Faculty and Staff

Administration

  • Sean Bierle

    Founder & Head of School

    Sean Bierle has lived all over the world and loves to travel. He has been working in the outdoor industry since 2000 and has lead and taught in Idaho, California, North Carolina, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Chile. He has been a teacher in both traditional public schools and public charter schools, as well as an adjunct professor at the university level.  He has lead outdoor programs for private boarding high schools and lead courses for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).  Sean earned his B.S. in Entomology from the University of Florida and his M.A. in Education from Boise State University. He is a certified Wilderness EMT, Swiftwater Rescue Technician (Advanced), ACA Whitewater Kayak Instructor Trainer, and Leave No Trace Master Educator.  Read Sean’s Welcome Letter or Email Sean Bierle

  • Kristin Bierle

    Founder & Executive Director

    Kristin Bierle grew up reciting Shakespeare while rappelling into caves and  has sought to integrate academics, outdoor adventure, and cultural exchange ever since.  Born and raised in North Carolina, Kristin began working out west on rivers during high school and eventually moved west for college.  Kristin is an International Baccalaureate graduate, earned her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Economics, Education, and Spanish) and her Masters in Business Administration from Boise State University. Kristin was selected as the outstanding student of her graduating MBA class.  She is a certified Wilderness First Responder, Swiftwater Rescue Technician (Advanced), ACA Whitewater Kayak Instructor Trainer, and Leave No Trace Master Educator.  Email Kristin Bierle

  • Laura Bechdel

    Director of Studies

    Originally from McCall, Idaho, Laura has taught Spanish, English Language Learners, and adults in education programs for 10 years. She received a B.A. in Comparative Sociology from University of Puget Sound and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Westminster College, where she also taught as an adjunct professor for the School of Education. In addition to teaching, Laura is passionate about rivers and travel. She has been a wilderness river guide for 15 years, and spent four years teaching, guiding, and surfing in Latin America. Outside of Alzar, Laura enjoys time outdoors with her husband Neal and baby boy Lucas. Email Laura Bechdel

  • Nick Kunath

    Director of Admissions

    Nick grew up outside of Minneapolis where he quickly was introduced to lakes, canoes, and spending as much time outside in his neighborhood as possible. While studying Native American Studies and Sociology at Northland College, he further developed his passion for the outdoors working as a sea kayak guide in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior. When not traveling the country meeting wonderful families and inspiring students Nick loves to paddle, bike, fish…really anything that gets him outside and exploring.  Prior to joining the Alzar School team, Nick was an Associate Director of Admissions at his alma mater, Northland College. Email Nick Kunath

  • Anita Cussler

    Associate Director of Advancement & Food Director

    Anita Cussler was born and raised in McCall, Idaho where she first developed a passion for the outdoors and thirst for adventure. Anita earned her B.S. in Natural Science and Environmental Policy from the University of Puget Sound.  She has traveled extensively and has lived in British Columbia, Canada for four years where she immersed herself in outdoor activities ranging from helicopter mountain bike trips to backcountry split-boarding treks. Working as a  trained chef, Anita combines her culinary mastery with environmental stewardship by promoting sustainable food choices. In her spare time, Anita can be found fixing fence on her farm or exploring the vast opportunities Idaho’s mountains, trails and rivers have to offer.  Email Anita Cussler

  • Kim Littlejohn

    Administrative Assistant & Food Assistant

    Kim grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of California at Irvine with an English degree.  She moved to Idaho with her husband seventeen years ago and loves living and raising their five kids in the small mountain town of Cascade.  She enjoys camping, boating, hiking, photography, writing, cooking, reading and hanging out with her family.

  • Jami Black

    Admissions Representative

    As an alum of one of the schools initial summer F.L.O.W. programs, Jami is thrilled to be a part of the Alzar School team once again as an admissions and marketing associate. Growing up in Boise, she spent much of her summers in the mountains and rivers of Idaho.  Jami attended Saint Mary’s College of California, where she graduated with a B.S. in Psychology. During her time at SMC she participated in the schools dance company, studied abroad in London for a year, worked as co-president of Habitat for Humanity on campus, and worked at a local Montessori School.   She also spent a summer working for the Department of Environmental Quality backpacking and scouting out rivers and streams all over Idaho, gaining a renewed appreciation for Idaho, and is very happy to be back in her Idahome.   Email Jami Black.
  • Mick Riffie

    Lead Facilities Caretaker

    Mick Riffie joined the Alzar School to ensure our beautiful base campus is the optimal environment for students.  Previously, he has worked in building and remodeling homes, on trail crews, and as a river guide and ranger.  Email Mick Riffie.

  • Herk Cole

    Facilities Caretaker

    Herk Cole was born and raised in Cascade, Idaho.  He loves sharing the history of Valley County, hiking to as many as 6 mountain lakes in one day, and sharing Werther’s caramels.  He is an avid catarafter and skier.  He has built all of the student bunks, helped assemble a yurt, and works tirelessly to maintain our gorgeous campus.

  • Marilyn Arvin

    Food Preparation

    Marilyn grew up in San Francisco, California. She spent many years in the Sacramento Valley. After loving several summers in Cascade, her husband encouraged them to take a risk and move their family to Idaho three years ago. She loves spending time with her husband and two kids, watching sporting events (especially Oregon Duck football games) and going to concerts. She also enjoys baking for her friends and family. In the summer you can find her on the beach reading or on her 4-wheeler exploring West Mountain Road. 
  • Kori Richards

    Roam Summer Course Supervisor

    Kori’s lifelong pursuit of adventure has led her to the ends of the Earth, as far as the North Pole.  Since 1996, she has thrived on sharing growth experiences with her students, the most impactful being whitewater paddling, skiing, leadership, and service. She has lead courses for the National Outdoor Leadership School, the World Leadership School, Johns Hopkins University, and trained instructors at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. She has taught outdoor activities in France, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, and Chile. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Education from California State University, Chico and is currently a candidate for a Master’s of Science in Natural Resources and Society from the University of Idaho. She is certified as a Wilderness First Responder, Swift water Rescue Technician, ACA Kayak Instructor, and Leave No Trace Master Educator. Kori is known for her infectious enthusiasm and positivity.  Email Kori Richards

Faculty

  • Jonathan Absher

    Mathematics | Vehicle Fleet and Expedition Food Coordinator

    Jonathan was born and raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains.  He was introduced to rivers and mountains an early age and has shaped his life around them ever since.  Jonathan studied mathematics and education at UNC-Asheville as part of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program. He has been leading outdoor education trips, raft guiding, and working in the ski industry in California and Colorado the past four years. Jonathan is excited to combine his passion for the outdoors with his passion for teaching at the Alzar School.  Email Jonathan Absher

  • Auriona East

    English and Spanish | Media Coordinator

    Although Auriona East grew up splashing around in the great, salty Atlantic off Florida’s coast, she and her family spent every summer of her childhood exploring the mountains of North America. Her passion for discovery and challenge brought her to some wildly new experiences – she lived in Saragossa, Spain as a high school Junior with School Year Abroad ’05-’06 and then joined the Fall ’06 class at the High Mountain Institute in Leadville, Colorado. Her twin passion for languages and the outdoors have guided her life ever since; while studying Spanish literature and Arabic language at the University of Florida, she also took on the role as Lead Climbing and Canoeing Guide for UF’s outing program. After graduating, she re-joined HMI’s team as their Spanish Apprentice and Wilderness Instructor in Fall of 2012. Auriona has raft-guided and wilderness-instructed domestically in Colorado, Arizona, and Montana; traveled internationally in Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and–most recently–Colombia; and is overwhelmingly excited to bring all of her prior treks together here at the Alzar School.  Email Auriona East

  • Michael Ervin

    History | Student Life Coordinator

    A recent migrant to Idaho, Michael Ervin comes to the Alzar School from the mountains of western North Carolina.  After graduating from UNC-Asheville with a Bachelor’s degree in history, Michael pursued a graduate education at UNC-Charlotte.  While in Charlotte, Michael’s research and writing focused principally on Civil Rights activism in the mid-twentieth century American South.  While completing his degree, Michael taught courses for UNC-Charlotte’s Prospect for Success program, which helped acclimate first year students to college-level research and writing practices.  In addition to his academic pursuits, Michael is also an avid whitewater kayaker, mountain biker, and backpacker. Professionally, Michael has guided rafts and inflatable kayaks for five seasons on various rivers in Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina.  Email Michael Ervin

  • Reed Wommack

    English and Environmental Science

    Reed Wommack studied Earth and Environmental Science at Dartmouth College, where he was active in the kayaking program.  Since graduating, he has taught at the Swiss Semester, coached competitive skiing, and worked for wilderness therapy programs in Alaska.   Email Reed Wommack

  • Megan Wyllie

    Science | Medical Coordinator

    Megan Wyllie grew up in the small coastal town of Warren, Maine. She graduated from Tufts University with a degree in Geological Sciences. Megan has taught in both outdoor and traditional classrooms for several years now and is excited to combine these two worlds.  She completed a teaching fellowship at the Alzar School in Fall 2016.  She has led canoeing expeditions amongst Maine’s foggy islands, taught Search and Rescue on Mt. Washington, and has led volunteer teen trail crews on the Appalachian Trail. She’s a fan of costumes, watercolor, and good conversation!  Email Megan Wyllie

  • Colin Hull

    Spanish and World History | Outdoor Equipment Coordinator

    Colin Hull grew up in North Carolina and Massachusetts, and learned his outdoor skills at programs like Camp Mondamin and Adventure Treks.  He studied history at Colby College, and returned as a staff member at Camp Mondamin, Camp High Rocks, and Adventure Treks before joining the Alzar School as a teaching fellow.  He loves to whitewater kayak, and spent a semester studying abroad in Spain.  Email Colin Hull

  • John Bengtson

    Residential Life and Expeditionary Faculty

    John has worked as an outdoor educator with Teton Science School and has led backpacking, climbing, and kayaking trips near Jackson, Wyoming. John graduated with a B.A. from Colby College with a double major in Government and Global Studies, with concentrations in Development and Latin America. While at Colby, John oversaw 500+ volunteers for the as Director of the Colby Volunteer Center, worked as a writing tutor, and served as President of the Colby Outing Club. John also speaks Spanish and studied abroad in Valparaíso, Chile.  He completed a teaching fellowship at the Alzar School in Fall 2016.  Email John Bengtson

  • Syver Pearson

    Chemistry and Math

    Syver Pearson was born in Colorado, journeyed through the Pacific Northwest, ultimately landing in Anchorage, Alaska.  Syver has been shaped by natural landscapes.  Having spent so much time kayaking, a rumor once started that he can breathe under water.  Syver studied Botany at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His passion for natural places, learning, and trying new things is contagious. Syver has been an instructor for the Northwest Outward Bound School, ski instructor at Mt. Bachelor, Adventure Out LLC (single pitch climbing guide), UC Santa Cruz Recreation, Whitewater Voyages, Oars, and more. He is a certified Wilderness First Responder, and Swiftwater Rescue Technician (Pro).  Email Syver Pearson

Teaching Fellows

  • Hannah Kessenich

    Teaching Fellow: Physics

    Hannah grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, learning the skills of whitewater canoeing and kayaking at Camp Green Cove.  In 2012, she was a student with the Alzar School’s River of Chile program.  She has since returned to run Green Cove’s paddling program for the next generation of campers. While attending the University of Virginia, she oversaw the Outdoors Club at UVA, leading peers on kayaking and rafting trips along the east coast. She most recently has spent the last semester completing her B.S. degree in Physics as a student abroad in New Zealand, partaking in particle physics research and exploring the country’s rivers and backcountry.  Email Hannah Kessenich

  • Erica Hample

    Teaching Fellow: Environmental Science

    Erica grew up in Atlanta, GA. She’s loved the outdoors since she was a kid, and she started the outdoor club in her high school. She went to Hampshire College and earned a bachelors degree in Ecology and Outdoor Leadership. Over the past two summers, Erica guided backpacking trips with Wilderness Adventures. She has her Wilderness First Responder and Leave No Trace certifications. In her free time, Erica loves to backpack, rock climb, technical tree climb, horse back ride, do yoga, and draw.  Email Erica Hample
  • Quinn Harper

    Teaching Fellow: US History

    A Los Angeles native, Quinn grew up exploring the mountains, deserts, and coasts of southern California. After high school, Quinn escaped to the great white north, where he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Dartmouth College, with aspirations of becoming a yacht designer. Following graduation, however, Quinn decided to take a different tack, working as a delivery sailor, trip leader, and adventure travel guide all around the country and the world. He is excited to join the team at Alzar School and to share his passion for learning and the outdoors with a new generation of leaders. In his free time, you’ll find Quinn outside, on the water, or picking the banjo by the fire. He is a certified Wilderness EMT.  Email Quinn Harper

  • Angelica Calabrese

    Teaching Fellow: English

    Angelica grew up exploring the woods in her Connecticut backyard, abandoned archeological digs in Italy, and the imagined worlds of her favorite authors – and she hasn’t stopped exploring since! This ceaseless curiosity about different cultures, places, and people eventually led her to study anthropology at Yale. At Yale, Angelica led student trips on the Appalachian Trail and in Uganda. Since graduating in 2014, Angelica has led high school and gap semester programs in West Africa and Southeast Asia, and worked as a freelance writer in southern Italy. She is passionate about experiential and international education, and very excited to become a member of the Alzar School community – and to explore a new country along the way!  Email Angelica Calabrese

Join Our Staff

The Alzar School is currently accepting applications for positions.  Job postings can be viewed here.  The Alzar School also accepts resumes for positions on our team on a rolling basis, including the teaching fellow program.