North Cascades VIPs: Highlighting Institute Superstars

Written by guest contributor Deb Martin, the North Cascades Institute Registrar.
Happy New Year! As our Silver Anniversary comes to an end, we want to move forward in our 26th year by recognizing the strong connections we have with our participants and partners. We would not be where we are or who we are today without so many talented and passionate customers, teachers, students and staff.
We thought it would be fun to begin 2012 by spotlighting a few folks who have been great supporters of the Institute and our mission to conserve and restore Northwest environments through education. We are fortunate to have many such people and appreciate each and every one. Without further ado, here are some people that help make our work rewarding, organized by different program areas.
Nancy participated in her first program with North Cascades Institute in 2002. Since that first experience, she has participated in a total of 19 programs! In 2011, Nancy participated in eight different programs including the Hands to Work Stewardship Weekend, two Diablo Downtimes, four Base Camps and the Artistic Weaving with Cedar Workshop. Nancy is also a donor in support of Institute youth programs.
FAMILY PROGRAMS: The Tebbs/Armstrong Family
Matthew Tebbs, Dana Armstrong and Benjamin Armstrong (age 7) have made Family Getaways a family tradition. Since we launched our Family Getaways when we opened the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, the Tebbs/Armstrongs have participated in five Family Getaways, one each year from 2007-2011. In 2011, they extended their getaway experience by adding extra days through our Base Camp option. We are very honored to be a part of this family’s’ history!

CONTRACT INSTRUCTORS: Robert Michael Pyle & Libby Mills
It is a treasure to find those with focused expertise and a passion for people. These two things combined create an irresistible and powerful teaching and learning experience…

Bob Pyle teaching one of his popular Institute programs on butterflies. All photos courtesy of Benj Drummond;

Robert Michael Pyle: Bob has been a part of the Institute family since its first season of operation in 1986, and since has led 45 classes for us over the past 25 years! “Butterflies of the North Cascades” has been one of our most popular classes, and who could ever learn enough or get tired of those graceful wings? He has traveled the world over teaching, writing and studying, and we are always honored and proud to have him “come home” to teach with us.

Libby Mills leading a winter birding workshop for the Institute.

Libby Mills: Libby’s first class with us was as the instructor for a field program titled “The Naturalist Field Journal: Plant Illustration” That was in 1988! Libby has taught at least 129 classes with the Institute since that time. We estimate that Libby has shared her expertise (journaling, sketching, colored pencil and birding) and engaging personality to connect and inspire more than 2000 people to explore the natural history of the greater North Cascades region.
SCHOOLS/ TEACHERS: Centennial Elementary School (Mt Vernon School District), John Lahey & Gretchen Magnason (4th – 5th Grades), Erwin Stroosma, Principal.
Our Mountain School environmental education program for school classrooms began in 1990. Centennial Elementary School classes began attending in 1993, 18 years ago! Mountain school “way back then” was a camping-based experience at Newhalem Campground with participants staying and gathering under the “Big Green” tent. Mountain School sessions went from camping-based to the “comfort, warmth and convenience” of the Environmental Learning Center in 2006. This change allowed us to immerse the students in deeper science-based education. We personally thank teachers John Lahey & Gretchen Magnason, who have brought their students to Mountain School since 2001. It is an honor to be in partnership with Centennial, and many other schools, as we continue to annually engage thousands of youth in the wonders of science and place through experiential learning.
DONOR: Jerry Rutherford
People choose to donate to the Institute for two key reasons: they deeply believe in our education mission and they trust the Institute’s financial management, leadership and vision. The Institute, and the many young people who benefit from our tuition free programs, are fortunate to have the support of hundreds of dedicated, generous donors. One of those incredibly charitable people is Jerry Rutherford. Jerry first got to know the Institute and Saul through our adult natural history classes and participated in many during the early years of our inception. She became a donor in 1991 and has donated every year since. In 2011 she joined the Headwaters Club, the club for people who have named the Institute in their will, and attended a benefit luncheon during which she read one of her lovely nature poems. Jerry embodies the values that are at the core of the Institute’s mission: she instilled the importance of education and conservation in her children and her daughter is a natural history teacher in Canada.
Thank you Jerry, for all that you do to care for this special part of the world, and thank you for your support over the years. We couldn’t be as successful as we are without you!
Leading photo of Bob and Libby teaching a workshop on butterflies of the Cascades. All photos courtesy of Benj Drummond;

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