BOOST is turning 15! As we approach our 15-year anniversary, we are reminded of how much we value and appreciate our TEAMBOOST partners and want to share their stories – their journeys through the in and out-of-school time field, their goals and aspirations, a few fun things about them, and some of the amazing things they are doing in their communities.
We will be spotlighting our BOOST Bloggers, Ambassadors, Leadership Team members, and Partners weekly through the end of the year to thank our wonderful team members for their contributions to our incredible community!
Get to Know BOOST Partner Jeff Salzman
Jeff is the CEO of Nature-Watch in Agoura Hills, CA, an experiential learning organization that provides engaging, hands-on activities that stimulate the mind and ignite a passion for nature, conservation, and environmental science.
How did you enter the OST, expanded learning, and/or educational field?
I was a summer camp counselor during my college summers and saw how much kids could learn during out-of-school activities. I went on to become the year-round director of a children’s summer camp prior to joining Nature Watch. I think the best part about working with kids when they’re not in school is that they don’t know they are learning – they are engaged and involved – and that’s actually the very best way to learn!
What motivates you to do this work?
So many afterschool professionals are reluctant or even scared to teach science because they don’t consider themselves to be “science people”. I LOVE taking the fear out of teaching science by providing easy-to-teach STEM Kits. This allows more and more children to learn about nature, science, and the world around them in fun and hands-on ways.
What are you currently reading or watching?
I love watching any movie that Denzel Washington is in!
Share some of your greatest accomplishments.
For 13 years we had a group of developmentally disabled adult women work alongside us every day at Nature Watch. They were a critical part of our team as they would do a lot of our product assembly and kit building. It felt great to provide work opportunities to a special population of people. Beyond the work they did, they brightened our days and inspired us in every way. It really changed how I understood the word “disability” as these individuals were so ABLE in so many ways.
What are some big goals you are working toward?
I want to break 70 on the golf course 🙂
What are your top three leadership qualities?
Kindness, Understanding, and Organization
Name a leader that you admire and why?
I appreciate any leader who sees themselves at the bottom of the organizational chart rather than at the top; someone who feels their job is to support and guide those “below” them by placing them “above” them.
Share an inspirational quote that resonates with you.
Be really selective about what you want and hope for in your life, because chances are you will get it!
As a child, what were your career aspirations?
I wanted to be an NFL football player. That did not happen!
What causes are you passionate about?
I have been very involved in youth sports by coaching soccer, flag football, basketball, and softball. I love working with kids on the field because it gives you the chance to teach them not only the game/sport, but so many other qualities that they will need in life: communication, teamwork, leadership, resilience, and a million more!
What is one of the highlights of your career?
When I ran a summer camp, I certainly loved to see how much the children grew from their experiences. But the highlight for me was actually seeing how much the high school and college-age staff grew from their experiences. Being a mentor, teacher, and leader to them was the best and I’m still in touch with many of them today.
How do you show kindness to others and/or share ways others have shown kindness to you?
It’s funny how so much still comes down to the golden rule – just treat others as you’d like to be treated. Or, maybe even better for those who are parents – just treat others as you’d like them to treat your child. That’s an even higher bar to strive for!
What career legacy do you want to leave?
At Nature Watch, we really hope that our STEM kits make it easy and fun for children to learn. It is especially important to me that our kits reach children who are more at risk and/or who are under-represented in the field of science. This could be related to gender, race, or socio-economic status… unfortunately not all children have the same opportunities in life. Our hope is that Nature Watch kits are able to reach some of those children and perhaps encourage them to move forward with science in their education and eventual career.
What’s the biggest mistake you made on the job and what did you learn from it?
Trying to give too much information during a training workshop. People can only take in so much at a time. Focus on the few nuggets rather than trying to achieve everything in a short time frame.
Tell us what you had for breakfast!
From all of us here at TEAMBOOST, thank you, Jeff, for being a wonderful partner and for sharing your leadership with us!
Jeff Salzman/Nature Watch will be exhibiting at the 2023 BOOST Conference. Stop by and meet him in the exhibit hall at BOOST!