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Neill to retire at the end of May

By Staff | Apr 22, 2020

Dr. J. Bruce Neill

Dr. Bruce Neill, co-founder of the Sanibel Sea School, will officially retire from his 14-year role as executive director of the innovative educational organization on May 31.

“Over the next 45 days, I will be working with the team to transition out,” Neill, who relocated to California to be with his family, said. “I’m confident in their ability to carry forth experiential learning that changes people’s lives.”

Neill founded the Sanibel Sea School in 2005 with his wife, Evelyn, as a place of ocean love. He is excited that the leadership will transition to two educators who are as devoted to the mission as he and his wife are. Nicole Finnicum, who began as an educator in 2013, will become director and Shannon Stainken, who came on board in 2017, will take on a bigger role in leading education.

“We believe that great teachers truly love kids. And we strive to hire, grow and inspire great teachers,” Neill said. “Nicole and Shannon are great teachers who have grown within our organization and understand how to foster intimate connections with our ocean planet and to provide a wellspring for lifelong stewardship.”

Finnicum joined the Sanibel Sea School in 2013, working her way up from educator to the role of operations director. She recently earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management from the University of Central Florida, and she also has a master’s degree in environmental studies.

Stainken has a master’s degree in professional science, with a focus on marine conservation, and has been with the Sanibel Sea School since 2017. She also started as a marine educator and was promoted to manage education within a year.

After he steps down, Neill will continue to support the Sanibel Sea School from afar and will carry the mission close to his heart, as well as his love for the Sanibel and Captiva community.

“I’m especially proud of our team of educators for launching Nature Near You the week after social distancing went into effect. They were trailblazers in transitioning to experiential environmental education through digital platforms with their community offering,” he said. “We want to remind people that nature is an integral part of our lives; one that soothes us in hard times.”

Now through the end of May, viewers can watch Neill on Thursdays at noon as he live streams backyard nature discussions through Facebook at www.facebook.com/SanibelSeaSchool.