Who We Are
Matthew Tyler Steinle
Administrative Director & Lead Teacher
What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whither we will walk? I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.
~Henry David Thoreau, 1862
Born in Lawrence, Kansas, my childhood was shaped by the small, intimate culture of my ‘university’ city and the time I spent in the rural towns of Central Kansas, where my father grew up on his family farm. These experiences of a shared history with my family, rooted in Kansas, later played an essential role in my life as I was confronted with the idea of Place, and what it means to live in a local community. Growing up, I struggled to find myself and through great personal difficulties I had an estranged relationship with school and learning. These difficulties remained with me until I graduated high school.
It was not until I began my studies at the University of Kansas that I discovered my passion for learning. At first, I was driven by the fear of failure, but this changed when I encountered philosophy, literature, and poetry woven together in the writings of ancient thinkers. At this same time, I became captivated by the writings of writers who had an intimate relationship with Nature, such as Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and Henry David Thoreau. I continued my studies of philosophy and classical languages at Villanova University, and after initially accepting an offer for a joint Ph.D. in philosophy and classics at Boston University, I made the decision to leave academia. At this time, I felt a longing in my heart to return home and pursue a vocation that brought together educating children, land conservation, and restoration ecology. Essentially, to live out a life of stewardship on this earth, and help raise the next generation in this stewardship. This is why I came to The Forest School of Lawrence.
Qualifications & Experience
Evan Thomas Smith
Pedagogical Director & Lead Teacher
Learn everything. Later you will see that nothing is useless. Cramped learning is no fun.
~ Hugh of St. Victor, ca. 1130
I’m Evan. I grew up in northwest Florida. My love of teaching comes from my mother, an early-childhood educator. From my father’s side, I got a passion for the wild. Never a fan of the beach, my playgrounds were the coastal forests, bayous, and wetlands around Pensacola until I left for college in Chicago followed by a life of teaching in universities and high schools in Boston and D.C. I spent two decades in DC and found the mid-Atlantic not only a fine teacher of trees and geology, of birds and their migrations, but also quite a theater of human passions. While there, I earned my daily bread as a Latin and Greek teacher, spent nearly a decade studying Christian origins, and more than a decade at Georgetown Day School, a pre-K through 12 independent school, where I was also chair of the World Languages Department in the high school.
My passion for languages and ancient cultures and peoples at first drew me away from my love for wild things and places, but in time, it was the mystery of language itself and reading the thought of Charles Taylor that set off a chain of reading that took me back to my roots, my love for the land, and the desire to live a life of stewardship where my learning is daily proven by my living. My experiences of living in modern metropolises have impressed upon me how our learning must serve our living with one another in a world we only have for a short while. I have come to the Forest School to do that here and to bring together my loves for the natural world and the world of learning.
Qualifications & Experience
Native Ecology, Botany, & Field Work
I studied at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, earning a Bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences with a minor in Chemistry. I later studied at the University of Kansas, earning a Master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I'm the Owner-operator and Ecologist of Native Lands LLC, an ecological restoration and native landscaping company. I also teach Field Botany at KU and through courses offered to the community through Native Lands LLC. I sit on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including Grassland Heritage Foundation, Friends of Konza Prairie, the Kaw Valley Native Plant Coalition, and the Kansas Women's Environmental Network. An important focus of my work is community education and outreach, providing connections to native plants, field sciences, and outdoor experiences to groups throughout the region.
Learning Specialist & Assistant Teacher
An eighth generation native Kansan descended from German carpenters, I grew up on a farm outside Lawrence. My mother imparted to me my greatest loves: food and children. She taught elementary school in Tonganoxie, KS and spent summers in her garden and orchard, from which came wonderful smells and creations of her kitchen. In 2007, my husband and I started Global Cafe in downtown Lawrence, where all food is from scratch and we pride ourselves on locally sourcing as many ingredients as possible.
I graduated with a BA in Women’s Studies and a minor in history from KU, but after I had my own children, I started volunteering in their schools as much as possible and fell in love with special ed. So I earned a Masters in Early Childhood Special Education from KU and became the program director and lead teacher in an Early Childhood classroom at a local Waldorf program. With my many educational experiences over the years, I am thrilled to partner with The Forest School and continue to diversify my knowledge of alternative educational settings. I’m thirsty for knowledge and believe we are here to push our limits and expand our minds through hands-on learning. As educators we pass on this knowledge to the children that we serve. My latest learning adventure is pursuing a certification in herbology and aromatherapy with The Heart of Herbs, Herbal School.
Ana Yemaya Inacio
Handwork & Crafts
Making, creating and crafting have always been a part of my soul expression in life. I grew up in New Hampshire surrounded by a family of talented artists, professors, scientists, and nature lovers, and as a result, I spent my childhood outdoors and learning through play. It is important to me to use natural materials like wood, wool, and beeswax that are easily imbued with the presence of creation and spirit.
The Forest School of Lawrence speaks to my soul because of the recognition that connection with Nature is vital to the space we are creating for the children to discover themselves and navigate our world. Our Earth has an energetic rhythm, attuning our body to the natural state of harmony. The open space of an outdoor “classroom” allows each child the opportunity to listen to and recognize their inner workings. My intention as a teacher of Making and Being at the Forest School is to provide a loving and supportive environment for children to live consciously, aware, and connected to the Divine Nature within themselves and all that is.
I graduated with B.A. degrees in Social Work and Philosophy from McDaniel College.