Kelly Decker
Executive Director

Kelly Decker, Executive Director of The Children’s Nature Institute, is originally from New Jersey and has been working in the field of informal education since 1995, having been an informal educator in Washington D.C, Japan and Los Angeles. Since 2007, she has worked with The Children’s Nature Institute making full use of her diverse professional background in teaching, education, science, zoology, program direction, corporate philanthropy, marketing and fundraising.  A strong believer in the power of nature, she works tirelessly to ensure that all children in Los Angeles, no matter the neighborhood they live in, have access and experiences with nature that promote healthy brain development, nurturing and attachment and the highest quality educational learning for our youngest children and their families.

In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors hiking and camping and volunteers regularly in civic and non-profit organizations. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in both Japanese and Anthropology, as well as certificates in Non-profit Management and Zoology from UCLA’s Extension program.

Kelly Herman
Development Director


Program Operations Director

please see below for job description and application information


Lina Swislocki
Education Manager

Lina has worked at CNI since January 2012. She loves her job because it combines many things she likes, including teaching and developing curricula, working with kids and animals, and being outside. Lina has a BA from UCLA in Philosophy, which she earned while also working as an outdoor guide. She also holds a Master’s Degree from Harvard in Education, which she focused on making learning whole and effective; directing all her assignments on hands-on education and using nature to teach. Lina’s love of learning, joy at being outside, and understanding of community development come together at CNI. Lina has also worked as a camp counselor, an after school program leader and a garden teacher throughout the country. When not at work, Lina rides her bike, hikes, camps, does Capoeira, and plays with her cat, Mario.


Yessica Flores
Lead Environmental Educator

Yessica is the Lead Environmental Educator at The Children’s Nature Institute. In this role, Yessica coordinates with teachers, facilitates our programs and looks after the well-being of CNI’s live animal collection. Yessica’s love for nature (especially animals) started at a young age: in 2012 she graduated from North Hollywood’s High School Zoo Magnet. After graduating she concentrated on her career and has now worked for 13 years for a diverse range of organizations, including The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens and Kidspace Children’s Museum. Yessica’s varied background in animals, nature, and teaching provides the perfect foundation for facilitating environmental science programming to children and their families. Yessica still finds time to volunteer with animal organizations and continues to increase her knowledge of nature.


Joyce Ireland

Controller Joyce Ireland volunteered with CNI for years before being hired to keep its books in the mid 2000s.  Hooked from the very first Nursery Nature Walk she and her older daughter took in Sullivan Canyon back in December 1990, she trained as a docent and lead family and outreach walks for more than a decade.  She joined the board of directors in 1991 and has served on the board continuously since then.  When CNI needed help with payroll and financial recordkeeping, Joyce called on her knowledge from a community college bookkeeping course and experience as the payables treasurer at her daughters’ preschool to transition from the trail to an office desk.  After joining the staff, to better serve CNI, she enrolled in an accounting certificate program at West LA College in 2008 and earned her certificate in June 2010.  In addition to working part-time at CNI, Joyce is also bookkeeper for B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles.  Over the past couple of decades, she’s spent countless hours volunteering at her daughters’ schools and currently serves as treasurer of Gondolier Booster Club, supporting Venice High School.


Jessie Nault
Volunteer Coordinator

Jessie Nault is a recent transplant to Los Angeles, originally hailing from the Midwest. Though she loves the constant sunshine, she still misses the freshwater of the Great Lakes! She received her Bachelors of Science from Michigan State University in Environmental Studies and Agriscience with a minor in Environmental Policy. She was the recipient of Jon F. Bartholic Award for Excellence in Creativity in the Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences in 2011, as well as a volunteer for the city’s Project Pride recycling program and the Red Cedar River Clean-Up. Though Jessie has always been passionate about the environment and her community, a summer study abroad trip to Kenya pushed her to pursue her passions full time. While there, she worked in partnership with Kenyan Orphaned Rural Development Program (KORDP), providing education and agricultural aid across Western Rural Kenya with vulnerable and orphaned children to HIV/AIDS in early childhood care centers. Since then, Jessie has sought to work with children and the natural world, so is thrilled to be part of the CNI team. She believes teaching children to understand and care about the environment from an early age will make the world a better place!


Betty Villata
Environmental Educator

Betty Villalta is a believer of hands-on and inquiry based learning. She received a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal from CSU Channel Islands and is currently working as an Educator at The Children’s Nature Institute and The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Garden. She has 6 years of experience working in formal and informal educational settings. Prior to joining The Children’s Nature Institute, Betty was a Camp Counselor at The Santa Barbara Zoo and a Teacher’s Assistant for the Conejo Valley Unified School District. Betty hopes to inspire future generations to have an appreciation for the natural world and all of its inhabitants. Her work as an Environmental Educator provides her with this wonderful opportunity.

Blanca Hernandez
Office Coordinator

Blanca grew up in Los Angeles, in the Pico-Union area. She attended California State University, Northridge and obtained her Bachelors in Science degree with an emphasis in Business Administration. She worked for the GEAR UP program over six years. GEAR UP was a federally funded program whose goal was to increase graduation rate and decrease dropout rate among high school students in the San Fernando Valley. She has volunteered with different non-profit organizations since graduating from high school. She is passionate about helping and providing resources to the community. She also tutors middle school students in math. During her free time, she loves to walk in the park, beach and exercise. Her ultimate goal is to have her own non-profit.


Program Operations Director

job description

 Position Type:         Exempt, Full-time, Permanent

 Reports to:                 Executive Director

The Program Operations Director is instrumental in managing and directing our talented team of Program Staff to provide the most effective, efficient and impactful nature-based programming to more than 10,000 children each year. This important role also manages all our partnership programs and is responsible for meeting our annual fee-based income goals.

Team Management

  • Manage a team of highly skilled and expert staff, including: Education Manager, Environmental Educators, Volunteer Coordinator, Office Coordinator, and Animal Husbandry Specialist.
  • Responsible for the hiring and training of all new staff.
  • Assist with balancing schedules and workflow.
  • Troubleshoot and find solutions with personnel when issues arise.
  • Guide, mentor, and encourage staff development.


Program Direction

  • Work with our Education Manager to monitor and plan the overall Program Department workload, projects, and staff assignments.
  • Ensure that the staff assigned to scheduled programs and events is supported and well-prepared, and that all database information is complete.
  • Monitor and assist in program tracking. Report program statistics such as: number of people served, evaluations received, program budgets, etc. Provide assistance to Directors in compiling and interpreting factual information for grant writing and board meetings, etc.
  • Gather, organize, and occasionally develop documentation and evaluations of various programs, working closely with Education Manager and Environmental Educators in the design and scope of related documentation.
  • Prepare for and lead weekly Program Meetings.
  • Help to source, price, and acquire any new program materials.
  • Photograph programs and events when necessary, to provide material for media and grants.
  • Monitor CNI’s Wondermobile traveling science vans to ensure staff is completing weekly fuel purchasing, washing, oil changes, and regular servicing appointments. Report vehicle issues to Executive Director for assessment.
  • Responsible for handling all customer service feedback.
  • Control the monthly/annual Program Budget as advised by Executive Director.


Animal Husbandry Supervision

  • Assist our highly skilled Animal Husbandry Specialist to ensure health and welfare of all animals; ensuring that Program Team is providing the necessary daily care to each of the animals in our collection, meeting each species’ exact requirements.


Fee-Based Income & Collaborative Partnership Management

  • Manage existing non-profit and for-profit partnership programs: work with partners to assess needs and determine program/contract structure that that is aligned with the organizations’ missions.
  • Develop, source, and secure new income-generating programs. Responsible for achieving the financial goals set in the annual budget. Bring substantial value-added, mission-related programs for clients, educators and organization. Contact new schools, new organizations, etc. that can pay for our programs.
  • Develop and implement new program marketing materials and overall marketing strategy. Similarly, design and incorporate the sale of CNI for-profit items that are aligned with our mission.
  • Ensure all fee-based program bookings for schools, events and parties are completed accurately and in a timely manner by staff, via: phone conversations, scheduling by e-mail, inputting information into our database, sending all necessary paperwork to the booking party and making sure confirmation policies are received in a timely manner. Work with teachers, administrators or parents to plan and implement activities and curriculum that are of interest to the private party and that promote fun, hands-on learning experiences for all kids.
  • Assign staff to all of the booked partnership and fee-based programming.
  • Maintains and prepares staff on high quality customer standards for all programming.


Organizational / Miscellaneous

  • Assist the team in preparation work for annual events such as Annual Gala, Urban Nature Week, Kids Rock, etc.
  • Contribute to and write materials for funding purposes, as required by Executive Director, which may include proposals, reports, marketing and other communications.
  • Ensure that CNI’s monthly newsletter (via Constant Contact) is published in a timely manner, with staff contributing to the necessary areas.



  • Proven & demonstrated ability in development and management of personnel

NOTE: Please do not apply unless you have direct experience managing people

  • BA in Sciences or Environmental / Early Childhood Education preferred
  • Experience in non-profit industry strongly preferred; transferable education and/or work experience will be considered if outlined clearly in cover letter
  • Knowledge of SalesForce database; or other database(s)
  • Outstanding writing, analytical, and verbal communication skills
  • Excellent with multi-tasking in an extremely fast-paced environment
  • Extensive Microsoft Office and general computer skills required
  • Experience with html, web development and/or graphic design a plus 
  • Manage sensitive and confidential information with integrity
  • Strong commitment to education, the environment and underserved community development


40 Hours a Week // Up to $42,000 per year salaried, exempt position; includes vacation, sick and paid holidays. Medical and dental insurance, Retirement Savings (IRA) plan.


To apply:  Email cover letter, resume and salary history to:  gro.sdik-incnull@ylleK


Please, no calls.