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. 


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

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.


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

Elissa Pine – Bookkeeper

Bio & picture coming soon!


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

Photo of Ash YoungEvan “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 – Instructor

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.  


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

Raven Atsalis-Gogel

Kathy Dean

Zak Grace

Owen Kohout

Abby Mnookin – Lead Instructor

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.

Certification: previously trained as Wilderness First Responder with CPR


Karen Rent – Lead Instructor 

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!


Great Blue Heron Community School

Wilderness First Aid & CPR

Ani Schaeffer – Program Co-Director & Instructor Great Blue Heron Community School, Schools Liaison 

A native of the woods and fields of Southern Vermont, Ani joined the staff of Great Blue Heron Community School as a co-lead mentor in the 2018-19 season. She is a licensed Vermont educator with almost fifteen years of experience working in public and private progressive Pre-K, elementary, and middle school classrooms, where she always found ways to sneak time outside into her curriculum. Ani holds an MSEd. from Bank Street College, with a focus on student centered, emergent curriculum and creative curriculum design. In addition to outdoor education, Ani has worked in both urban and rural schools, and with homeschooling families. She currently works as an independent education consultant to teachers and schools, as well as an academic tutor and youth mentor. She is certified in First Aid and CPR.

Connor Stedman


  • Ingrid Burrows
  • Rafe Halsey
  • Shannon Herrick
  • John Lee
  • Kalia Lydgate
  • Jason Morris
  • Gia Neswald
  • Alan Roberts
  • Mishka Viscardi
  • RJ Wplk