Assistant Director, Education Programs, Friends of the National Zoo
Elise Bernardoni is the Assistant Director for Education Programs at Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), the non-profit support organization for Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC. Elise began her career at FONZ in 2006 as an intern and has been with the education department for 14 years. She and her team oversee a large education portfolio including school programs, camps, children’s classes, overnights, birthday parties, and a teen volunteer program. She also manages several special programs and projects including strategic leadership for education and learning, an internal conservation grant that distributes $100,000 annually to the National Zoo’s keepers and scientists, and the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment’s National Zoo Day.
Elise is an active advocate for zoos-based conservation organizations. She is an instructor for two professional development courses offered through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA): Conservation Education: Effective Program Design and Managing for Success: Career Development. Elise is a member of the National Capital Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, and served as chapter president from 2013 – 2017. She is currently the national education co-advisor for the Felid Taxonomic Advisory Group, which manages all populations of cat species in AZA accredited zoos’ care.
Elise holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Arts in Teaching; Museum Education from The George Washington University. She is passionate about helping young people see their role in conservation and at conservation organizations no matter their personal or professional background. Elise is a native of Connecticut, where she spent a lot of time camping, playing outdoors, and tending to her menagerie of pets. Elise enjoys traveling, kayaking, and spotting wildlife before her partner when out in nature.