Today a colleague from Chicago came to me while I was having lunch at the NAEA Museum Education Preconference at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Another colleague, someone she knew who worked at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, died on Saturday, allegedly at the hands of her estranged husband.
Tara Feldman Alamilla was 34 years-old and had three children, ages 2, 5 and 11. At Brookfield Zoo, where Tara had worked since 2006, she established a reputation for making inroads with Chicago Public Schools teachers in the zoo’s new education program. A teacher-development program that she coordinated, Levels of Engagement, won the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Education Award in 2009. Tara was also helping with the design of wildlife clubs in Guyana, and had managed the zoo’s accessibility program for children with disabilities, arranging internships and volunteer opportunities.
At the lunch table at the Baltimore Museum of Art, my Chicago colleague asked, “Can we do something?” I knew immediately that she meant Museum-Ed, and then it hit me: the theme of this year’s NAEA conference is social justice, and I was discussing the murder of a 34 year-old mother of three who also happened to be a museum educator. What a terrible irony. How heartbreaking that this year’s conference theme was hitting so close to home.
I certainly don’t want to reduce Tara Alamilla, to a statistic in a blog post about violence against women. But here we are, at a conference with the theme of social justice. It’s an anguishing reminder that we are all responsible for remembering how this theme can touch us no matter where we are and no matter where we work.
So, we are doing something, learning about and remembering Tara Alamilla. I know everyone who reads this will share my condolences to Tara’s co-workers at the Brookfield Zoo.
- Kris Wetterlund Says:
April 15th, 2010 at 6:47 pm I’ve just learned that the Brookfield Zoo has set up a memorial fund for Tara Alamilla. Tara’s family has requested that those who wish to remember Tara send contributions to the fund, and those donations will be used to enhance the zoo’s education efforts. Send donations to Tara’s Memorial Fund, c/o Stuart Strahl, Director’s Office, Chicago Zoological Society, 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield IL 60513
- Debra Kutska Says:
April 17th, 2010 at 6:05 pm As a friend and fellow educator at Brookfield Zoo, thank you for thinking of Tara and her family. It helps all of us to know that her light is being carried throughout the nation and throughout the world.
- Sarah Alvarez Says:
April 17th, 2010 at 7:30 pm Thanks, Kris, for posting this. Tara was a both a wonderful educator and a wonderful human being. She will be missed by so many: her three children, her family, her colleagues at the Zoo, and all the teachers and students’ lives that she touched through her work.
- Jess Says:
April 21st, 2010 at 10:41 am As a co-worker of Tara’s, I was glad to see that her work in Museum education was given thoughtful consideration. Thanks.