Elena Kayak is an environmental educator who loves working with students outdoors, especially in their local neighborhoods and on nearby trails and open spaces. She has initiated and administered sustainability best practices in New Mexico public schools, with an emphasis on renewable energy, food composting, landfill diversion, environmental stewardship, bosque restoration, energy and water conservation, and active transportation through Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs in Corrales, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe (www.saferoutesinfo.org).
A prolific grant writer for getting students to have "hands on the land", she partners with the United States Forest Service to directly deliver Every Kid Outdoor (everykidoutdoors.gov) passes to thousands of NM fourth graders through their schools. She currently serves on the statewide NM SRTS Coalition and the board of Celebrate Planet Earth (celebrateplanetearth.org), a Santa Fe non-profit that distributes caterpillars, nature libraries, and sunflower seed kits across the country, including New Mexico.
Together with her husband Richard von Ancken, also an educator, they have launched three progeny through UNM's Sustainability Studies Program (sust.unm.edu). When she grows up, she aspires to be a seasonal interpretive park ranger at the south rim of the Grand Canyon.