Our Team

Britta Culbertson, Teacher at Sea Alumni Association Manager

A NOAA Teacher at Sea Alum herself (NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, 2013), Britta Culbertson has served as the Teacher at Sea Alumni Association Manager for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation since 2019. Britta brings nearly 20 years of education experience to her position having taught as a high school science and art teacher and worked in education and outreach prior to her role at the Foundation.

Britta strives to strengthen and expand the alumni network, to create innovative and meaningful professional development experiences, and to find opportunities to reinvigorate and recharge alumni so they can continue to educate and inspire students with the same enthusiasm and drive that led them to become part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.

Britta’s deep connection to NOAA goes back to her childhood, as her grandfather was a career meteorologist for the National Weather Service. She also served as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at NOAA’s Office of Education for two years from 2012-2014. This fellowship marked her transition from being a classroom teacher to supporting educators. Following her fellowship, she worked at The Nature Conservancy for five years, where she designed and produced lessons, videos, and virtual field trips. Britta has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a minor in Art Studio and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Science Education both from the University of New Mexico.

In her free time, Britta enjoys travel, hiking, kayaking, reading, collecting Pacific Northwest rocks, and metalsmithing. She’s fortunate to live near the waters of the Salish Sea and all the natural treasures it holds.

Andrea Schmuttermair, TASAA ROV Education Coordinator

Andrea Schmuttermair participated in NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program, sailing on NOAA Ship Oregon II for a groundfish survey in 2012. In 2015, she sailed as an alum on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson for a pollock survey. In 2021, she joined the Teacher at Sea Alumni Association to pilot a new program—the Teacher at Sea Alumni Association NOAA Fellowship. After Andrea’s fellowship concluded, she stayed on with the Alumni Association to continue engaging alumni in remotely operated vehicle (ROV) professional development as part of the Project ROVe program she created.

Combining her love for traveling and teaching, Andrea has always found ways to bring the outside world into her classroom. Andrea has taught for over 15 years in schools stateside and abroad. She helped open new schools in Colorado, Germany, and Thailand. She is passionate about experiential education and loves all things science. 

In 2017, she was awarded the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching grant, through which she spent six months in Finland researching project-based learning and STEM education. She developed Project ROV in collaboration with scientific research stations in Finland and has built underwater ROVs with her students in both the United States and Germany.  She plans to build on her ROV experience during her fellowship.

Andrea graduated from the University of San Diego with degrees in education and German and received her Master’s in Educational Technology and Leadership from The George Washington University. 

Andrea loves to stay active by hiking, kayaking, exploring tide pools, and camping. Last year, she joined the scuba community when she completed her Open Water certification in Thailand.

A woman in a blue Teacher at Sea shirt posing in front of marine debris art.

Denise Harrington, TASAA NOAA Fellow, 2022-2023

Teacher at Sea Alum Denise Harrington of Garibaldi, Oregon, is the 2022-2023 TASAA NOAA Fellow. The purpose of this one-year fellowship is to give our esteemed alumni the opportunity to work with NOAA Offices on educational projects, to support the alumni association, and to develop an independent project using NOAA resources. For her independent project, Denise hopes to broaden the reach of NOAA Marine Debris resources to diverse audiences through the arts.

In 2014, Denise was a Teacher at Sea aboard NOAA Ship Rainier on a hydrographic survey of the North Coast of Kodiak Island, Alaska. In 2016, she sailed as a Teacher at Sea Alum on the NOAA Ship Oregon II for a longline survey in the Gulf of Mexico. You can find all of Denise’s blogs about these experiences here.

Prior to working as an elementary and high school teacher, Denise practiced law and still serves as a Justice of the Peace in her community. Her journey from the courtroom to the classroom began when she volunteered in her son’s classroom, which sparked her desire to pursue a career in teaching.  Denise began teaching in an elementary classroom in English and Spanish and later transitioned to high school where she taught Spanish and Social Studies. Denise has Bachelor’s Degrees in French and English from Santa Clara University and a Juris Doctor from Syracuse University.

Denise prefers hands on learning in far-flung outdoor classrooms. Some of her favorite trips have been kayaking with students in a local lake and traveling with students to Europe and Central America. She is a firm believer in cross-curricular collaboration and experiential learning.  She often works with other teachers and their classes through STEM projects, assists the Tillamook Troubadours (an International Student Travel Program), and consults for the Center for Geography of Oregon.

A lifetime outdoor enthusiast, Denise has spent summers working as a wildlife surveyor, backpacking around the United States, and kayaking the Pacific Northwest coastline.  A recent favorite adventure was a kayak expedition off the coast of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

Laakea Laano, Digital Media Communications and Events Assistant

Laakea Laano has lived along coastlines all over the U.S., from Long Island to Santa Cruz to the Windward side of Oahu. This proximity has fostered her lifelong relationship with the ocean, which she has experienced through surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing. 

Laakea holds Bachelor’s degrees in Biological Sciences (from the University of Vermont) and Graphic Design & Digital Media (from Academy of Art University). She has worked at non-profits serving the environment, healthcare, and housing in Honolulu, with roles in marketing and events. She was also, briefly, a teacher at a public charter school in Honolulu, where she taught math and Hawaiian language in a multi-grade classroom (grades 7-12) using an experiential learning model. Highlights of her time there include the privilege of chaperoning a student trip to Tahiti to collect water samples for environmental organization Kai Makana, and spending time on a teachers’ retreat with master navigator “Papa Mau” Piailug.  

In her free time, Laakea volunteers at a wildlife rehab hospital in the Bay Area and enjoys hiking, camping, road trips with family & friends, and kayaking. She also devotes time to art and design projects on the side and is an avid reader. She tries, and fails, to stay one step ahead of her rascally Jack Russell Terrier.