Stacey Hinden, Executive and Program Director. Stacey grew up in the wilds of the Bronx, New York, witnessing ants risk their lives swimming across puddles in the parking lot, and getting lost in the tall grasses of the Catskill Mountains. She found herself and her path when she moved to the PNW in 2003 and got involved with VWP on her second day on Vashon: Step one – shadow her kids as a parent volunteer with Wilderness Awareness School’s (WAS) Vashon-based 4-6 year old program; Step two – witness a 9-year old blow a coal to flame and turn tears of longing to the joy of learning at WAS’s Parent Training Program.
She finally stopped signing herself in instead of her daughter and enrolled at WAS to complete their Art of Mentoring, Nature Skills, and Anake Leadership programs. In 2008, she co-created and taught for six years in the Wind Gatherer Program as an outgrowth of her 25 years teaching children and adults and researching connections between inner and outer ecology through movement and body awareness.
As a founding member of VWP, Stacey helped the organization establish its non-profit status and was an active Board member for 4 years. In 2010, she stepped off the Board to help focus on marketing and outreach efforts; one year later, she gratefully accepted the role of Executive Director. She still remembers all of those NYC subway commutes to work as a manager for a $1 million umbrella organization for emerging artists; a grant writer for the nation’s largest refugee resettlement agency; and a grant writer/bookkeeper for various New York dance companies and folk arts performing groups. She much prefers her current “office” which includes cedar trees and wild meadows, and where bird language and children’s laughter replace the clamor and cacophony of city life. When she’s not at work (and sometimes when she is) you’ll find her singing, dancing, and speaking in foreign accents.
She gives thanks everyday for living on this beautiful island with her husband, teenaged children, pet cats, and All her Relations.
Stephanie Etley, Field Director. Steph first discovered her deep connection with nature as a child roaming free in the urban wilderness of Seattle’s local parks. She spent her days catching frogs (her first love), climbing trees, camping and sailing with her father.
For more than 30 years Steph has been passionately committed to promoting the wellbeing of children, and much of her career has focused on supporting and strengthening family connections. To that end she has held various roles including home school mom, postpartum Doula, infant massage instructor, and parent-child attachment consultant. In 2005, she was excited to weave her passions for children and nature. Her journey began at Quiet Heart Wilderness School where she studied, volunteered and worked for 3 years. Simultaneously, she became involved with the Wilderness Awareness School where she felt a deep resonance with the 8 Shields model of nature connection. She began her 8 year journey with the school as a Kamana student and youth program apprentice. She then held various positions, including Volunteer Coordinator, and Lead Instructor with the 4 – 6 year-old program, special needs contract programs, and summer camps. Steph worked for several years as Director of Camps, and found her role as support person for staff, parents, and kids to be deeply rewarding.
When she is not wandering the forests listening to the the birds, Steph can be found enjoying her young-adult children, dancing, paddle boarding, and feeding her limitless curiosity about the nature of consciousness.
Currently she divides her time between Shoreline and her soon-to-be-full time home on Vashon.
Amy Kitchener, Administrator/Bookkeeper. Amy’s interest in the natural world awakened when she moved from the suburbs of Long Island to attend college in the rural surrounds of beautiful upstate New York. There she earned a B.A. and later an MPH in Environmental Science. No stranger to VWP, her son, Aaron, attended the Wilderness Awareness School back in 2003 during the early years of its Vashon-based program. Along with Aaron, she became an avid birdwatcher and served for several years as Membership Chair of the Vashon Maury Island Audubon Society and with their Fourth Grade Birding Program. In recent years she has been earning her living helping several Island businesses keep track of their finances and is thrilled to get back to her roots working with the Vashon Wilderness Program.
Annika Fae, Instructor. Annika was born on a volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and grew up in the lands by the Salish Sea, camping and hiking, exploring and playing in the temperate rainforests of the Cascadia bioregion. Annika began her teaching career as a Waldorf Early Childhood teacher and is a graduate Sound Circle Center for Anthroposophy in Seattle. She spent six delightful years as a preschool and kindergarten teacher, helping young children come into their imagination and learn to be caring and kind with others. After attending an Art of Mentoring course at the Wilderness Awareness School, Annika found a new vocation as a Nature Mentor. She began by instructing at WAS summer camps (a joyful return to the camp experiences that she enjoyed as a child and young adult at Girl Scout camp as both a camper and counselor) and then spent a year at WAS’s Anake Leadership Program, apprenticing in the weekly program for 7-9 year olds. Annika is thrilled to be in her fifth year at VWP as an instructor in our weekly 7-12 program. While she has been mentoring kids, Annika has also completed a Tracking Apprenticeship at Raven’s Roots and the WAS Tracking Intensive, and holds a Level III Track and Sign Certification from the internationally recognized CyberTracker.com. When not sneaking, hiding, and playing in the forests of Vashon with her students, Annika loves to paint, garden, and make things – from clothes to baskets, salves to jams.
Joanne Jewell, Instructor. Joanne joined VWP in 2010. She brings a deep understanding of the physical and emotional development of young children combined with a passion for animal tracking, plants, birding by ear, and singing! She holds an MPA in Environmental Policy from the UW and certificates in Horticulture, Animal Tracking, and the Foundation Year in Waldorf Education. She has also been an enthusiastic parent and volunteer with VWP since 2004. Joanne has also been working in the fields of sustainable agriculture, organic gardening and pesticide reduction for over 20 years. She has been a garden coordinator at Seattle Tilth and is a contributing author of the Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide. She lives and grows food on Plum Forest Farm with her partner and their two children, and feeds many happy families through their farm stand, CSA program and at the Vashon farmer’s market.
Aris Lara, Instructor. Aris is a martial artist, musician, and outdoor educator who loves playing games in the forest. He is passionate about studying bird language, moving through the forest like an animal, and practicing friction fire. Aris graduated from a 9-month program at Alderleaf Wilderness College in 2014, where he studied wilderness skills and ecology. Since then, he has been committed to learning more about the 8 shields model and exploring what it means to be a mentor in a natural setting. Aris spent the past 4 years apprenticing and working at the Wilderness Awareness School with a focus on Coyote mentoring for youth and adults.
Growing up in Boca Raton, Florida, he experienced a culture of developed suburban lifestyle with beaches as the only natural areas to explore. On his journey to re-wild himself, he is on a healing path to bring more awareness to the natural world and find ways to live in harmony with technology and nature. Since he did not have rich nature-based experiences as a child, he hopes to introduce the magic of connecting to nature early on for other children, creating the foundation for a lifetime of exploring what it means to be a wild human in our modern culture. You may find him barefoot in the forest climbing trees while trying to mimic the calls of the birds. In the city, he may be dancing away to some live music or working in the deli at the PCC natural food market.
Manon McPeters, Instructor. Manon has been involved with 8-Shields, nature based programs since she was a teenager. After attending the Wilderness Awareness School’s weekly teen program for two years, she attended Evergreen State College where she studied botany and environmental education, and interned at the Puyallup-based nature education program, Wolf Camp. She is also graduate of WAS’s Anake Outdoor School and Leadership programs. In addition to her work with VWP, Manon mentors youth and teens at WAS, Quiet Heart, and Rite of Passage Journeys. She also enjoys sharing her love of yoga with her students. This will be her third season with VWP.
Linda Moore, Instructor. Linda is passionate about nature, children, growing food, and song. She has been mentoring youth since 1999, and believes that a day with children, steeped in Nature – with story, song, weaving and wandering – is a day well spent! In 2013 she joined VWP as an apprentice in the Wind Gather program, and completed the Art of Mentoring week-long course at Wilderness Awareness School in 2015. Linda has also co-taught at Heartstone Pre-school for two years. In 2015, Linda completed a Master’s Program with the Center For Sacred Studies – Earth-based Spiritual Traditions. She embodies reverence for all things; deeply honors this beautiful earth, waters, and beauty that this life unfolds; and is committed to stewarding this planet for the next seven generations. She gives great gratitude every day to her Teachers and All her Relations.
Ted Packard, Instructor. Ted has been sharing his love of nature with children and teens for several years at Quiet Heart Wilderness School, Field and Forest Outdoor Preschool, Alderleaf Wilderness College (where he graduated from their 9-month Wilderness Certification Program), and the Wilderness Awareness School (where he has also completed the Anake Leadership training). At Quiet Heart, he is still working with the same cohort of students, now teens, that he started with five years ago. He is passionate about the sharing of stories, music, art, filmography, games, basket making, primitive-skills for foraging & hunting, and most importantly, feeding the passion in others.
Ted also holds a Masters in teaching, and was a touring musician for several years; he enjoys building community through his music-making with guitar, banjo, bass, cello , drums, strings, and vocals. This will be his fourth year with VWP.
Ariana Rambach, Instructor. Ariana was born and raised in Ashland, Oregon where she fell in love with nature as a child exploring the pond, creek, and gardens behind her family home. During summer road trips to British Columbia, she was thrilled to attended youth classes at Wolf Camp in Puyallup, WA and Wilderness Awareness School (WAS) in Duvall. She went on with WAS to complete two Teen Wolf Tracking Expeditions in the Franck Church River of No Return Wilderness, Idaho and discovered a deeper and more profound love of wildness. As a young teenager, Ariana began teaching primitive living skills in the pristine beauty of the Cascades at Coyote Trails School of Nature; there she instructed students of all ages in wilderness survival, wildlife tracking, and nature-based awareness inspired by Tom Brown, the same man who mentored Jon Young, the founder of VWP’s creative mentoring approach called Coyote Mentoring.
Ariana is a graduate of College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine where she studied Human Ecology through focused ecological and educational exploration of Acadia National Park ME, the Grand Canyon, and Alaska. She has restored native fish at Yellowstone National Park to restore native fish, taught children through the Seattle Aquarium, and led two month long wilderness trips for youth at Lake Clark National Park and Denali National Park with the Student Conservation Association. Ariana is enthusiastic to join the Vashon Wilderness Program and is looking forward to sharing her passion, wonder, and teachings with her students.
Rachel Sursely, Instructor. Rachel is known for her warm, gentle and playful approach to mentoring and drawing out each child’s individual gifts. She trained with the Wilderness Awareness School and is a graduate of their Anake Outdoor School, an intensive nine month training program in nature awareness and survival skills. Rachel works with young children in our weekly and monthly programs, and marks her 5th year with VWP. She has also taught young children at the Heart Stone Center and El Gato Playschool, both on Vashon. She lives on the Island with her two children and a few furry critters.
Jane Valencia, Instructor. Jane loves to adventure in nature with children. Her journey with deep nature connection began in 2001 when she served as a parent volunteer in Vashon’s very first wilderness program for kids. When an instructor revealed to her some of the secrets of the “invisible school”, she became hooked! She has trained extensively in nature and cultural mentoring with Wilderness Awareness School and the Eight Shields Institute, and continues to immerse herself in herbalism with a current focus on plant spirit medicine, and in studies with the Kamana Naturalist Training Program. Outside of VWP, Jane performs as a bardic harper, offering story and music that celebrates the magic of nature. Her published works include a nature-rooted children’s fantasy novel, a kid’s herbal comic, and several harp CDs. She and her family live on Vashon in a passive solar home on a plain old farm where they tend the land and a flock of feathered friends, wildcraft and grow herbs, and generally aim to live simply and have fun.
Jen Williams, Instructor. Jen was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and grew up sailing with her father and exploring the Puget Sound. She is passionate about raising her two boys in connection to family, nature, and community. Her family has been a part of VWP since 2010 and each year they deepen their learning and connection to the program. Jen completed the Anake Leadership program at the Wilderness Awareness School. She is thrilled to begin her third year as an instructor at VWP, and looks forward to connecting with 4-12 year olds in our weekly, monthly, and late start programs. Jen also holds a Masters Degree in Environment and Community and strives to understand how to create global change on a small community scale. She has farmed for more than 15 years and is dedicated to learning the complexities of seed saving.
Tiffany Lutnick Coleman grew up in the urban sprawl of southern California and treasured her time in nature during occasional family camping trips. As an adult, she continued the camping and hiking trips, but it wasn’t until her son became involved with VWP that her longtime love of the outdoors clicked and found a pathway for integration into her everyday life. She loves watching how her son’s confidence and awareness of nature has blossomed during his time in VWP and deeply values the way VWP’s philosophy has stretched it’s tendrils into her whole family’s life. In her spare time, she is an avid reader, and lifelong learner who loves the handmade and can often be found sewing, knitting, cooking, singing, gardening, preserving food, or otherwise creating for those she cares for.
Renee Marceau is a mother, artist, farmer and lifelong learner. When she isn’t tending to the household and family, you may find her investigating a beehive, digging in the earth, cooking in the kitchen, spinning wool or felting, visiting with a neighbor, or looking for opportunities to create beauty in the world. She strives to live a hand-made life that hopefully roots future generations in a place of belonging. Renee is a founding member of Vashon Island Cohousing and lives there with her husband and son.
Kathryn Payne (Secretary) is a child of the early 70’s, left to roam free all day and only asked to return home “when the street lights” turned on. That was life in Pacific Grove, CA –a place where she always found a reason to be outside, surrounded by quiet forests and the crashing waves of Asilomar Beach. As Kathryn matured, she realized the imprint she received from her unstructured time in nature continued to support and guide her as and adult. Naturally when she became a mother, she wanted her child to receive the same nature connection. That meant moving from Seattle to Vashon Island in 2002 and enrolling her 5–year old daughter in the Wilderness Awareness School’s program on Vashon, and later, in Vashon Wilderness Program. Kathryn has experienced first hand the many benefits of her child attending VWP from age 5–12 and recommends it for all families seeking nature connection within a loving community for their child. Aside from her volunteer position as a Board Member for VWP, Kathryn has taught yoga since 1988, owns Island Yoga Center, and enjoys playing the piano and hanging out on the Island with her husband, daughter and poodle.
Caroline Peani (President) grew up in the southeast, playing in the woods and creeks in Georgia and South Carolina, spending summers as a young adult as a camp counselor in the Appalachian Mountains. Before moving to Vashon in 2012, she lived in central Virginia where she and her family first learned about Coyote Mentoring. They saw the tremendous benefit of nature connection to their lives to the community. Upon learning that Vashon had a local wilderness program, they knew this was the right place for them. Today, as a leadership and life coach, nature connection is an integral part of Caroline’s work. She’s inspired by VWP’s mission and has been an active board member since 2014.
Jeff Stevenson (Treasurer and Founding Member) grew up in a big city and began exploring the wilds of nature at a very early age, both here and abroad — from scuba diving with manta rays, to trailing a deer through the night, to surviving in the Scottish Highlands for 9 days with nothing but a knife and the clothes on his back. He is a lover of story, family, myth, singing, cooking for friends and family, playing music and the power of community. Jeff holds a B.S in Biochemistry from McGill University and currently works as an MRI Research Scientist at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences where he is inspired and humbled everyday by the magic and mystery that is our human brain. VWP has been a profound component of his three children’s learning and growth.