Who We Are

Core Staff

Amy Hyatt – Program Director

Amy Hyatt

Amy moved to Vermont in August 2001 to participate in Vermont Wilderness School’s Instructor Apprenticeship Program, get trained and move back to her birth home bioregion of Southwestern Ohio to start a wilderness school there. She quickly fell in love with Vermont, the work of VWS, and the children and families. She has been with us ever since. Amy completed the four-year VWS Apprenticeship Program in 2005, and she has been a lead instructor since 2003. Her 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.

Bob Etzweiler – Program Director

Bob_EtzweilerBob 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 Pennsylvania. Upon coming to Vermont, he started doing wilderness programs similar to Otter Day Camp and found that was a good fit. He has worked for Oyase Community School since 2007 as well as offering his own Fox Walk Programs—both offered through Vermont Wilderness School.  He loves huntin, tanning hides, crafting, tracking and wandering. He also loves primitive cooking and wants to have a related show on the food network. Let him know if you have any connections.

Elissa Pine – Bookkeeper

Elissa was raised in Vermont and has a great love and appreciation for the outdoors. She has lived in the Brattleboro area since the mid 1990’s and owned Adivasi, an Indian import business, for many years. She recently got her Masters’ degree in nonprofit management with a focus on mission driven organizations from Marlboro College. Elissa does administrative work for Vermont Wilderness School, including bookkeeping and registrations. Besides her work for VWS, she is the Executive Director of Welcome Hill Studios; a women’s artists’ retreat in Chesterfield, New Hampshire.


Sam Stegeman – Executive Director

SamSam’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, no matter their situation, 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.

Ash Young – Operations & Programs Coordinator

Evan “Ash” Young is a rewilder, systems thinker, and player of infinite games. Ash has a masters degree in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University and is a graduate of the Wilderness Awareness School’s Anake Program. Ash has experience as a wilderness educator, Makerspace coordinator, in tech/start-ups, and in nonprofit operations. His primary roles at the Vermont Wilderness School revolve around operations, outreach, organizational development, and project management. He is passionately interested in animal tracking/trailing, playing games, and becoming a bowyer.

Certification: Wilderness First Aid & Adult/child CPR, 1st aid, and AED

Field Staff

Jasmyn Atsalis-Gogel

Jasmyn started attending VWS programs when she was six and continued on 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. She 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.  


Kerensa Bartlett

Kerensa first got involved with VWS as a student in the otter clan and attended for the early years of her homeschooling days. She has since been involved with Kroka Expeditions as both student and staff and most recently, assistant on the farm. Though a New Hampshire native, Kerensa spent four years living in Asheville, North Carolina attending Warren Wilson College where she studied printmaking and took advantage of the school’s paddling club and hiking trails. After graduating in 2019, she moved home to her old stomping grounds in Alstead, NH where she currently gardens, tends to chickens, works at a nearby bakery, and regularly convenes with the local coyote crew.

Kathy Dean

Kathy Dean 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.

Zak Grace 

  This will be Zak’s third season as a mentor with VWS and the Great Blue Heron Community School.  He was introduced to the school in 20014 as a parent of 2 sons who were students there until last year.  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.  

Owen Kohout

Owen started attending VWS programs when he was 8 years old and attended for many years, then became a teen helper…then a mentor & instructor.  He left the area for a couple years  to attend Green Mountain College where he graduated before returning to the area.  


Phoebe Martel

Phoebe was born in central Vermont and has lived most of her life in rural New England. After spending four years studying philosophy in New Mexico, she’s excited to be back with the Great Blue Heron Community School, where she came as a kid. Phoebe loves to spend time in nature, and a fascination with plants has always sucked her into the natural world. Besides her interest in wild edibles and medicinals, she also has a love for sustainable agriculture and has spent most of her post high school summers with her hands in the dirt on organic and regenerative farms. Phoebe believes that happy, hard working hands—whether they’re waving baskets, shucking corn, or making mud pies—are key ingredients to a full life. 

Abby Mnookin

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 she 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. These days, Abby spends much of her time as a member of 350 Vermont‘s staff collective, where she facilitates trainings and organizes for climate justice.

Satya Moses

Satya Moses’ 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.


Karen Rent

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. She looks forward to learning and growing with everyone at Great Blue Heron!

Connor StedmanConnor Stedman Smiles

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.  Connor lives in Hatfield, 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.

Connor has been involved with the Vermont wilderness School for many years and for two years served as our Executive Director.


  • Ingrid Burrows
  • John Lee
  • Kalia Lydgate
  • Jason Morris
  • Gia Neswald
  • Alan Roberts
  • Rhy Wplk