Who We Are
Amy Hyatt – Senior Program Director
Amy moved to Vermont in August 2001 to participate in VWS’s Instructor Apprenticeship Program, with the intention of later moving back to her home bioregion of Southwestern Ohio to start a wilderness school. But she quickly fell in love with Vermont, the work of VWS, and the children and families. She has been with us ever since. Amy now directs youth programs year-round, most notably Blue Heron Community School, Shambhala Warrior & Nature Camp, and Earthfriend Discovery Day Camp.
Amy’s adult program offerings at VWS include the series Foundations in Nature Connection Mentoring and Nourishing Our Roots retreats.
Amy’s specialty is working with children ages 7-11 and adults of all ages in areas of nature awareness, basic survival skills, cultural facilitation, and community building. She completed a Master of Arts in eco-literacy and place-based education from Union Institute and University and a Bachelor’s of Philosophy in Cross-Cultural Communication through the Arts from Miami University.
Amy also provides consulting, custom workshops, and one-on-one distance mentoring. See her consulting page.
Bob Etzweiler – Senior Program Director
Bob has always loved being outdoors. Before moving to Vermont in 2006, he was program director and naturalist at a summer camp / outdoor retreat center in his home state of Pennsylvania. Since then Bob has become a beloved mainstay at VWS, directing youth programs year-round, most notably Foxwalk Forest School, Teen Leadership Camp, Foxwalk Day Camp, and Otter Day Camp.
Bob loves tracking, hunting, tanning hides, crafting, and wandering. He also loves cooking by fire!
Bob also provides consulting and custom programs. See the VWS consulting page.
In love and care of her home in nature, Willow is a land steward, farmer and community organizer. She received a B.S. in Environmental Science and Management with a focus on plant ecology and agroecology from UC Davis and has worked over 15 years with biodiverse farms, small businesses and universities tending land with an array of ecological techniques while engaging the community in the process.
Originally from the west, Willow is new to New England and is excited to be a student of the eastern forest. She is delighted to join the VWS team as the Outreach & Operations Director. Willow loves to celebrate the turning of the seasons with ceremony and joy — usually with a cup of tea, honey from a beehive, a flower bouquet cut on a walk with her family and goats. She and her husband Jay, and kiddo Juniper are growing their small farm, Sylvan Moon Farm, in Putney.
She feels most at home on the forest edge, on a rocky crag near a body of water, preferably in fog.
Ron Schneiderman – Business Director
After almost 20 years living in Alaska, Odette has made her way back to the lower 48 to be closer to family and to enjoy the beauty of New England. Originally born in Brooklyn, New York, her love of animals encouraged her to attend a Vocational Agriculture high school. There she learned what living and working on farms in upstate New York was like for three summers. This experience increased her appreciation for the outdoors and friends she found in nature. Living somewhat isolated in the “hills” in Fairbanks, Alaska added to her love of the peace and quiet that comes from being in nature, her appreciation of snow, sun, the aurora borealis, an occasional moose, arctic lynx or fox, and the ornery ravens that were always fun to watch and listen to.
Odette has worked as a Community Food Security Educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension where she thrived on starting programs that benefited the local food supply with Community Gardens, Farmers Markets, Farm to School projects, and Mass Food Distributions.
She brings 17 years of nonprofit management experience and philanthropy to her new role as Executive Director for VWS. She is excited about capacity building for VWS and taking advantage of all VWS offers for her and her families’ continued learning.
Odette has a BA in Vocational Agriculture Education. She lives in Hancock, New Hampshire. Odette is married to William Butler, has three sons and two adorable grandchildren that will be participating in VWS programs.
She loves cooking, baking, gardening, and crocheting. She truly enjoys the rare times she gets to share with family who live mostly in different parts of New York state.
Sam’s family attended VWS’s weeklong Art of Mentoring program in 2013, and life hasn’t been the same since. He is thrilled and grateful to have found a community that reinforces his family’s dedication to living a life based in nature awareness, community development, and personal growth. He believes that every child and every adult should have the kind of opportunity his family has had.
Sam became the Executive Director of VWS at the beginning of 2015. For the previous five years, Sam worked at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) where he coordinated PVGrows, a network of people and organizations collaborating around a healthy and sustainable regional food economy. From 2000-2010 he worked in the foundation/philanthropy sector and gained experience in organizational development, facilitation, program/event management, and finance. He graduated with a BA in Environmental Studies from Brown University. Sam and his wife Leslie live in Conway, MA with their two children, who are teaching their parents about trees and making fire.
Abby came on as a lead instructor for the Great Blue Heron Community School in 2014 after volunteering in 2011-2012 when she was pregnant with her first child (who has been happily participating in VWS programs since they turned five). Abby loves being outdoors— wandering, swimming, backpacking, biking, gardening, building fairy houses, and more. She spent several years working in NH’s White Mountains, where she had the unique opportunity to live in, and learn from, the alpine zone. Later, she earned an M.S. in Environmental Science at Antioch University New England and taught high school biology for several years, where she had a collection of dermestid beetles that helped clean her animal skull collection. Check out her Vermont Public Radio commentary about working with VWS and her article about primitive cooking for Local Banquet.
Ava has loved exploring the woods and natural wonders of Vermont since she was a kid participating in VWS programs. Forming a meaningful connection with the Earth is very important to her, and so is mentoring kids and continually learning herself. She loves to connect to nature through quiet awareness, sit spots, hiking, wandering, stream wading, and more. She is interested in studying Environmental science in college. Ava also enjoys running, biking, and swimming.
Hello, I’m Bryn! I’ve participated in Otter Day camp since I was 6 years old. I’m from Greenfield, Massachusetts and am going into my junior year of high school at Four Rivers Charter School. I enjoy spending time outside, and love animals of all kinds, especially birds. During my free time, I like to read and draw.
Christopher works as a full time wilderness educator and canoe guide for the last decade. His passion for the outdoors is centered around the concepts of “Friluftsliv” and Deep Ecology, two concepts that minimize the importance of people having “adventures” in the outdoors and frames experiences around the interconnectedness of all members of the ecosystem. Christopher is the director of School Of The Forest, an adult outdoor program in Guilford and is the lead instructor on Jack Mountain Bushcraft School’s nine week semester programs. If you can’t find him, he’s probably looking at birds.
Connor has been involved with VWS for many years and for two years served as our Executive Director. He now joins us each summer to lead Land Stewardship Camp.
Connor has mentored students of all ages in nature connection since 2004 and teaches on knowledge of place and land stewardship around North America. As an ecological designer, Connor specializes in agroforestry and carbon sequestration on farms. He offers consulting and design for regenerative agriculture systems at AppleSeed Permaculture. He lives in Florence, MA and travels frequently around the Northeast.
Connor co-organized the internationally acclaimed Carbon Farming Course; has served on leadership teams for Art of Mentoring workshops in Vermont, California, Idaho, Texas, North Carolina, Ontario, and the British Isles; and is a graduate of both the Wilderness Awareness Residential Program and the Regenerative Design and Nature Awareness program. Connor holds an M.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist and Ecological Planning program and a B.S. in Eco-Social Design from Gaia University International.
David is excited to join the VWS Great Blue Heron team as an assistant mentor. David first became interested in wilderness skills when he recognized the potential for healing that comes with integration into the non-built landscape. He is particularly interested in tracking, natural fibers, basketry, and plant foraging. He’s also always excited to discuss nature philosophy and ecotherapy. When not at GBH David is co-teaching at a nature-based childcare program in Massachusetts.
Emma is a homeschooler and poet from Putney Vermont. She loves spending time outdoors and is especially fond of plant medicine and wild edibles. A teen intern for Great Blue Heron and Foxwalk in previous years, Emma is excited to further connect with the VWS community (and nature) as an assistant instructor. When she isn’t attending Great Blue Heron herself or playing in the woods with kids, she likes to spend time in the garden, read, swim, and babysit for local families.
Erica (they/them) first started forming a deep connection to nature growing up in the Mohawk River Valley, unceded Haudenosaunee territory. They have always had a sense of wonder for the natural world, and it is this embodied love for nature that they most aim to bring alive in all who they mentor. Erica discovered VWS in the Fall of 2018 through Amy Hyatt’s Essentials of Resilient Community series, and worked the 2021-2022 year at GBH Tuesdays. They are very grateful to be returning again this year on Thursdays at Camp Arden.
Jasmyn started attending VWS programs when she was six and continued until high school. After graduation she returned to the world of mentoring youth in nature connection, working various programs throughout the years with VWS, BAMS, and a few others in southern Vermont. Jasmyn is passionate about sharing the gratitude and sense of connection with place and self that she gained from being immersed in nature throughout her youth. She is also passionate about skills such as primitive cooking, basketry and other crafts, tracking, hunting, and stewardship of the land. In addition to working with VWS, she works with sugaring operations throughout New England making maple syrup, and is a K-9 handler for the Vermont Search and Rescue team.
Karen grew up in Pittsburgh, PA in a family that dabbled in the outdoors by camping in a pop-up camper up and down the east coast. It wasn’t until college that Karen camped in a tent, hiked for the first time, and saw her first shooting star. She was hooked, switched majors, and never turned back. She received her B.S. in Recreation and Parks Management from Penn State and her M.A. in Environmental Education from the University of New Hampshire. During her career in environmental education, she worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club and Maine Audubon before moving to Georgia to be with her one true love, Justin. She spent a few years in Atlanta, working for the Department of Natural Resources and Stone Mountain, had a couple of kids, and (happily) dragged them all back to New England. Karen now serves on the New Hampshire Environmental Educators board and dedicates her time to raising an outdoor daughter and son.
Kathy has been teaching in the outdoor adventure and nature connection fields for more than 20 years. Together with Jean Bergstrom she co-founded Her Wild Roots, which offers nature education programs for women. She has a passion for birds and has completed White Pine’s Advanced Bird Language Program and worked in wild bird rehabilitation with the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. Kathy is the author of the book Abbreviated Field Guide to Mammal Behavior: New England Region (2020). Kathy leads tracking and birding by ear workshops at VWS, in addition to the programs she runs through her own organization Trotting Fox Programs.
Lauren is excited to be working with VWS! She is halfway through her Environmental Education Master’s program, and looking forward to applying what she has learned this past year. In her spare time, Lauren can be found caring for her plants, playing with her animals, and engaging in various crafts. She has a passion for working with little kiddos, and is excited to share her love for the natural world. A long-time nature lover, she brings her joy for all things big and small to the Vermont Wilderness School this year. Lauren will also be joined by her trusty hypoallergenic service dog, Plato.
Louisa has staffed various VWS programs over the years, including Foxwalk, Great Blue Heron, Art of Mentoring, and Full Moon Girls. Louisa also teaches fiddle and calls contra dances for children and families. She lives with her family in West Brattleboro. She is the Foxwalk Wednesday Field Director.
Maggie has been attending VWS programs since she was 9 years old. She spends her time reading books, riding her horse, and wandering outdoors. She enjoys wild edibles, playing games, craft projects, swimming, hunting, and learning of all kinds. She also works on a few small family farms, bringing in loose hay with draft horses, digging potatoes, getting up for the sunrise, and bird watching. Maggie lives on a small hillside farm in west Brattleboro with her family.
Mali moves through life with a playful yet attentive attitude. Her skills and passions lie within educating others and encouraging their interests. She has been an educator of young children since 2009. Over the years, she’s gained experience in and out of the classroom working with diverse learners. She currently holds a valid teaching license and gracefully sews together academic learning with emergent experiences outdoors. Mali lives in Harrisville, NH where she relishes the grounding effects of nature and outdoor adventure with her family. She is also the director of Wild Hearts in NH.
Mikaela is a lifelong lover of the natural world, whose absolute calling and delight is working with kids of all ages. She is a clinical social worker with 25 years of experience in schools, camps, clinics, studios, and forests. Mikaela is deeply rooted in working with kids to promote resilience, awareness, empowerment, and curiosity/wonder about our natural, social, and internal worlds. She is passionate about helping people to remember belonging in the web of all life. She finds joy in helping young folks to listen deeply and to more fully become the uniquely magical beings that they are.
Noah has been participating in wilderness activities since he was 5. He has been a CIT at multiple camps including the Grammar School Summer Camp, and at multiple VWS programs. He has also been an Assistant Instructor at the Grammar School Summer Camps. He enjoys playing games and cooking over the fire.
Owen started attending VWS programs when he was 8 years old and attended for many years, then became a teen helper, then a mentor, and then an instructor. He left the area for a couple years to attend Green Mountain College, where he graduated before returning to the area.
Rosa’s first VWS program was the Art of Mentoring when she was 7 years old. That week of being outdoors and spending time with people that she had met there quickly became her favorite week of the year. She later attended many VWS summer camps and some days with the school year program. Rosa spends her free time swimming, reading, singing, and playing ultimate frisbee.
Satya’s love for the outdoors was sparked when he began attending VWS programs at 8 years old. He has staffed nature connection programs and wilderness camps in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York, as well as abroad in England, Scotland, and Wales.
Zak was introduced to VWS in 2014 as a parent of two sons who attended Blue Heron Community School. Zak is eager and passionate about the great outdoors and loves to share the excitement of discovery and learning with youth. He has a BA from Hampshire College in Studio Art, and amidst all the excitement of family life he also pursues a career as a glass artist and craftsperson.
Ian became interested in wilderness skills after exploring anthropology in college and seeing how other cultures managed to live sustainably on the land. After graduating, he spent three years practicing earth skills and traditional crafts at ROOTS School in Vermont. He currently lives in central Massachusetts (Nipmuc land) and is enrolled in the Ethnobotany program at the University of Alaska. He is especially passionate about wild plant foods. When he’s not out foraging, he’s often gardening, weaving baskets, or spending time with his six dogs.
Matrix Balsley-Petraska lives in Guilford, Vermont. She has attended Blue Heron Community School and Otter Day Camp since she was six. Her wonderful experiences with her mentors in VWS programs have inspired her to become a mentor in the community and she is super excited to start on that path as an intern at Otter Camp! Matrix loves playing games, swimming, making crafts and cooking outside. Her goal is to share being safe while having as much fun as possible, and to test personal limits in a comfortable way. Matrix is an athlete and a musician and attends Hilltop Montessori School.
Jude has been a VWS student for the past 8 years. He is looking forward to a role as a teen helper.
Board of Directors
- Ingrid Burrows
- Katherine Clemow
- Kelly Coleman
- John Lee
- Alaa Mukahhal
- Jason Morris
- Gia Neswald
- Alan Roberts
- Kai Pratt