Meet our Instructors
Thanks to this incredible lineup of volunteer outdoor educators, we are able to offer multiple outdoor educational classes at our retreats. If you'd like to continue your training in any particular activity, we recommend that you contact them.
VOW Camp Instructors
Barbara Schultz has worked in forestry for over 40 years, and has been a forest health specialist for the State of Vermont since 1980. She started her classes as a Forest Ecology instructor at CCV by predicting that everyone would learn to identify twenty trees, and it was true (even the student who said, “I can’t, I’m from Brooklyn”). She likes the “detective” part of her job, using clues in the forest to diagnose forest tree problems, and finds that knowing the trees and being able to read the woods makes any walk in the forest more interesting.
For over 25 years, Bill Atkinson has helped individuals and organizations discover and analyze performance gaps, implement solutions, and evaluate results in order to continually improve mental tenacity, productivity and principle-centered leadership. He believes in a “whole person” approach to his work, embracing the role of each team member’s heart, body, mind, and spirit as essential parts of the big picture: leadership, positive attitude, and the desire to constantly be educated by one's experiences. As a Navy SEAL (Ret. 1998), Bill learned not only about the physical demands of combat situations, but also about emotional intelligence training. A big part of his work is to help individuals and organizations develop more adequate and consistent emotional coping techniques.
Bradley Carleton is Owner/Operator of Champlain Valley Guide Service which specializes in waterfowling opportunities in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. Bradley has been a successful waterfowl hunter for 28 years and holds four state calling titles. Bradley is also a monthly columnist for Outdoor Magazine and Northwoods Sporting Journal and is currently in the process of constructing an Outdoor Educational Curriculum for At-risk Youth. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, Katie, two retrievers, and a cat.
Bridget Butler, aka Bird Diva, has been a teacher/naturalist for over 20 years throughout New England, including at the Audubon Society in VT, ME, NH and MA; ECHO Leahy Center as Conservation Education Specialist; WPTZ as environmental reporter; and Jay Peak Resort as snowshoe tour guide and ski/snowboard instructor. Bridget joins Jane Lindholm on VPR's Vermont Edition for the Bird Show and Sharon Meyer on WCAX to discuss the natural world. Bridget feels it's important birders use passion for birds to make a difference by helping to protect habitat for birds and other wildlife. Bridget operates her own guide/consulting business, Bird Diva. She does not have a "favorite" bird, although she considers the Nashville Warbler "hot"!!
Catherine "Cat" Holm is the author of The Great Purr, a cat fantasy fiction novel, and Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, a memoir of life, love, and the human/animal-companion bond. As Ann Catanzaro, she writes cat fantasy fiction and is a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association. Cat is also a certified Hatha yoga instructor and occasionally gives workshops for writers using the simple and powerful tools of yoga. As an author and the award-winning creator of 4 books (literary fiction, fantasy fiction, and memoir), Cat writes about the natural world, place, people, and the bond with animal companions. Browse Books and Awards pages to learn about her books and events.
A lifelong outdoorswoman and equestrian, Cheryl Frank Sullivan's primary passions are bow hunting for white-tailed deer, ice fishing for northern pike, and spending time with her horses. Between those activities, she can be found trolling for salmon, casting for bowfin and bass, or bowfishing on Lake Champlain on her boat, The WildFisherWoman. She also enjoys bird hunting (waterfowl, upland and turkey) and rifle and muzzleloader hunting. A University of Vermont graduate and employee, Cheryl has an MS in Plant and Soil Science (biological control of agricultural pests) and a BS in Environmental Science (focus in conservation biology). She conducts research and provides educational outreach at the UVM Entomology Research Laboratory on integrated pest management of agricultural and forest insect pests using natural enemies and bio-insecticides.
Danielle Rougeau is the College Archivist at Middlebury College. She learned to log roll in a 2004 winter term class at Middlebury, offered by nationally-ranked woman log roller, Lizzie Hoeschler. She now teaches log rolling to Middlebury students throughout the year, organizes log rolling competitions, and during the summer can be seen with a Key Log strapped to the roof of her car. Danielle lives in Orwell, VT.
David Shedd is Publisher & Senior Editor of EasternSlopes.com, an online magazine devoted to encouraging people to get outdoors in the northeast. His specialties are carrying insane weights in backpacks over rough terrain to test packs, boots, snowshoes, and himself, and sleeping comfortably warm when the temperature sinks well below his sleeping bag's rating. David grew up in Vermont woods, far from neighbors (explains some of his eccentricities) and started learning outdoor skills early. Much to his parents' consternation, he always found his way home, even before GPS. David loves pedaling road, mountain and cyclocross bikes all year, and has raced on all three. He's survived the Mount Washington Hillclimb three times. He also enjoys backpacking, paddling kayaks, and has recently taken up "adventure obstacle course racing" which, he admits, is a form of institutionalized self-abuse. David hunts and fishes, often from a backpack or kayak camp. In winter, he camps, snowshoes, and enjoys every type of skiing that doesn't involve terrain parks. Enthusiastic about all these pursuits and the necessary gear, he places a strong emphasis on teaching people how to do things safely; he knows the right way to do things precisely because he's probably already suffered the consequences of doing it wrong the first time!
Heather Forcier's career has been in general business administration, including Business Manager for Greg Downing Photography while assisting on photo workshops. She co-founded www.NatureScapes.net. In addition to articles about the craft of nature photography, NatureScapes.net's forums are a fantastic resource for discussing pertinent topics and receiving valuable image critiques. The pursuit of nature photography has taken Heather to places throughout North America, including Churchill (Manitoba, Canada), Alaska, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, numerous destinations along the mid-Atlantic coastline, Vermont, and Montana. She has also photographed at the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador, South America.
Jessie Krebs is a former U.S. Air Force SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape.) Training Instructor from the old school days when instructors were simply called “Survival Instructors”. As one of a handful of women in the male dominated S.E.R.E. career field, Jessie outsmarted and out-toughed many of her male counterparts in the Air Force to make it through the intense S.E.R.E. training program (class 91-02) and earn her right to a coveted position as an Air Force SERE Specialist. She is a back-country mountain guide leading recreational and wilderness therapy expeditions across many stretches of the American Southwest. In addition to being the Founder & Head Instructor of SERE Training School's SERE-oriented survival training programs for both civilians and outdoor professionals, Jessie is highly sought-after as a technical consultant and on-screen survival expert for a number of international survival shows including Science Channel's Hacking The Wild, Fox's Kicking & Screaming, and National Geographic's Mygrations where Jessie became one of only a handful of modern human beings ever to complete a primitive crossing of hundreds of miles of Tanzanian Serengeti on foot.
Johanna Laggis is a dairy farmer in East Hardwick, VT. Along with her husband, John, his brother Chris, and their families, Laggis brothers Farms milks 500 Jerseys and manages 1000 acres of land. In addition to dairying, they sugar and harvest timber. Johanna worked as a forester for the State of Vermont in the 1980s and still spends lots of time in the woods foraging for wild edibles, identifying everything alive, and sharing her knowledge with friends and dogs. Johanna is currently serving on the Fish & Wildlife board as the Caledonia County representative.
John Adler is Co-Owner/Senior Instructor at Northeast Woodland Training, Inc. Among the most recognized logging instructors in the United States, John brings 15+ years' experience as a Game of Logging instructor and has trained hundreds of professional loggers, forest owners, and students throughout New England, New York, and beyond. During winter months, John owns and operates Eagle Forest Improvement, a logging business in Chester, VT. John has worked with a variety of logging systems, from cable skidders to dozers to his current forwarder-based operation. John has a degree in forestry from Paul Smith's College.
John Wayne Blassingame’s background in the USN Seabees and his civilian schooling in engineering were an apt foundation for his life’s work. A professional Dowser for over 40 years -- dowsing for Water Well sites, Electromagnetic and Geopathic problems in homes and businesses, Minerals and Personal needs -- and a designer and developer of Labyrinths, John has become one of the most sought-after consultants, nationally. He has conducted all-day workshops as well as shorter classes teaching and building mobile labyrinths at 20 different conferences. He has taught Water Well site locating, Home and business detoxifying, Basic and Advanced Dowsing, Map Dowsing and Electromagnetic/Geopathic zone locating.
Karen Guile Caron, originally from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, learned how to fish with her grandfather on Maidstone Lake. She recently started the "Fly Girls Of Stowe" Fishing Club. She was a fly fishing instructor for Casting for Recovery and is a board member/ fly fishing instructor for Hope on the Rise. Karen owns and operates Stable Connections offering Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, Equine Assisted Learning, Professional Education programs to create positive change for children, adolescents and adults.
Kathy Bennett and husband Alex MacLennan live in Windsor, VT and operate Braeburn Siberians. Their daughter Elizabeth opened the door to the captivating world of Siberian Huskies and dog sledding by asking to learn how, 10 years ago at age 9. Kathy and Alex began with 5 dogs for her to train, race, care for and love; and now have 35! Siberians are happiest when they can do what they were historically bred to do and so they dog sled! Kathy and Alex breed on a limited basis to build their team and are working towards certifying a few as emotional therapy dogs. People often comment that it must be a lot of work to take good care of so many dogs; it is! However, when you are passionate about something, it doesn't feel like work, especially when you receive unconditional love in return. "We can't imagine a day without our canine family!"
Kevin Estela is owner and head Instructor of Estela Wilderness Education. He brings extensive educational experience to the courses and material he offers. Kevin is a regular contributing author for various websites and magazines. He is a guest speaker at various sportsmen’s shows, speaking engagements and webinars, as well as product tester for Bark River Knife and Tool, and a Mountain Khakis Professional Ambassador. Kevin has taught on the East and West coast and has traveled around the country and to the United Kingdom to teach bushcraft and survival skills. He has been featured on the History Channel as an on-air subject matter expert for Expedition Africa: Survival Tips and was the technical advisor for these promotional videos. Complimenting Kevin’s background in survival and wilderness skills is his martial arts training. Kevin is trained in Sayoc Kali and is an Instructor in the Filipino martial arts system. He is also a black belt in the Applied Self-Defense program at RiSu Martial Arts and a Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Sifu Chris Smith. Kevin has also received extensive firearms training and has trained under the best Instructors around.
Larry W. Hamel lives in Hardwick, Vermont. He is currently President of the Lamoille Valley Fish & Game Club and is a certified VT Hunter Education Instructor. Larry has been working with women's groups, instructing muzzleloader, rifle and handgun safety courses for the past 20+ years. He is a carpenter by trade and a hunter-tracker-competitive shooter-woodsman by choice.
Although Laura Zerra has been exploring wild places since she could walk, she officially began her studies at Connecticut College in 2003, where she studied ecology, zoology, botany, and ethnological uses of natural resources. Her real education was outside the classroom, where she began learning brain tanning, tracking, meat processing, and bow building under Manuel Lizarralde. In 2005, she started teaching primitive survival skills at Great Hollow Wilderness School and began traveling around North America, practicing her skills and teaching. Though focusing on primitive survival, Laura has also worked as a taxidermist, butcher, and farrier. In 2013, Laura was put her skills to the test, spending 21 days in full survival in Panama as cast member of the Discovery show Naked and Afraid. She currently resides in New Hampshire and shares her love of adventure and all things outdoors guiding custom expeditions and teaching primitive survival skills through her business, Zerra Expeditions.
Lea Calderon-Guthe has been a professional chef, facilitator and counselor, and she is currently on her way to becoming a clinical social worker. After five years as a cheesemaker in rural North Carolina, she moved to Vermont and devoted herself to farmer advocacy, social justice education and wilderness enthusiasm. After an attempted solo thru-hike of the Long Trail in December 2013, she learned how to cook almost anything in cast iron over an open fire in any weather, and she enjoys cooking outside whenever she can. She lives on top of a mountain in central Vermont with her partner, one kid, two cats and seven chickens, and she spends her days learning about social work, hiking, gardening and disrupting dinner parties with attempts to dismantle the kyriarchy.
Leslie Ruster is an educator originally from the South Shore of Lake Ontario and has taught various subjects from Spanish, skiing and women's health education to yoga, English and conservation skills. She learned how to use an ax working on and leading trips for various conservation corps, studied literature at Oberlin College, edible wild plants at the Wisdom of the Herbs School and is a student at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism. She's currently focusing her studies on herbal medicine, forest ecology, and the art and power of storytelling.
Linwood H. Smith has over 30 years of experience teaching archery skills and with all brands of archery equipment repair. He will work one-on-one with you to pinpoint any troubles with your setup and get your gear hitting the right spot with the right force no time! Linwood Smith Archery Pro Shop, located in St. Johnsbury, is proud to offer the award winning performance of Martin and all of the equipment and accessories to help you reach your archery goals. Every Bow Linwood sells is carefully configured and set up to wield the best possible performance. Courses in their large indoor/outdoor archery shooting range are available year-round with peak season in August through October.
Mariah Mitchell's love for the outdoors grew after attending Green Mountain Conservation Camp at Buck Lake at age 13. She remembers sitting on the grass at the shooting range, listening to the only female Game Warden. On that day, she decided that was what she wanted to be when she grew up. Seven years later, Mariah is working toward an Associate Degree in Environmental Science and Natural Resources with the goal of pursuing her dream of becoming a Game Warden. Volunteering for Hunter Education and Operation Game Thief, she met amazing people who asked her to join VOW Camp in instructing the firearms course. At her first VOW Camp, Mariah met Murphy Robinson, founder of Mountainsong Expeditions, who asked her to join them in guiding women on a deer hunt in North Carolina. Mariah loves working with people of all ages and sharing her passion for the outdoors, and looks forward to all the adventures and inspirational people she will meet along the way. Mariah lives in Morrisville, VT.
Meridy Capella has been the owner of Evergreen Alterations, a woman-owned small business in Bennington VT for over 20 years. She's a government contractor for the Department of Defense, while maintaining a civilian client base in her area. Meridy alters the uniforms of all law enforcement in Bennington County and recently opened a manufacturing branch for outerwear. Fiber arts, sewing, and creating are both Meridy's passion and pastime. She truly enjoy sharing this passion with her community.
Founder of Mountainsong Expeditions, Murphy Robinson spent 8 years as traveling wilderness guide and trail worker before putting down roots and starting their own wilderness company in Calais, VT. Murphy has thru-hiked the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail; hunted deer in NC, ME, and VT; and cleared countless miles of trails with an ax and crosscut saw. Passionate about empowering women with solid backcountry skills and enabling people to experience a spiritual connection with the land, Murphy leads backcountry trips and teaches classes in bow drill fires, spoon-carving, ax skills, and the popular Huntress Intensive. Murphy learned most of her ax skills in the CA Conservation Corps Backcountry Trails Program.
Robin Nesbeda has been living, working, and playing in the outdoors for over 30 years. She has a B.A. in Geology and a M.S. in Disaster Science and is a Wilderness EMT. Her professional background includes conducting environmental field work, working as a risk manager for overseas educational programs, state and federal-level disaster response, and wilderness search and rescue. She currently lives in the mountains of western Maine and splits her time between Sunday River ski patrol and teaching for Wilderness Medical Associates, International.
Robbo Holleran is a private consulting forester with 20+ years experience and currently manages approximately 45,000 acres. His specialty is public education about forest-related and environmental issues and is on the board of directors of several forest related organizations. Robbo brings a practical knowledge to advancing the art and science of forestry. He lives with his wife, six children and an extensive bonsai collection of native trees.
Sarah Corrigan is an herbalist and primitive skills practitioner who has a focus on ethnobotanical studies. Informed by these land based arts, she finds they offer the rewards of self reliance through skill, responsibility and gratitude through growing and gathering, and the awe and wonder of things through the beauty of the natural world. In effect, that this interaction can educate us to being more capable, responsible, and healthier human beings. As a student and an educator, she remains passionate about continuous learning, and facilitating a student's relationship to the natural world through supporting their own learning processes. www.rootsvt.com
Sawyer M.L. Alberi, Ed.D has over 15 years of teaching wilderness, remote, travel, and conflict medicine. A veteran of the U.S. Military, Sawyer was deployed to Iraq as a flight medic and again to Afghanistan where she ran the largest aid station in the region and was tasked with validating the mission of women engaging women for future dynamic battlefields. While her academic specialty is Leadership Education in Media and Gender studies, Sawyer teaches as part time faculty for Norwich University in the behavioral sciences and she also has designed and teaches many of the courses in the Wellness and Alternative Medicine Degree at Northern Vermont University. Sawyer enjoys snowshoeing all winter long, deer hunting in every season, and is quite possibly the worst fly fisher in Vermont. In her spare time, Sawyer and her family breed Bernese Mountain Dogs.
Sheli Aldridge has lived in the area since elementary school. She has taught math in northern NH and VT for more than 20 years. Sheli raised her family here and enjoys the surroundings. Snowmobiling, water sport, and coaching team sports are among her favorite interests. She loves riding her motorcycle on the country roads. This year, Sheli has become the new general manager of North Country Paddle. Sharing her love of paddling on the water with individuals or groups is her favorite part of this position. Paddling on the water has helped her to slow down from her normal busy pace, taking time with friends or alone, and appreciate nature. Her favorite paddles are the sunset tours.
Tim Jones is founder and executive editor of EasternSlopes.com, devoted to encouraging people to get outdoors in the northeast. Tim's motto is "Life isn't a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!" and he practices what he preaches. He wandered from the back yard of his rural New Hampshire home as a toddler and has been exploring outdoors ever since. He started skiing at age 4, was still in grade school when he started camping, hiking, and paddling canoes, and taught both Alpine and cross-country skiing while in high school and college. A full-time journalist for nearly 40 years, Tim has published over 1500 feature stores and thousands of newspaper columns on outdoor pursuits. Winter is his favorite season and he enjoys camping; snowshoeing; Alpine, AT backcountry, Telemark and Cross-country skiing; Nordic skating; and winter mountaineering. When there's no snow, he hikes, paddles sea kayaks, rides bikes, camps, and climbs mountains. He is also an avid fly fisher and hunter. Tim's experience in the outdoors has taught him that the best way to safely learn any new skill is in incremental steps with expert instruction from someone who knows, not only how to do, but also how to teach.
Zev Alexander has taught and fed people of all ages at camps, on working farms, and in industrial kitchens. He was the Cooking Instructor at Flying Cloud camp, a wilderness camp for boys, where he helped campers and staff cook over an open fire for 60 people, three meals a day. He is passionate about food systems, social justice, and connecting people to the the planet, and is currently enrolled in the University of Vermont's Farmer Training Program.