Meet The Board
Tracy grew in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio and received an Associate degree from Hocking Technical College in Recreation and Wildlife and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toledo in Natural Resource Management.
She started working for the National Park Service in 1981 at Mesa Verde National Park and worked at 13 different NPS sites before retiring in 2013 as the Chief of Visitor Services and Resource Management at Aztec Ruins National Monument. Most of the sites she worked at were in the Southwest, including; Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Zion National Park, Navajo National Monument and others.
Her primary work was in park interpretation; providing tours and programs and overseeing visitor services. She also worked in curation, protection and management.
Since retirement, Tracy has volunteered with the Park Curator at Aztec Ruins National Monument assisting in the care and documentation of artifacts in the collection. She spends much of her free time gardening, camping, traveling, and hiking throughout the southwest.
Tracy joined the boards of Friends of Aztec Ruins and Friends of Chaco in 2013, became president of Friends of Aztec in 2019 and guided the two groups through a merger which took effect in January of 2020.
Steve Speth-Vice President
I am originally a Midwesterner, born in Des Moines and eventually graduating from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA and then MA in Education. At UNI I was on both the Track and Men’s Gymnastics teams. From there I worked in Milwaukee Wisconsin and Rochester Minnesota coaching and teaching. In Rochester I also hosted a cable TV show twice a week which focused on local events as well as health and safety, in connection with the Mayo Clinic and the YMCA.
After returning to UNI where I taught for two years I accepted a High School teaching and coaching job in Oregon. Since I was teaching History – including AP History, Pre-Columbian History and Ancient Cultures, I would spend summers traveling to historic sites in order to gather materials, photos and knowledge to use in class. As a result I visited Chaco and pretty much every other site you can name over a period of 20+ years beginning in the 1980’s. A chance meeting with Anna Sofaer led to a suggestion that I contact Chaco about volunteering upon retiring. As a lifelong amateur astronomer I was able to combine my love of both the night sky and southwest history beginning as a volunteer in 2002.
I have spent one to two months each of the past 19 years as a volunteer at Chaco working with the Interpretive Division doing night sky programs, site tours, school presentations and other events. I have also done Night Sky or history related programs at Bryce Canyon, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Cedar Breaks, Curecanti NRA, Red Canyon NRA and too many state parks, star parties or similar events to list.
I became a member of the Friends of Chaco Board in 2008 and President of the Board in 2009. As of this year I am Vice President of the newly formed Board of the Chaco Culture Conservancy. I have lived in Oregon since 1979 and I remain committed to helping Chaco and Aztec in any way I can.
Linda Wheelbarger is a professional archaeologist who has worked in the Southwest for 42 years. As a graduate student at Washington State University, she first came to the Southwest in the summer of 1978 to excavate sites in the proposed McPhee Reservoir area under Dr. David Breternitz and Dr. Bill Lipe through the Dolores Archaeological Project (DAP). She fell in love with the Southwest and moved here in 1979 to build her archaeological career by continuing to work at the DAP in 1979 and 1980. Through the early 1980’s, Wheelbarger worked on several large survey projects including Animas-La Plata Reservoir, Rifle-San Juan Powerline, and Vermejo Park for the York Canyon Coal Mine while settling permanently in the city of Farmington, NM by 1981. After working as a contract archaeologist for several years at the Salmon Ruins Division of Conservation Archaeology, Wheelbarger obtained a full-time position in that field at the San Juan College (SJC) Cultural Resources Management Program (CRMP) in 1987. She became co-director of the SJC contract archaeology office in 1991 with Meredith Matthews and began teaching the college’s field school in 1999 and other archaeology classes in 2005. Although Wheelbarger retired from the contract archaeology segment of her career in 2010, she continues to teach the field school, archaeology internships, and both credit and non-credit classes through the SJC Community Learning Center as well as continuing with public archaeology commitments and conference presentations.
Marie Jensen is a Special Education teacher at Aztec High School, in Aztec, NM. Marie’s education consists of a BS in outdoor education from Brigham Young University, with a minor in recreational therapy. Marie worked as a recreational therapist and a QMRP/Developmental Disabilities Specialist (Case manager) at the Wyoming State Training School in Lander, Wyoming for 11 years. While there, Marie was instrumental in starting a camping/outdoor program for people with severe/profound disabilities. After leaving Wyoming, Marie worked teaching hiking, swimming and motor skill development for Moffat County School district in Craig, CO for several years. Upon moving to New Mexico, Marie worked for 1 year as a case manager for the DD Medicaid waiver before returning to school (San Juan College) to get her NM teaching license. While working at AHS, Marie volunteered extensively with the JROTC program; it was through her association with JROTC that Marie began working/volunteering at Aztec Ruins National Monument and later, Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. She has worked summers at Aztec Ruins and Chao Canyon for 10 years.
As a classroom teacher, Marie has taken her classes camping at Chaco Canyon, Canyon De Chelley, Mesa Verde, El Morro and El Malpais, so the students can learn hands-on about the ancestral Puebloan people from this area. Her classes have visited Aztec Ruins many times over her 15 years at AHS.
Marie is a gardener, and has learned much about the way archeologists think ancestral peoples may have gardened and applies much of what she has learned to her own home garden. She enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and camping with her husband and her dogs. Marie has 4 children, all of whom grew up camping and hiking and continue to love and experience the outdoors.
Marie’s vision for the future is to continue to camp and enjoy the outdoors, to share her love of the outdoors and the beauty of this land with future generations.
Dr. Shelly Valdez-Kawaika
Dr. Shelly Valdez is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna Tribe, located in central New Mexico, and Hispanic descent. Shelly’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education, Master of Arts in Bilingual Education, and Ph.D. in Multicultural Teacher Education focusing on research in the area of Science Education.
Shelly has worked in the area of education for 33+ years and currently owns & manages an educational consulting business, Native Pathways, (NaPs), located in central New Mexico. An important component of NaPs is in the area of worldviews in science education, primarily focusing on indigenous science. Shelly’s interest and passion of indigenous science has influenced her approaches in the field of education, evaluation and partnerships she works with.
Why Indigenous Science in education? Shelly grew up with a rich environment filled with learning from a cultural worldview and the outdoors. Her father, the late Robert C. Valdez, was her mentor and her true teacher, in that he was able to take her school book learning to a deeper level. It was her father that helped her understand the connection of school learning to her own worldview, giving her a culturally rich community-based education. This environment and the gifts of knowledge her father shared with her influenced her decision to pursue the field of education, and advocacy in cultural relevancy in education. Shelly’s vision for the future is to continue to be an active participant and an advocate for influencing Worldviews in evaluation and educational opportunities for indigenous people.
Clif grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and graduated from UC Berkeley, before spending two years in the Peace Corps in Peru, where he met his wife, Jane. They have two adult sons. After graduating from Hastings College of the law, Clif practiced law as a criminal defense attorney for the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office in Oakland, California, for thirty-four years. He and his wife have visited Chaco since the 1980’s, and have worked there part-time as seasonal rangers and volunteers since 2008.
Ron is an archaeoastronomer (studies ancient knowledge of the skies) and researcher based in the North American Southwest. He has focused primarily on the Ancient Puebloan Culture. Ron has been watching, tracking and charting the Sun and Moon since 1995. Ron’s research has led him to extensively study the astronomic/scientific aspects of Sun-Earth-Moon system. He is also involved in Moon tracking onsite at Chimney Rock National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park in the Southwest USA. “MoonTracks” is a small book Ron has written in an attempt to explain the Major Lunar Standstill Cycle.