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Official Title: Curator of Education, Bronx Zoo
"I leave work every day with a sense of purpose and accomplishment, truly feeling that I am doing my best to educate people about the beauty of the natural world and what we need to do to protect it. I never doubt that my work is important.”
When Ilyssa was thirteen years old she participated in the Bronx Zoo Education Department’s Summer Teen Internship program where she learned about animals in the wild and in captivity. The idea of working at a zoo was an amazing revelation for her. For three summers while in high school, she volunteered with the Education Department’s “Animal Kingdom Camp” for 8- to 12-year-olds as well as the 5- to 7-year-old program, at that time called “Animals Around the World.” She was also able to volunteer during her winter school breaks. Ilyssa feels very lucky to have attended a high school with specialized science classes such as marine biology and animal behavior. In college, Ilyssa chose a double major in biology and environmental science. Her graduate degree is in ecology.
While in graduate school, Ilyssa thought that she would ultimately teach at the college level. A summer back at the Bronx Zoo reminded her of her true career interests. After completing her graduate studies, Ilyssa was hired as an elementary instructor. Eventually she progressed to the position of Manager of Program Development and Instruction before assuming her current role as Curator. Ilyssa is responsible for overseeing school, weekend, and education special event programs that take place at the Bronx Zoo.
Ilyssa loves being part of the creative process at the zoo and designing programs that motivate children and adults to learn more and care more about saving wildlife. She is constantly challenged to think of new and exciting ways to present information about animals and conservation. Ilyssa feels incredibly rewarded when a child leaves a program smiling and talking to their friends about “how cool” it was. She also loves the fact that, as she teaches others, she is always learning something new about wildlife.
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