than 9,000 specimens. Steve’s own garden now has more than 150 rose bushes. He enjoys sharing his expertise of growing roses with others who are passionate about growing roses.

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Carol Stuttard

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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Carol Stuttard is an Englishwoman who has found herself transplanted to and transformed by the desert. A lover of all things botanical, Carol is a Master Gardener and Certified Desert Landscape Designer. She has been featured in Phoenix Home & Garden magazine, several local gardening shows and writes a regular gardening column for another local magazine. An organic gardener, she takes advantage of Arizona’s year-round growing season, cultivating a variety of vegetables and desert-adapted plants in her own garden. Carol enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for growing things with novice and experienced gardeners.

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Starr Urbatsch

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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Starr Urbatsch has been with the Desert Botanical Garden for more than 14 years. She is manager of the Agavaceae, Aloaceae and non-cactus succulent plant collections, including the Garden’s extensive agave collection, which is recognized by North American Plant Collections Consortium.  Starr is a proud native of Phoenix. She received a degree in urban horticulture from Arizona State University and she is an ISA Certified Arborist®. Starr enjoys watching the sense of wonder visitors experience while exploring the Garden.

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Ryan Wood

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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Ryan Wood grew up on an Idaho dry farm. He moved to Arizona to study applied technology and quickly found work with a software company. When the company he worked at for 10 years went out of business, Ryan found a new career path. With his knowledge of technology and farming, Ryan was intrigued by permaculture design. After taking a course in the subject, Ryan discovered a passion for  water harvesting. He became a certified water-harvesting practitioner, as well as a Master Watershed Steward. Today, Ryan is the program manager for the Phoenix office of the Watershed Management Group, where he leads workshops and collaboratives with other agencies to create sustainability water harvesting models that others can replicate.

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Urban Yoga:  Sebastian Dimond and Emily Stooks

  • Teach: Yoga
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This team brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and passion to their practice. When Sebastian first attempted yoga, it was a challenge, but he was so attracted its strength and mindfulness that he decided to pursue it as lifestyle and a career. Sebastian completed training with At One Yoga in 2008 and has been teaching all age ranges and abilities since. His passion is creating a connection of levity for new yoga students as they follow their yoga journey. With a degree in dance from Arizona State University, a massage license from the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts and training from At One Yoga, Emily brings dance and healing to her practice. Her classes include breath work, alignment and gentle challenge that accommodate all levels.

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Kelly Young

  • Teaches: Landscape and Gardening
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Since 2010, Kelly Young has been an assistant extension agent for the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County. Her research focuses on weed control in nursery containers and evaluating non-traditional leafy greens for summer production. Kelly teaches classes to landscape and nursery professionals, Master Gardeners, farmers and homeowners on a variety of topics related to landscape, garden and farm.  A native of Maricopa County, Kelly graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Botany.

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Paintout Show & Sale

During the final weekend of the Scottsdale Artists League Spring Paintout all of the artwork from the Paintout will be on display and for sale. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Desert Botanical Garden and the Scottsdale Artists League’s Scholarship Fund. The show and sale will be loacted along the Center for Desert Living Trail.

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  • Free for members and children under 3.
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