Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is committed to working with teachers to assist them in integrating museum experiences into their curriculum as well as continuously improving programming offered at Phipps. The Phipps Teacher Advisory Committee is a select group of K – 12 educators who meet quarterly during the school year to foster collaboration and learning across schools and museums. The committee is made of public and private school teachers in Pittsburgh, PA. This committee will expand upon the mission of Phipps which is, “To inspire and educate all with the beauty and importance of plants; to advance sustainability and promote human and environmental well-being through action and research; and to celebrate its historic glasshouse.”


Deborah Hrivank-Frank 
Deborah Hrivnak Frank is a certified horticultural therapist who has worked at Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children for 21 years. She teaches adapted horticulture and nature studies with students who are visually impaired and multiply handicapped. For Deborah, there is nothing more enjoyable and inspiring than watching children explore nature around them.

Rachel Lendyak-Peters 
Rachel Lendyak-Peters received her B.A. in English literature and secondary English teaching certificate from the University of Pittsburgh. She is the gifted specialist and English as a second language teacher at the Environmental Charter School. She hopes to share strategies that will help students access the incredible resources available at Phipps!

Cindy Marr 
Cindy Marr holds a B.S. in biology, a B.A. in chemistry and a certificate in education. During a four year STEM program through a NSF Grant and NASA, she developed lesson plans and submitted them for grant funding and publication. She is currently teaching chemistry at Frazier High School and summer STEM classes at Camp Invention. 

Heather Roman
Heather Roman, M.S., earned her master’s degree from University of Wyoming in educational leadership and earned a B.S. in secondary science education with minors in biology and physics from Kent State University. Heather has 10-plus years of teaching service and is currently teaching AP environmental science, chemistry I and applied chemistry at Ringgold High School. Heather hopes her experiences in teaching in other states like Alaska, Kansas and North Carolina can add unique perspectives to Phipps' education outreach.

Brett Slezak
Having spent over a decade teaching health and physical education at Allegheny Valley School District, Brett Slezak has spent a career blurring the lines between innovation, technology and environmental wellness to shape the next generation of learners. A 2017 awardee of a Carnegie Science Award for Middle Level Educator, Brett has worked closely for the past several years with Carnegie Mellon University's CREATE Lab on a variety of projects, most recently including The Fluency Project. 

Melissa Unger 
Melissa Unger is the STEAM teacher at South Fayette Elementary School. She teaches K – 2 students the beginnings of computer programming and helps them to design, build, and bring their ideas to life as they conduct experiments, create inventions, and use technology to animate their projects. In addition, Melissa coordinates her school's "Discovery Garden" and is interested in providing students with more opportunities to learn about the environment. 


  • Review updated lesson plans and program ideas developed by the museum educators
  • Participate in informal discussions and brainstorming sessions to reflect and share best practices in museum education and ways to integrate material into the public/private school curriculum
  • Assist in evaluation and feedback for resources and programs produced by Phipps educators
  • Discuss strategies for aligning the museum’s K – 12 school-based educational programs and resources to city, state, and national standards in a variety of curricular areas
  • Pilot new programs and/or materials and evaluate them
  • Work as a liaison between museum and schools, promote and increase awareness of educational materials and programs offered through the museum
  • Participate in the Fairchild Challenge (as applicable) and at least one field trip or program a year

Organizers and Hosts

Phipps Science Education
Heather Shannon and Emily Nye

Contact: Heather Shannon, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens or 412/622-6915, ext. 3223

Photos © Denmarsh Photography, Inc.; Paul g. Wiegman