ORCA Faculty


Marina McLeod, Robin Araniva, Wendy Houston, Ardi Kveven, Josh Searle, and Shelli Jordan-Zirkle

ORCA faculty members are deeply committed to the program. A common theme from alumni feedback is how available the instructors are for discussion or extra assistance with coursework. Through continued dialogue with each other about powerful teaching and learning, each instructor seeks to imbed content learning outcomes with programmatic outcomes. Using collaborative assignments and feedback, the ORCA instructors provide tremendous opportunities for students to learn deeply through a rich discussion of ideas supported by evidence.  By focusing on communicating understanding through written and oral frameworks, all students grow as scholars throughout their work with the instructors.

Ardi Kveven is the founder and executive director of the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA), an innovative early-college program at Everett Community College. Kveven earned her bachelor's degree in biology with a marine emphasis, along with her teaching certificate, from the University of Washington. She holds a master's degree in science education from Western Washington University and a United States Coast Guard 100 ton Master’s License.  Focused on introducing students to the marine biology of the Pacific Northwest, she taught marine science and oceanography from high school to the college levels for fourteen years prior to developing ORCA with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Kveven views science as an active process….one all students should have an opportunity to experience.  Innovative work with engaging students in experimental research in the Snohomish River estuary led to two National Science Foundation grants, including one for a custom designed 34 foot research vessel, the R/V Phocoena.

Josh Searle is an instructor in English, humanities, and political science at Everett Community College and a founding faculty member of the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA). He earned his bachelor’s degrees in English and Political Science from the University of Washington and his master’s degree in teaching from Seattle University. He has also been National Board Certified in English/Language Arts for secondary students. For over twenty years, Josh has worked with students from high school to college, engaging them in the active process of critical reading, thinking, and writing. At ORCA, Josh revels in the opportunity to work with students on their own research in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Whether you find him coiling line on the bow of R/V Phocoena, sheepishly sharing another pun in seminar, or pouring over a stack of student portfolios, feel free to ask, “What is nature?” 

Wendy Houston is a founding mathematics faculty member at ORCA. Graduating from Bowdoin College majoring in mathematics, chemistry and environmental Studies, Wendy values the liberal arts and interdisciplinary focus of ORCA.  After earning her master’s degree in Mathematics at the University of Montana and completing a teaching fellowship at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Wendy began her community college teaching career in Washington State.  In class, Wendy emphasizes conceptual understanding of mathematical ideas as well as finding connections between other disciplines and everyday life. Wendy particularly enjoys helping students work through their "sticking points" - finding alternate explanations, examples or analogies to help students understand difficult concepts.

Shelli Jordan-Zirkle has been teaching History courses at various community colleges and four year institutions since 2000. Shelli loves both teaching and History. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History along with a Women’s Studies Minor from Montana State University, and she earned her master’s degree in History from University of Oregon. Shelli enjoys teaching all U.S. History courses, though she focused her graduate work on various social movements and social reform efforts of the 1960s. Shelli started teaching at ORCA in 2005. She was drawn to the emphasis on active learning as well as critical thinking, reading, and writing. Shelli hopes to engage students to see multiple perspectives in History by piecing together stories and documents in order to create a picture of the past.

Robin Araniva has taught at the Ocean Research College Academy (ORCA) for the past 6 years. Upon completion of bachelor’s degrees in Zoology and Spanish at the University of Washington, she entered Teach for America and taught high school physics for two years in the Rio Grande Valley, TX. She then earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction of Science from the University of Wisconsin. She is passionate about supporting students as citizen scientists as they learn by investigating their own questions about the local marine environment. She teaches Ocean Technology, Introduction to Oceanography, Marine Biology of the Pacific Northwest, and Topics of Ecology.

Marina McLeod joins the ORCA team in 2015 as a math faculty member. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Colorado College, known for its unique “Block Plan” in which students immerse themselves in one class at a time. She furthered her study abroad in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program. After graduating, Marina worked as a full-time tutor in the mathematics department at her alma mater. During that year, she discovered her love of teaching, which propelled her into graduate school in mathematics at the University of Utah. There, she pursued her interest in algebraic number theory. Marina looks forward to sharing her love of mathematics with the students at ORCA and contributing to the incredibly dynamic learning environment built by her fellow faculty members.

Marla Hyder joined the ORCA team in 2017 as an English and Humanities teacher. After earning a bachelor's degree in English (Creative Writing) at Whitworth University, Marla served as managing editor for a regional publishing company, overseeing book and magazine projects that ranged in subject from local history to construction industry news. She began teaching composition while earning a master's degree in English (Rhetoric and Composition) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and continued teaching at College of Lake County in Illinois. During that time, she designed and directed a Writing Across the Curriculum program, which gave her the opportunity to work closely with faculty in all disciplines. Having experienced the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach, Marla is thrilled to work with all of the ORCA faculty to support and enhance our students' success.