Nature School – About Us

Our outdoor school launched in September 2016, born from a dream & a prayer. The school started as The Preschool at Camp Albemarle, offering 2 day and 3 day preschool classes along with Sprouts class for homeschool students age 5 and 6. In April 2018, our name changed to Nature School at Camp Albemarle to better reflect program offerings. Nature School expanded in Fall 2021 to offer full day private school classes for grades K-4th. Our program is unique in that we use the natural world to promote learning & growth in your child. Students spend the entire class outside, in all seasons. Camp Albemarle is located on 29 acres of open grass and wooded areas and is bordered by Bogue Sound. Each class has a "base camp" to start and end their day but learning, play and exploration happens in all areas of camp property.

Program Philosophy

  • Sharing God’s love through His creation.
  • Connecting students to nature to inspire appreciation for the natural world.
  • Providing a safe environment to encourage exploration and learning.
  • Promoting wellness through active play.
  • Assisting students in their interactions with each other to promote cooperative learning and encourage problem-solving.
  • Developing activities that are focused on the individuality, abilities, and interests of each student.

Our Staff

Heather Estep

Heather Estep

Nature School Director | [email protected]

Heather serves Camp Albemarle as Nature School Director. Heather’s love for the ocean and passion for children brought her to North Carolina. After graduating from Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina with her Bachelor’s in Marine Science and a double minor in biology and psychology, she worked as a Special Activities Instructor at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores. She has attended various nature-based preschool training including the Nature Preschool Institute at Chippewa Nature Center, The Cedarsong Way Teacher Training, and professional development through The Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS). Heather is blessed to combine her love for children, our planet, and God into one amazing job and is excited to get children active outdoors and surrounded by nature. She enjoys volunteering, watching sunrises and sunsets, and crafting.


Katie Andrews

Program Development Coordinator | [email protected] 

Katie moved from NY a few years ago after many summers spent visiting her grandparents in Eastern NC and is happy to call Eastern NC home. She graduated from The State University of NY at Albany with a BA in English and is a certified nature-based teacher through The Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools. Katie has completed professional development through Mindstretchers Academy, Project Learning Tree, and Antioch University. She has over a decade’s worth of experience working with children of all ages and developmental abilities in diverse settings. Additionally, Katie is trained in Conscious Discipline. Katie is passionate about expanding nature-based educational opportunities beyond the preschool years. In her free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors and camping with her family, reading, good coffee and baking bread.

Cheyenne Mendoza

Cheyenne Mendoza

Vespers, Spanish and Little Explorers Teacher | [email protected]

Cheyenne was born in the small town of Thomaston, Georgia but she grew up here on the Crystal Coast and considers both places home. She graduated from UNCW with her bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She enjoys learning new languages and is fluent in both Spanish and English. Cheyenne was a homeschool student for most of grade school and because of this, she had the opportunity to work with children in a teaching role from a young age. She has a deep love and appreciation for nature, God and teaching. She is so grateful to be able to work in an environment that encourages growth in all three. Cheyenne has completed professional development through ERAFANS and is certified in Conscious Discipline. In her free time, Cheyenne enjoys hiking and going on adventures with her family, reading, photography, learning the violin and volunteering in her church’s children’s ministry.


Leslie Bassaragh

Nature School Teacher | [email protected]

Leslie is originally from Brooklyn, NY. As a teen, her family moved to Miami, FL where she later joined the Air Force. Leslie completed four years in the Air Force overseas and stateside. She later returned to Miami where she met her husband while attending college. Her husband’s Marine Corps career had her living and working on her education degree in San Diego, Central Florida and finally here in Eastern NC, which they now call home with their children. Leslie’s love for children and passion for teaching brought her to Nature School. She loves guiding children as they learn and sharing in their “aha” moments, while providing a safe and loving environment where each child is valued and celebrated for their uniqueness. Leslie is fascinated by how a nature-based education encourages a child’s critical thinking skills and independence. She is actively working on increasing her naturalist knowledge by learning to identify local plant and wildlife and has completed professional development through ERAFANS. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family and friends, singing, cooking, pool time and entertaining.

Ann-Marie Robinson

Ann-Marie Robinson

Kindergarten Lead Teacher | [email protected]

Ann-Marie was born and raised in Carteret County. After graduating from West Carteret, she attended NC State earning a degree in Psychology while obtaining her Elementary Education Certification from Meredith College. After returning to Carteret County, she married her high school sweetheart and began her teaching career at Morehead Middle School teaching math. After her oldest daughter was born and Bogue Sound Elementary opened, she transferred to teach first grade and later kindergarten. Three years later, her youngest daughter was born. She is retiring after 20 years from Carteret County Schools to follow God’s direction to teach in a Christian-based setting. She is active in children’s ministry at her church and has taken children’s ministry classes through Campbell University, as well as completed nature-based professional development through ERAFANS. Ann-Marie is also certified in Conscious Discipline. Outside of work and ministry, she loves boating and kayaking here at home and camping in the mountains. She is excited to see where God is leading her in this new chapter of her life.


Jacqueline Arthur

Kindergarten Supporting Teacher | [email protected]

Jacqueline was born and raised in Carteret County. She graduated from West Carteret High School then attended UNC Pembroke and East Carolina University studying art and elementary education with an emphasis in reading. Being an artist, Jacqueline loves sharing her passion of art with students. She spent many of her teenage and college age years babysitting, nannying, and working in the nursery at church before beginning her career in education. Watching her mother as a teacher, she knew she wanted to follow in her footsteps but not in a traditional classroom, so she’s excited for this next step in her career in a place she feels she fits in best. Outside of work, she loves animals (horses and dogs specifically) and spending time outdoors with them.


Jami Raeburn

1st Grade Lead Teacher | [email protected]

Jami was born in Eastern NC and is thankful to live and work in the place she has always called home. As a child, she moved around quite a bit, providing her with experiences and adventures she draws upon when teaching. Jami has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Eastern Carolina University and has previously worked as an educator at the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium and in the Carteret County Public School System for four years. Jami made the transition from traditional education to nature-based after watching her son thrive during his time at nature school. Jami has completed professional development through ERAFANS and is certified in Conscious Discipline. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking, boating, and spending time with her family.


Abby Blaylock

2nd Grade Lead Teacher | [email protected]

Abby and her husband are a Coast Guard family and they have moved around a lot, but they are excited to be back in Carteret County after spending the last four years in Kodiak, Alaska. Abby is a mother to two wonderful children, Lillian who is ten, and Michael who is six. They have been her inspiration and motivation to become part of the teacher community. Before teaching, she earned her BA in Family and Consumer Science from the University of Mississippi and worked mostly in the hotel management field. More recently, she earned her Post-Baccalaureate certification in Elementary Education from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and worked in Kodiak, Alaska as an aide for migrant and native students at Peterson Elementary School, providing differentiated instruction to meet each student’s unique learning needs. She has also worked as a substitute teacher in Carteret County. Outside of work, Abby enjoys fishing, relaxing at the beach, and spending time with her family.


Chrissy Hassell

3rd/4th Grade Lead Teacher | [email protected] 

Chrissy was born in Florence, SC but has spent most of her life in NC. She moved to Morehead City in 2007 and soon after earned her Associate’s degree from Carteret Community College. She then pursued a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education through East Carolina University while working as a preschool teacher. After earning her degree, Chrissy began work at Morehead City Primary School where she taught 3rd grade for five years. Chrissy and her husband Josh have two kids who both be attend Nature School. She enjoys reading, writing and running and is very active in her church. Chrissy holds God, church and serving others close to her heart. She is grateful for God leading her to Nature School, first for her children and now for herself as a teacher.


Michael Grantham

2nd-4th Grade Supporting Teacher | [email protected]

Michael has lived in Eastern NC his whole life. He graduated from East Carolina University with a BS in Business Management and he is currently serving in the NC Army National Guard. He has worked in the private and public sectors of education for over 7 years and has also been teaching for over 20 years through the Boy Scouts and swimming lessons. Michael is proudly an Eagle Scout. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, offshore fishing and bowling. He is looking forward to teaching outside where students’ attention spans are increased and more learning can happen than by being in a classroom all day. Professionally, Michael hopes to become a certified teacher by the end of the school year.


Rebekah Capps

2 & 3 Day Preschool Lead Teacher | [email protected] 

Rebekah grew up coming to the Crystal Coast as a child enjoying fishing, the beach & all things water. After graduating from NCSU as an English major with a concentration in education, she moved to Carteret County. She taught and also discovered her love for working with preschoolers as a children’s librarian. Her desire to explore carried her to many places and different career paths from education to design to real estate, and she spent some time backpacking the Northern Rockies, Grand Teton National Park & Yellowstone. Rebekah has been drawn back to her love for kids, the outdoors, and learning and she’s excited to join the Nature School team. Her boys have attended Nature School for the past 2 years and Rebekah loves the concept of being outside learning in a natural environment.


Jessica Alvir

2 & 3 Day Preschool Lead Teacher | [email protected]

Jessica is a native of FL but spent a large portion of her life in Guatemala and considers that home and a very influential part of her life. She met and married her husband there and her two oldest daughters were born there. Jessica has another daughter and son who were born in NC, where they have lived for 7 years now. She has an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Georgia State University Perimeter College and has taught preschool and homeschooled her children. She is passionate about helping children see how much Jesus loves them and helping them learn and grow and is super excited to teach and learn outside in God’s beautiful creation. Jessica is fluent in Spanish and enjoys teaching and learning about other cultures and people and trying different foods. Outside of work, she loves spending time with her family playing games, having fun outdoors, cooking and just being together.


Kaliegh Blevins

2 & 3 Day Preschool Supporting Teacher & Sprouts Teacher | [email protected]

Kaliegh arrived to NC in 2020 by way of Kodiak, AK, joining the Nature School team soon after her move. She spent the last several years teaching special education in Alaska and is an avid lover of the outdoors. Kaliegh loves that nature school is not like a typical classroom and was drawn to this mode of education because of how being outside in nature inspires her teaching and promotes feelings of wellness. Her goal is to learn more teaching strategies that will have her students hooked and wanting to learn more. Outside of work, she loves coffee, hiking, fishing and foraging with her family, as well as cooking and baking for family and friends.



Sharon Fulcher

2 & 3 Day Preschool Supporting Teacher | [email protected]

Sharon has lived in NC all her life feeling the pull of the ocean like a great orbiting moon. The beach is home, the sea spray her oxygen. She graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Child Development and Family Relations and went on to receive a Master’s degree in Special Education and a Master’s degree in Counseling Education. Her greatest pleasure has come from teaching children. Throughout her college years and beyond she was a camp counselor and assistant director at Camp Don Lee in Arapahoe. Those experiences as a student of nature and then a counselor helped her share a love of the outdoors and all its wonders.  Sharon retired once after 4 years teaching special education and then 28 years as an elementary school counselor and found it was not something she was particularly pleased with. The ocean’s waves have thrown her back on shore to return to what she loves – children laughing and learning. Outside of work, Sharon cherishes her time with her husband and grown daughter, traveling, camping and living in this little heaven on earth we call the Crystal Coast.

Jennifer Edwards

Jennifer (Jenn) Edwards

5 Day Preschool Lead Teacher | [email protected] 

Jenn was born in Florida but has spent most of her life in Eastern NC. Her true calling is working with children and she has volunteered and trained with various faith-based organizations as well as with the Boy Scouts of America. Jenn is a certified nature-based teacher through ERAFANS and has completed professional development through Project Learning Tree and Mindstretchers Academy and is certified in Conscious Discipline. Jenn is most passionate about facilitating wonder-based play and making enduring connections with children, inspiring them to shine. She is deepening her understanding of the benefits of outdoor learning and is particularly interested in the connection between time spent outdoors and improved mental health. Outside of work, Jenn enjoys spending time with her family - her husband is a certified EMT, she has two sons, and she homeschools her youngest. As a family, they enjoy exploring, scouting, camping and volunteering in the community.


Melisa Phifer

Eco-Explorers Teacher | [email protected]  

Melisa grew up playing in the woods and streams of eastern Pennsylvania with her older brother, Kris. Throughout her adventures in New Mexico and the Southwest, Haiti, south Florida, and western North Carolina, she has kept playing outside: hiking, camping, kayak guiding, snowboarding, dog walking and equine yoga. She has taught high school science in the public school system, led Envirothon teams, litter sweeps, a Fairchild Challenge team, served in the Peace Corps in Haiti, as summer camp Environmental Education Director and generally encouraged and facilitated children and young adults getting outside and learning more about nature. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College and a Master’s degree in Education from Temple University. Melisa is currently pursuing her NC Environmental Education certification and is a certified nature-based teacher through ERAFANS. She really enjoys a good campfire and accompanying stories and songs. Melisa and her daughter call Eastern NC home.


Kelly Justice

Sprouts Teacher | [email protected]

Kelly grew up in Wilson, NC and spent her weekends and summers here on the coast. She graduated from East Carolina University with a B.S. in Finance and worked in accounting and finance until she and her husband were blessed with their two amazing girls. They moved to Carteret County for the small-town life and she became a stay-at-home mom and then a homeschool mom. Kelly spends her days with her girls learning, playing with their Boxer puppy, hiking nature trails, gardening, cooking and baking, doing arts and crafts, singing and playing music and enjoying each other’s company.  Kelly is also a Girl Scout Troop leader of 19 precious girls and is passionate about teaching them important life skills, how to enjoy and care for nature, to be good citizens and to be courageous and strong. She has a lifelong passion for learning and is currently improving her Spanish, guitar playing and growing her green thumb.


Elizabeth (Tibby) Barefoot

5 Day Preschool Supporting Teacher & School Nurse | [email protected] 

Elizabeth moved to Carteret County in 2017 when she and her husband decided to make their dream of living at the Crystal Coast a reality. Tibby grew up in Charlotte and spent 15 ears of her life in Raleigh after attending NC State University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology and Biology. She also has a BS in Nursing. Tibby has worked as an RN in labor & delivery and post-partum, allergy and asthma, and pediatrics. In her free time, she loves spending time outdoors with her husband and two kids, running, baking and watching her husband and son fish. Tibby fell in love with Nature School after seeing her son thrive in their preschool program. She’s excited to be a part of kids growing and learning in an environment that allows them to be creative and to see God’s creation firsthand.


Alison Pagliuca

Eco-Explorers Teacher | [email protected] 

Alison was born and raised in Carteret County. She graduated from West Carteret and then attended St. Andrew’s University where she studied Therapeutic Horsemanship. She then went to Martin Community College to obtain her certifications in Business and Equine Training Technology. Alison found she had a passion for horses and teaching kids, and wanted to share that passion for animals and nature with them. During most of her childhood she was involved in 4H, holding meetings and teaching the younger 4Hers about animals and nature. She is excited to start a new journey here at nature school, teaching in a non-traditional setting which fosters free thinking and exploration. When she isn’t working, she enjoys riding her horses, teaching riding lessons, training dogs and being on the water here at the Crystal Coast.