Janet Altobello

Janet Altobello

On the Right Path

“I’ve been on this path for a long time.”

For the last 30 years, Janet Altobello — lifelong nature lover and Harris Center School Program Director — has devoted her time, talent, and expertise to growing the the Harris Center’s school-based education program.

Janet started her career as a classroom teacher in Colorado and Maine before embarking on graduate studies at Antioch University New England. The Harris Center was identified as a “field station” in the course catalog, where a year-long internship could be done while living in and serving as caretaker for a cottage on Willard Pond. Janet jumped at the opportunity:

“I called Meade and said, ‘I’m the person for this internship!’” 

Thus began Janet’s long association with the Harris Center. Although Janet took a job writing curriculum for National Geographic upon graduation, she returned to work for the Harris Center the following year as a part-time teacher-naturalist in the Keene school district. Janet’s love of children and teaching is part of the fabric of her being.

A Teacher, Naturally

Harris Center naturalist Janet Altobello makes a 3D map of the Contoocook River watershed with 4th graders from Peterborough Elementary School. (photo © Ben Conant)

Janet makes a 3D map of the Contoocook River watershed with a 4th grade class at Peterborough Elementary School. (photo © Ben Conant)

“I enjoy the surprise of every session — seeing what the children will latch onto. Their energy is so beautiful, so fun. My favorite thing is to help them work with questions they can answer for themselves. It puts the ownership of inquiry on the kids; it motivates them when they’re trusted to figure things out for themselves.”

In 1994, Janet’s work with the Harris Center’s school program shifted from the Keene School District to the Contoocook Valley School District. She has worked as a teacher-naturalist with the Peterborough Elementary School ever since. Over time, Janet became a full-time staff member at the Harris Center, taking on the administrative and supervisory responsibilities of its school program as the School Program Director. As she looks back over the years, Janet reflects:

“The Harris Center school environmental education program has become part of the culture in the Keene, SAU 29, ConVal and Jaffrey-Rindge School Districts. It’s a model that’s so extraordinary and unusual — really powerful! And the work that we’re doing has grown in importance; we’re faced with meeting more and more children who lack the freedom or time to play outside, so their connection to nature and how it works is much thinner than 30 years ago when I began my work here. We provide time outside with skilled naturalists to help children explore and wonder and deepen their connection with nearby nature throughout their school years. This is so important in today’s world.”

Loving Nature Where We Live

Janet Altobello, ready for a day of adventure with elementary school students. (photo © Ben Conant)

Janet prepares a group of 2nd graders for a springtime adventure at the Harris Center. (photo © Ben Conant)

Janet infuses the Harris Center’s school program with her deeply held value that it is essential to teach children about this place, the place where they live. She sees part of that work as very intentionally supporting their classroom teachers; the ripple effect of that effort enables Janet to reach more lives.

“I feel like my lifestyle and my work are fully integrated. I feel incredibly lucky that my work has always been from my heart. It’s the most natural thing in the world to be working here. It’s a perfect fit.”

We couldn’t agree more!

Contact Us

For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.