Faculty and Staff
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, Email Sean Bierle or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 701.
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 700.
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 703.
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 708.
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 704.
Associate Director of Expeditions & Risk Management
Learning the basics of river swimming and kayaking on North Carolina’s Haw River, Justin later attended Western Carolina University to study Outdoor Education and Instruction as a route to pursue his paddling passion. Following time as a video kayaker in West Virginia and a competitive judge for USA Freestyle Kayaking and International Canoe Federation, Justin became field faculty for NOLS River and Winter Programs in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and India. Justin has been leading outdoor expeditions since 2012, holding certifications as a WEMT, ACA Swiftwater Rescue Instructor, ACA Kayaking Instructor, NOLS Pro Avalanche 2, and LNT Master Educator. He has paddled in Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, India, and Nepal and will always be excited to introduce others to outdoor recreation. Email Justin Kleberg.
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. Email Kim or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 702.
Admissions and Marketing AssociateAs 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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 709.
Lead Facilities and Vehicle 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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 707.
Herk Cole was born and raised in Cascade, Idaho. He loves sharing the history of Valley County, hiking to look into 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. Herk holds a degree in geology from Idaho State University in 1968.
Food PreparationMarilyn 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.
Early Childhood Education Center Lead Teacher
Dakota Lynch recently moved to Cascade, Idaho from Reno, Nevada. She has been employed at preschools and learning centers since she was 16. She believes play-based learning is the best way for little minds to learn and is looking forward to integrating that with nature-based learning. When Dakota is not at work, you can find her taking pictures of anything outside, playing with her puppy; Diesel, or spending time with her fiancé who is a Sheriff for Valley County. Email Dakota Lynch.
Mathematics | 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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 711.
Dean of Students | History
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 705.
Capstone Leadership Course | Blog Coordinator
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 715.
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 712.
Spanish | Yurt Advocate
Kira grew up in the rainy and beautiful Washington State. She first discovered her love for Spanish and the connecting power of language in high school when she lived and worked in rural Nicaragua for a summer. Since then, she has sought out opportunities to travel, explore, and learn about different cultures, working in Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, and most recently, Peru. Kira studied biology at Carleton College in Minnesota, and since graduating, has worked in a variety of experiential and environmental educational organizations in both student services and teaching roles. Kira is excited to be a part of the Alzar community and teaching team to facilitate student growth and learning. Email Kira Faller or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 716.
Spanish and World History | Yurt Advocate
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 713.
Science and Math | Outdoor Program Assistant
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 or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 714.
Math and Science | Medical Program Assistant
Michael grew up in the Boston area, and was first introduced to the outdoors at a summer camp in the Northwoods area when he was in third grade. From then on, he was hooked on wilderness travel: he returned to the same camp for six summers as a camper and three summers as staff. Michael went on to lead rafting and backpacking expeditions, and has worked as a river guide and kayak instructor. He graduated from Whitman College and taught math and science for three years prior to Alzar School. Michael is a WEMT, and is passionate about education and the outdoors. He likes to learn about local natural and human history, reads avidly, and enjoys kayaking, mountain biking, and trail running. Email Michael Jorgensen or call at +1(833) 862-5927 x 718.
Residential and Expeditionary Faculty
From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Cascades, whitewater has been a central part of Lee’s life for twenty years. She first learned to kayak at Camp Illahee in Brevard, NC, where she now spends her summers teaching other young women to appreciate the challenges and camaraderie offered by the river. Lee graduated from Sewanee with a B.A. in English Literature, and concentrations in Spanish and Photography. After seven years of working with youth in the outdoors and roaming through the wild places of the western US, Argentina, and New Zealand, Lee returned to Brevard College to earn a teaching license in secondary English Language Arts. In addition to literature, whitewater, and travel, she enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, cooking, and photography. Email Lee Timmons.
Teaching Fellow: Math
Patrick grew up in the mountains of Ogden, Utah. He learned to raft and began kayaking at the age of thirteen as part of his family’s main hobby. He attended Gonzaga University and graduated in 2011 with a degree in biology. Patrick gained a passion for teaching while working at a wilderness therapy in Utah for two years. After his stint there, he has worked as a river guide on the Salmon River based out of Stanley, Idaho, for the last two summers. In between these seasons in Idaho, Patrick traveled to South America where he kayaked and backpacked in Chile and Peru. In his free time, Patrick loves to rock climb, hike, travel, and read, as well as take pictures of the beautiful world around him. Email Patrick Abel.
Teaching Fellow: Biology
Spenser hails from a small town in America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin. He grew up playing outside in the backyard while dreaming about seeing the world. Spenser graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a major in Public Administration and minors in Biology and Environmental Studies. Thanks to an amazing spring break trip to Zion National Park, Spenser got a job leading backpacking trips with a camp in northern Wisconsin and his university outdoor program. After graduation, Spenser biked cross-country from New Hampshire to Washington with the nonprofit organization, Bike & Build. Spenser enjoys backpacking, cycling, or relaxing with a good book and a bowl of ice cream! Email Spenser Garcia.
Teaching Fellow: Spanish
Olivia grew up in the winding marshes and rivers of the Chesapeake Bay where her passion for the outdoors started with sailing old wood boats. For college she ventured beyond the flatlands of Maryland to the West Coast where she studied Spanish Language and Gender and Queer Studies at The University of Puget Sound. Between semesters in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, summers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Pyrenees of Spain and a semester in Patagonia with NOLS, she developed a love for the mountains as well as the water. No matter where you find her, mountain or coast, Olivia always has a journal and watercolor set on hand, half a spanglish poem in her head and the itch to adventure somewhere new with a friend, whether that be to clamber up some rocks, run through the forest or simply sit by the sea. Email Olivia Keene.
John Mark Lampley
Teaching Fellow: English
John Mark is a native of the Southern Appalachians. From a boyhood chasing salamanders in the mountains of Western North Carolina he went on to study natural science and literature atop the Cumberland Plateau in Sewanee, Tennessee. His love of landscape brought him to scale new heights as a climber, a conservationist, and a writer. His work has varied from felling ponderosa pines in New Mexico’s southern Rockies to identifying stars at the foot of the Central Oregon Cascades. On his off time you can find him walking the land with a book under his arm—and you can always cajole him into an impromptu climbing trip or hot springs expedition. Email John Mark Lampley.
Teaching Fellow: Spanish
Lauren Ulbricht is a passionate backpacker and outdoor educator who recently finished up working at the YMCA Camp Orkila on Orcas Island. Born and raised in the small town of McMinnville, Oregon, Lauren left Oregon to study at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She majored in Geology and minored in Environmental Policy and Decision Making which has taken her to locations like Iceland and the Southwest. Lauren spent four months living out of a van with peers from the University of Puget Sound studying the Colorado River Basin and this is where her desire to teach in the outdoors began. More often than not, she can be found playing her guitar and practicing yoga. Lauren is elated to be joining the Alzar School and to help students build relationships with each other and the outdoors. Email Lauren Ulbricht.
Join Our Staff
Alzar School is currently accepting applications for teacher and teaching fellow positions for 2018-2019. Job postings can be viewed here. Alzar School also accepts resumes for positions on our team on a rolling basis, including the teaching fellow program.