Climate Change and Environmental Justice Program (CCEJP) Steering Committee

Meet the Climate Change and Environmental Justice Program (CCEJP) Steering Committee guiding the creation of K–12 open education resources focused on climate change and environmental justice.


Dr. Jennifer Cao

Dr. Cao serves as the interim director of the University of California, Irvine Science Project (UCISP), which is part of a statewide network that provides professional development for PK–12 teachers. She has over a decade of experience in the educational field as a former pre-service educator, teacher, and educational technology coach. She is a proud UCI alumni and holds a B.S. in biological science as well as a Master of Art in teaching. Dr. Cao currently designs and facilitates programs in areas of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) centered in equity, climate change, and environmental education. She is passionate about leveraging environmental literacy to enhance students’ ability to use complex critical thinking skills in a rapidly changing world.

Juanita Chan-Roden

Juanita Chan-Roden, MAEd, is the STEM and college and careers pathway coordinator for Rialto Unified School District. Her main focus is to develop active community-based environmental stewards in NGSS science instruction, career technical education, and environmental stewardship. She has a background in entomology and plant vector pathogen epidemiology, among other disciplines, and has taught both elementary and secondary grade levels. She nurtures wonder and curiosity about the natural world by developing cross-disciplinary curriculum, organizing STEM student learning events, and leading various school professional learning opportunities.

Dina Gilio-Whitaker

Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and an independent educator in American Indian environmental policy and other issues. At CSUSM she teaches courses on environmentalism and American Indians, traditional ecological knowledge, religion and philosophy, Native women’s activism, American Indians and sports, and decolonization. She also works within the field of critical sports studies, examining the intersections of indigeneity and the sport of surfing. As a public intellectual, Dina brings her scholarship into focus as an award-winning journalist, with her work appearing in Indian Country Today, the Los Angeles Times, High Country News,, Slate,, Bioneers, Truthout, the Pacifica Network, Grist, C-SPAN Booktalk, The Boston Globe, and many more. Dina is the author of two books; the most recent award-winning As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock. She is currently under contract with Beacon Press for a new book under the working title Illegitimate Nation: Privilege, Race, and Belonging in the U.S. Settler State, and is also a co-editor of a new collection from Cambridge University Press’s Elements Series on Indigenous Environmental Research.

José González

José González is a professional educator with training in the fields of education and conservation while engaging in different artistic endeavors with art and messaging — often exploring the intersection of the environment and culture. He is the founder and director emeritus of Latino Outdoors, a non-profit that connects and engages Latinx communities in the outdoors.

José plays with design, words, science, and education — engaging in the interdisciplinary intersections of how we view and engage with the world. Be it a piece of art, poem, or scientific fact, José likes to weave ideas with people while appreciating the beauty of it all. José navigates through a self-created identity of a “Green Chicano” in a professional sense. In particular, he describes himself as weaving through the roles of conservationist/environmentalist, Chicano, and educator.

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is the Director for the K–12 Alliance, a program in the Science and Engineering Division of WestED. Prior to this, Jill was a middle school science teacher and was the 2014–15 California finalist for the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science Teaching. She is the 2019–21 past president of the California Association of Science Educators, where she led the development of the 2018 and 2019 climate summits and briefing papers on priority features of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) instructional materials and equitable access to science education in California. Statewide, she serves as steering committee member and committee co-chair for the UC-CSU Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Summit, a member of the biodiversity expert council for the City of Los Angeles, and is a mentor, lead developer, and presenter for the NGSS rollouts. She also served on the leadership team that developed the Next Generation Science Standards Systems Implementation Plan for California, was a contributing author and public reviewer of the California Science Framework, and an instructional materials reviewer for the state of California.

Katinka Lennemann

Katinka Lennemann is a senior in Carlmont High School. She successfully rallied her school district to declare a climate emergency in 2021, and has since then organized stakeholders into the SUHSD Sustainability Committee, which works on making school campuses greener. She looks forward to continuing her work in environmental education and promoting youth activism while in college.

Janel Ortiz

Janel Ortiz, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) in the Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (CEMaST), a center that is committed to improving mathematics and science teaching and learning for pre K-16 students. She teaches courses in the Department of Biological Sciences and conducts research in fields of urban wildlife and conservation education aimed at building awareness of urban ecosystems at the K-12 and undergraduate levels. She has a background working in middle school classrooms serving both urban and rural communities as a visiting scientist, developing and evaluating curriculum related to her wildlife research for students in the classroom. She has also led professional development workshops for formal and informal educators on NGSS aligned curriculum. She is currently working on developing Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) for non-majors and coordinates the Prete Fellowship Program aimed at getting STEM undergraduates into the K-12 classroom to teach students about urban gardening and sustainability.

Milton Reynolds

Milton Reynolds is a San Francisco Bay Area-based career educator, author, equity and inclusion consultant, and activist. His activism has been devoted to disrupting systems of racial injustice with a focus on juvenile justice reform, law enforcement accountability, environmental justice, youth development, educational transformation, and disability justice. His efforts are devoted to creating a more just world in which all people are valued and treated with dignity.

Milton’s publications include a chapter in Seeing Race Again: Countering Colorblindness across the Disciplines, Handbook of Social Justice in Education, and one in the recently released Leading in the Belly of the Beast.

Bella Santos

Bella Santos is a youth climate activist and a junior at Westview High School in San Diego. She is involved with UCSD CREATE Climate Champions’ Youth Advisory Board in formulating an environmental resource database for K–12 educators to implement interdisciplinary education into their existing curriculum. Santos is an active member in SanDiego350’s Youth v. Oil campaign, developing a resolution calling on Governor Newsom to justly and urgently phase out fossil fuels, and Girl Scouts for Environmental Action focused on sharing climate leadership skills and building community action with younger girls. She is passionate about uplifting diverse voices in education systems and advocating for sustainable solutions for the planet and its people.

Emily Schell

Emily M. Schell, Ed.D., is executive director of the California Global Education Project based at the University of San Diego and leads the statewide network providing professional learning programs in global education for PK–12 educators. She is a former teacher, principal, social studies resource teacher, history–social science coordinator, liaison to National Geographic Education, and pre-service educator at San Diego State University. She was an author for the state Education and the Environment Initiative Curriculum and remains an author for McGraw Hill Education in Social Studies. With great respect for the environment, educators, and students, Schell serves on the executive committee of the California Environmental Literacy Initiative. She also served as CAELI co-chair and as a steering committee member for the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit Education Affiliate representing the California Subject Matter Project and 2019 UC–CSU Environmental and Climate Change Literacy Project and Summit.