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Vanessa Ann Barela

AFFILIATION: New Mexico Public Education Department

TITLE: Outdoor Learning Specialist

LOCATION: New Mexico


EXPERTISE AREA: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ), Environmental Education, Environmental Justice, Hispanic/Latine/a/o Communities, Indigenous/Native Communities, Outdoors/Recreation, Water, Youth


Vanessa (she/her) was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her love for nature was first ignited by her family. As a child, she spent much of her time in the wilderness fishing, camping, and hiking. While at New Mexico Tech, she started the Expeditionary Association which took students on campus on hiking, backpacking, camping, snow camping, rock climbing, and other outdoor trips. They also started a gear library for the school which still exists today. 

Vanessa brings a wealth of experience working in classrooms, informal education learning environments, and at the state level bringing a unique mix of understanding how to best support youth, teachers, educators, and policy makers. She has been an educator since 2008 with experience teaching students from preschool through college age as a formal and informal educator in various positions focused on science and the environment. Her education includes degrees in Technical Writing, Environmental Engineering, Geology for Science Teachers, and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction in Science. Vanessa has worked at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Sandia Mountain Natural History Center, Cottonwood Montessori School, and currently is an Outdoor Learning Specialist at the New Mexico Public Education Department. She has previously served as the Secretary for Environmental Education New Mexico and currently volunteers as a leader with Latino Outdoors


Contact Vanessa Ann Barela at

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