As we wrap another amazing camp summer, we’re once again reminded of the phenomenal staff who continue to make our programs the engaging and exciting experiences that they are, especially given all the extra innovation and pivoting that happened during this unique season. Bringing innovative learning to life has been a culmination of hard work, dedication and the diverse experiences of all of our teams, particularly our summer leadership.
In part three of our three part Camp Director series, we’re highlighting some of these past and present superstars who directed facility operations, mentored their staff, and brought everyday magic to their campers. Adrian Herrera (Lafayette 2017-2019, Walnut Creek 2021), Jenn Nguyen (Fremont Ardenwood 2018-2019, Alameda 2021), Amir Sberlo (Los Altos 2016-2018), and Emma Kerr (San Jose Steinbeck 2021) share how their varied career experiences and passions brought them to Galileo, the a-ha moments and professional development that they received at camp, and how it’s influenced their careers and personal perspectives.
What are some jobs or experiences that you’ve held prior to working with Galileo?
[Adrian] I’ve been at Galileo for 10 years now but have held all sorts of jobs in between, including voice acting. My very first voice over gig was for a commercial with Nikon Asia where I got to work with a team of producers and directors who lived across the globe, and it included some midnight recording sessions.
[Jenn] Before joining Galileo I worked as a Special Education teacher through Teach for America in Oakland. That time in Oakland helped solidify my passion for education and the value of project-based learning to support all learners.
What drew you to Galileo?
[Emma] The initial draw to be a part of Galileo came from my own childhood experience at Galileo camps! My parents were early Bay Area adopters of Camp Galileo, and I was fortunate enough to grow up with Galileo as the highlight of my summer. I was also a part of the first few graduating classes of Summit Public Schools, and was involved in the Maker community, so those experiences dramatically shaped my interest in innovative education.
[Jenn] I was interested in joining Galileo based on their vision and mission. The emphasis on creating innovators who envision and create a better world resonated with me on a professional and personal level. I firmly believe that children and staffers can utilize our innovators’ mindset of being visionary, courageous, collaborative, determined, and reflective in school, work and in their daily lives.
[Amir] To be honest, I had no idea that Galileo was going to be such an integral part of my future path when I first came aboard in the summer of 2009. I quickly learned that being immersed in creative thinking, teamwork, magic and the joy of learning was something I’d want to do for the rest of my life.
What kind of people join the Galileo team?
[Emma] I think Galileo attracts people who are at the intersection of dreaming and doing. You have to be a bit of an idealist to appreciate the big picture side of the innovation approach, but action oriented to enact this vision. Perfection is not what we’re shooting for. We build in revision and reinvention, so it’s important for a Galilean to be ready to give things a try.
[Jenn] Galileans see cups as half full. There is an incredible amount of perseverance, resilience, passion, and joy for working with kids and staffers. Every person I’ve worked with here has a growth mindset, is always willing to learn more, and puts in 110% to ensure that campers and staffers have the best summer.
[Adrian] Galileo draws people from all walks of life but the common traits are people who are creative, want to make a difference and work well in team settings. Galileo also draws people who are authentically themselves and love fun!
What makes working at Galileo unique?
[Amir] At no other workplace have I been pied in the face, made a spreadsheet to streamline an operational system, and fundamentally helped change the way a young person felt about making mistakes, all before lunch.
[Adrian] The way that everyone at Galileo truly wants you to succeed and the support you get from top to bottom is unparalleled. Also yearly pins.
[Jenn] Galileo’s community and work culture are unlike any I’ve been a part of. Several individuals have shown their support and belief that I can pursue my dreams and have provided guidance on how to get there. To say that the Galileo community is supportive is an understatement.
[Emma] Besides the rubber chicken obsession? At Galileo, there’s a unique focus on process that creates a valuable experience for campers and staff. In a traditional educational setting, content dominates, which can lead to an emphasis on perfection that makes it difficult for students to get messy in their work. At Galileo, the goal is to build up the camper’s knowledge of process – how to design, test, and redesign their ideas. Testing, risking, and getting messy helps build resilient children in and out of the classroom, and I love that Galileo uniquely focuses on that aspect of development.
What are things you’ve gained from working at Galileo that you bring into your personal and professional life now?
[Amir] There is always, always, always room for magic and wonder.
[Adrian] I’ve had several different roles at Galileo throughout the years. No matter how daunting switching positions seemed, Galileo always made me feel like I could handle it, even when I doubted myself. Gaining that confidence and knowledge has helped me in all other areas of my life.
[Emma] The innovation approach permeates the staff experience of camp and beyond, and I even use it during the school year as a doctoral candidate studying the sociology of education at Stanford. Working at Galileo is about facilitating the innovation of others through curriculum and activities, as well as innovating yourself to problem-solve all of the surprises a camp summer has in store.
[Jenn] My passion for education has been driven by Galileo. My experiences before and during Galileo as a special education teacher, educational leader and equity trainer have given me the skills to think outside the box to find innovative approaches to support student learning, create classroom joy and to help support educators’ professional development. I’ve grown as a leader and as a manager, and as a result, it’s inspired me to pursue my Ph.D. in Education to produce innovative research that puts our students at the forefront of quality education, just as Galileo does.
We’re so grateful to have had incredible leaders like the Camp Directors in this interview series lead a joyful summer for all of our campers. We can’t wait to see you all next summer!
Interested in joining our changemaking HQ team or being a Camp Director for summer 2022? We’re hiring now, so check out the available jobs and apply through our website or stay up-to-date through our jobs mailing list.