Melinda Alcosser and Maria Mortali
The Connecticut Experiential Learning Center (CELC) was founded to make the middle school years what they must be: a time and a place where young people discover the thrill of learning, master academic subjects, make good friends, and understand themselves. Connecticut Experiential Learning Center enables students to build confidence and competence, thrive and even be joyful during these years.
Led by educators who provide young people with experiences that allow them to stretch and explore their potential, CELC was founded in Spring 2009 by Melinda Alcosser and Maria Mortali. Throughout their years of teaching in a small middle school setting, they continue to witness just how powerful this model of school can be.
Melinda began teaching in 1987 for the Music and Art Center for the Humanity. From there she became certified in music, preK-12, from the Yale Teacher Preparation Program. She received an MS degree in Environmental Education and preK-6 certification in Elementary Education from Southern Connecticut State University. Melinda attended the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies where she received her certification as a level one trainer in Kingian Nonviolence. Melinda has taught in New Haven at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet, Co-op HS and at the Cold Spring School and was a middle school teacher at Wightwood/Pine Brook for 15 years. Melinda is also a percussionist and has an organization called Hands-On-Rhythm, where she teaches drumming and other music from around the world to people of all ages. She is the mother of two girls and has lived in the Guilford area since 1997.
Maria has had a variety of careers, including restaurant management, accounting, professional cook and caterer, and editor. She ran her own daycare for many years and continues to work as a private tutor, for students ranging from elementary age through college in all subjects, including Grammar, Writing, Reading, Geometry, Algebra and Physics. Maria worked as a substitute teacher as well as a middle school teacher at Wightwood School where she taught Spanish, U. S. History, Language Arts, and Math. She studied at Purdue University as an undergraduate. Maria is a Branford “lifer” who raised two boys, now grown men, who are making their way in the world!
Additional faculty and staff :
Spanish instructor, Gloria Ruiz de Rabin, a native of Paraguay, holds a BA in Education from the National University of Paraguay and offers over seven years of professional Spanish language teaching experience.
Before moving to Connecticut, she was Head Language Teacher of the Spanish Language Institute IDIPAR in Asunción for seven years and Owner / Director for three years. During this time, she received and mentored hundreds of foreigners from across the world in both private and large group settings.
Her students included children, high school and university students, travelers both young and old, international businessmen, large Paraguayan corporations, such as Frigorífico San Pedro and Banco Continental, as well as government agencies, such as Korea International Cooperation Agency and the U.S., Russian and Brazilian embassies.
Gloria is skilled at teaching all levels of Spanish, from beginner to advanced students and preparing them for all types of tests, including DELE (Diplomas in Spanish as a Foreign Language) and the SAT College Admission Exam.
Crafter Ken Rowe was born and raised in Maine and still has the accent to prove it! Ken currently lives in Connecticut, where he has been for the past forty+ years. By profession he was a manufacturing engineer since college, working mostly in the aerospace industry with a short tenure in the semiconductor field.
Ken has worked with wood as a hobby for over fifty years. For ten of those years he did whole house restorations. Around 1992 he converted to making household objects from domestic and exotic woods. He has made shop furniture, house furniture, display tables, cabinets, tool chests, scroll saw puzzles, and elegant wood boxes from a combination of domestic and exotic woods, and turned bowls and vases.
In the beginning, most of the projects were for the household or were made as gifts for family and friends. He now also sells work at craft shows and on his website (www.KensWoodGifts.com). He has been getting a good response.
Later he decided to teach others woodworking skills in his shop, The Krowe’s Nest. “It’s been fun helping others make something they want out of wood and seeing the delight in their accomplishments,” quips Ken. Go to the Student Projects page on his website to see some samples of their work.
She loves the great outdoors and sharing outdoor experiences with people of all ages. Professionally, she has conducted biological inventories for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and for the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and served as Assistant Head of Public Education at Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
She has a particular interest in the intersections between environment, energy use, and human health and is co-founder of Thimble Creek Research, which specializes in environmental health research. Celia received her MS from Bank Street College of Education and her PhD in Environmental Studies from Antioch University.