The effectiveness of OA and its high academic standards are a testament to our faculty. Our teachers are some of the most passionate educators you will find anywhere. They are experts in fields ranging from American literature to political economics to ecological diversity.

Our leaders have received degrees from Swarthmore College, Duke University, Davidson College, The University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, Warren Wilson College, and other highly respected colleges and universities. They are all dedicated professionals who enjoy the outdoors and love working closely with young adults in a variety of settings where students are actively engaged in discussions and their own learning process.

Bookmark and Share

Meet the Faculty

Click on a faculty member’s photo or name to learn more about each person.

Bonnie Carter

Bonnie Carter

Office Manager
OA Registrar

x close

Bonnie Carter

Education

  • North Georgia College & State University
  • East Georgia College

Experience

  • Administrative Assistant, Eagle’s Nest Foundation
  • Mortgage Consultant, First Citizens Bank
  • Administrative Assistant, General Motors Acceptance Corporation

Her love of the mountains, people, organizational skills, and attention to detail brought Bonnie to command central on the campus of Eagle’s Nest and The Outdoor Academy. All roads lead to her desk in the Salt Mines. Raised mostly in a small town in Georgia, summers found her and her family in the mountains of North Carolina or at her grandparent’s cabin in the near-by woods of Transylvania County, North Carolina.

Susan Tinsley Daily

Susan Tinsley Daily

Dean of Students
Environmental Seminar
Wilderness Leader

x close

Susan Tinsley Daily

Education

  • Masters in Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Western Carolina University, expected graduation in May, 2017
  • Masters of Arts in Teaching, Tufts University, 1995
  • B.A. in English Literature with a Concentration in Environmental Studies, 1994

Experience

  • The Outdoor Academy: Dean of Students, Environmental Seminar and English teacher, 1998-1999, 2008-2014, present
  • Leadership and Team Building Professional Consultant: Facilitation, workshops and staff development trainings
  • North Carolina Outward Bound School: Education Director, Course Director and Instructor, 1993-2007
  • National Outdoor Leadership School: semester alumni
  • Where There Be Dragons: Risk Management Director, Special Programs Director and Instructor, Thailand and Tibet
  • The Athenian School: English, ESL and History teacher, trip leader
  • Prison University Project, San Quentin State Prison: English and Critical Thinking teacher
  • Warren Wilson College: Outdoor Leadership Department faculty
  • The Asheville School: English teacher
  • Fayerweather Street School: English, Science and Math teacher
  • Shady Hill School: English and History teacher

Having worked in a variety of traditional and experiential academic and wilderness settings, Susan is thrilled to return to The Outdoor Academy where her favorite thing to do is work with the students and faculty to discover what it means to live in community. Having worked with adolescents throughout her professional career, she has great respect and curiosity for this developmental “moment” in these students’ lives. A huge proponent of OA’s principle of simple living, she is continually working on how to decrease her footprint, increase her homesteading skills, and spend time in these mountains with her husband and two kids.

Kaela Frank

Kaela Frank

Resident Wilderness Educator

x close

Kaela Frank

Education
  • University for Peace, M.A., Peace Education
  • Davidson College, B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies

Experience

  • Assistant Director for Experiential Learning, Florida State University Career Center
  • Study Abroad Advisor, Davidson College
  • Program Facilitator, World Learning Youth Programs
  • Counselor, Seeds of Peace

Kaela grew up in southern Maine and developed an appreciation for canoeing, craft making, and community building at Camp Wohelo. She fell in love with southern Appalachian mountains as a wilderness trip leader for Davidson Outdoors and is excited to be back in them with the Outdoor Academy.

 

Previously, Kaela worked with Seeds of Peace and World Learning Youth Programs to inspire and empower young leaders to be the change they wish to see in the world. She also advised students at Davidson College and Florida State University on international travel, independent research, and internships. As an educator, Kaela specializes in guiding students through unfamiliar environments and personal challenges to develop self-knowledge, build community, and take action to effect social change.

 

Kaela loves exploring by foot, boat, and bike in the U.S. and abroad. She has lived for extended periods in Israel, India and Costa Rica. In her spare time she experiments with cooking, pottery, candle making and other crafts.

Katie Harris

Katie Harris

Dean of Academics
English
Wilderness Leader

x close

Katie Harris

Education
  • Vanderbilt University, M.Ed, Secondary Education
  • Middle Tennessee State University, B.A., English
Experience
  • English Instructor and Department Chair, Page High School
  • Adventure Program Director, Camp Rockmont for Boys

Katie has finally found a way to combine her favorite areas to work with youth: academics and the outdoors.  Experienced in working with students of a wide range and variety of academic strengths, Katie enjoys delving into the learning process with young adults. However, creative writing is her true love. When away from OA, she likes to spend her time reading good books, making music, climbing, and spending time outside with her husband Josh.

Roger Herbert, PhD

Roger Herbert, PhD

Outdoor Academy Director
Leadership Ethics
Wilderness Leader

x close

Roger Herbert, PhD

Education

  • University of Virginia, PhD, International Relations and Political Theory
  • National War College, MS, National Security Strategy
  • Naval Postgraduate School, MA, National Security Affairs
  • Davidson College, BS, Biology

Experience

  • Graduate Instructor, University of Virginia
  • Backpacking Instructor, National Outdoor Leadership School
  • Naval Officer
  • Coach (swimming and football)

After completing his doctoral studies at the University of Virginia, Roger was delighted to discover The Outdoor Academy, where his love for teaching and learning converges with his conviction that the great ideas of humanity are best explored in a small community of committed learners in intimate contact with the natural world. Formerly a senior naval officer with extensive experience leading large and complex organizations, Roger has taught courses at the undergraduate level in US Foreign Policy and the Ethics of International Relations.  He has been invited to speak on topics related to character development, leadership, and ethical decision making at the University of Virginia, the US Naval Academy, the US Coast Guard Academy, and the Naval War College.  When away from The Outdoor Academy, Roger enjoys reading great literature and exploring the beautiful back country of Western North Carolina with his wife Gretchen, also a retired naval officer.

Julie Holt

Julie Holt

Admissions Director

x close

Julie Holt

Education

  • AMS Montessori Teacher Training, Early Childhood
  • College of Charleston, B.S., Sociology

Experience

  • Founder & Executive Director, Mountain Sun Community School
  • Assistant Director, The Outdoor Academy

In 1998, after years of directing a non-profit public interest organization, Julie moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC to join Eagle’s Nest and The Outdoor Academy team as the Assistant Director to OA.  As OA Assistant Director, Julie found she had a great passion for introducing students to the richness of The Outdoor Academy experience in addition to working with parents and schools to facilitate the enrollment process.

Following the birth of her only child, Skyler, she became invested in local experiential education opportunities and founded a Prek-8th grade school that was inspired by the community building she witnessed at The Outdoor Academy. Julie loves working with children of all ages, but finds the developmental stage of 14-16 years old to be a defining period in a person’s life.

When not working, Julie enjoys sailing, trail running, paddling, climbing trees, and just being in the outdoors with her son as often as possible.

Marisa Melnick

Marisa Melnick

Medical Co-ordinator
Math

x close

Marisa Melnick

Education

  • University of Connecticut, B.A. in Individualized: Int’l Perspectives on Health
  • National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Semester at Sea

Experience

  • Program Intern for Community and School Programs- American Youth Foundation Camp Merrowvista
  • In-Camp Program Coordinator, Wilderness Trip Leader, & Camp Counselor- AYF Camp Merrowvista

Marisa grew up in a small town on the coast of Massachusetts and spent her summers at camp in New Hampshire exploring the roads, trails, and waterways of New Hampshire, Maine, and Maritime Canada. Her passions for camp and the outdoors combined with her desire to help young people learn and grow brought her to OA and the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina. Marisa’s individual pursuits include Wilderness Medicine, knitting, and sitting around a fire having great conversation.

David Morgan

David Morgan

Resident Wilderness Educator

x close

David Morgan

Education

  • Hamilton College, BA, Geology & Mathematics

Experience

  • Expedition Leader, Camp Manito-wish
  • Outpost Assistant Director, Camp Manito-wish
  • Instructor, NOLS
  • Experiential Education Faculty, Albuquerque Academy

Growing up David’s explorations of the mountains and coastline of New England inspired a love of wild places and a passion for sharing them. He has found that there are few things more powerful than the human connection that comes from having adventures (and mis-adventures) together. These passions and the belief that learning by doing is important brought him to the Outdoor Academy. He is regularly found with his boots on, a mug of tea in hand, ready to have an adventure but can usually be talked into a good conversation instead.

 

Hannah Siler

Hannah Siler

Resident Wilderness Educator

x close

Hannah Siler

Education

  • Prescott College, B.A. Adventure Education
  • NOLS
  • The Outdoor Academy and Conserve School Alumni

Experience

  • Coastal Studies for Girls, Head Resident
  • Deer Hill Expeditions, Instructor
  • Prescott College Wilderness Orientation, Instructor
  • Naturalists at Large, Naturalist
  • Crossroads School, Wilderness Instructor

Hannah was first acquainted with the Outdoor Academy as a student, where she first realized her love of experiential education and community living. Since this pivotal moment, Hannah has sought out and participated in numerous and varied experiential education experiences, both as a student and instructor, and has received her Bachelor’s degree in Adventure Education from Prescott College. When not leading students through wilderness experiences, Hannah loves trail running, biking, reading, and cooking off the tailgate of her car “home.” Hannah is thrilled to return to the place that had such a profound impact on her, and live and learn through the inspiring community at OA.

Bella Smiga

Bella Smiga

Garden Manager
Wilderness Leader

x close

Bella Smiga

Education

  • University of Colorado at Boulder, B.A. Environmental Studies
  • Green Mountain College, M.S. Sustainable Food Systems

Experience

  • The Hub at Backcountry Outdoors, Outdoor Retail Associate
  • Main Street Power, Inc., Residential Solar Associate
  • Bella Energy, Inc., Solar Advisor
  • Thorne Ecological Institute, Summer Day Camp Intern

Bella developed a passion for environmental issues growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She journeyed out west to receive her B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Colorado is where Bella was introduced to the myriad opportunities to recreate in nature. After college, Bella worked in the solar energy field, but it was cultivating a vegetable garden at home that inspired her the most. Developing self-reliance and a closer relationship with the planet through growing ones own food was where Bella knew she wanted to focus her energy. After moving to Brevard to return to the lush ecosystem of the Appalachians, Bella decided to pursue her passion for sustainable food by receiving her M.S. from Green Mountain College. Bella is honored to be able to grow food sustainably for Eagle’s Nesters and share this experience with youth.

Brian Quarrier

Brian Quarrier

Outdoor Education Manager

x close

Brian Quarrier

Education

  • Bates College, B.S., Environmental Studies

Experience

  • Founder, Build & Go Adventures
  • Environmental Science, Advanced Ecology and Ceramics Teacher, The Darrow School
  • Tripleader, Overland Summers

Brian grew up in southern New Hampshire. During his college summers, he worked for the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) hut system. He worked at Lake of the Clouds, Madison, Greenleaf and was hutmaster at Galehead.

In Brian’s free time he likes to go on his own adventures. In 2013, he built his own canoe and paddled the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740-mile trip from Old Forge, NY to Fort Kent, ME. He was so inspired by traveling on a vehicle that he built himself that during the summer of 2014, he built his own bicycle out of bamboo and biked across country, 3,800 miles from Bar Harbor, ME to Anacortes, WA. Brian hopes to share his love of building his own craft and traveling in it with any student that has a desire to learn.

Rodrigo Vargas

Rodrigo Vargas

Spanish Teacher

x close

Rodrigo Vargas

Education

  •    University of Costa Rica, B.S., in Chemical Engineering
  •    Costa Rican Bureau of Tourism, Natural History Guide Certification
  •    Highlander Research and Education Center: Civil Rights

  Experience

  •     Assistant Program Director, Eagle’s Nest Camp
  •      Naturalist Guide, Costa Rican Sun Tours
  •      International Hante Leader, Eagle’s Nest Foundation
  •      Executive Director, El Centro Comunitario Brevard

Rodrigo has served as a strong and enthusiastic leader at Eagle’s Nest Camp since 1996.  At The Outdoor Academy, Rodrigo has served as Spanish Teacher and in various leadership capacities for many years. In his teaching, Rodrigo actively shares the diversity of Latin American culture, his personal love for working with stained glass, and as a Latin-American leader in our local community.

Cara Varney

Cara Varney

Development Director

x close

Cara Varney

Education:

Ohio University B.S. in Outdoor Education and Recreation

Experience:

  • Challenge Course Facilitator and Camp Counselor, Adventure Education Center
  • Trips and Clinics Manager, OU Outdoor Pursuits
  • Wilderness Instructor, SOAR
  • Wilderness Instructor, ARCC
  • Outdoor Program Manager, Life Adventure Center
  • Paddling Director, Eagle’s Nest Camp 2015
  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR, WMA)
  • American Canoe Association Level 3 Canoe Instructor

Cara, a North Carolina transplant from Ohio, now calls Brevard and the Blue Ridge Mountains “home”. After hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 she took the role of Paddling Director for ENC before moving to the development office full-time.

Not only is Cara a skilled paddling instructor, she’s a talented experiential educator and an avid outdoorswoman. She holds a BS in Recreation from Ohio University, and has worked in the field of outdoor education for over ten years.

Cara spends her free time paddling, climbing, and hiking, tending to her impressive garden, and baking treats for her colleagues.

Noni Waite-Kucera

Noni Waite-Kucera

Executive Director

x close

Noni Waite-Kucera

Education

  • Wake Forest University, B.A., Anthropology
  • Wake Forest in London Program

Experience

  • Camp Director, Eagle’s Nest Camp
  • Business Manager, Eagle’s Nest Foundation
  • Assistant Camp Director, Eagle’s Nest Camp
  • Developed Eagle’s Nest Whitewater Canoeing and Hante Bicycling Program

Noni was literally raised within the caring community of Eagle’s Nest, and she now brings that experience and sprit to the entire foundation as Executive Director.  Wether at camp, The Outdoor Academy, or in the Winston Salem Foundation office, Noni continues to build on the rich tradition of Eagle’s Nest Foundation as a leading educational institution for outdoor and experiential learning.

Mark Walker

Mark Walker

Kitchen Manager

x close

Mark Walker

Experience

  • Kitchen Manager, Gwynn Valley Camp
  • Food Service Director, The Mountain Retreat Learning Ctr.
  • Food Manager, Mountain Fresh Grill
  • Cook, The Beak & Talon

After serving in the Marines for 4 years, Mark began his cooking career at various restaurants in Michigan. Taking his love of food to the mountains, he has now  been cooking in Western North Carolina  for over 12 years. He enjoys baking delicious treats and spending time outside with his wife, three children, and their family dog.

Ted Wesemann

Ted Wesemann

Natural Science
World History
Appalachian Craft

x close

Ted Wesemann

Education

  • Appalachian State University, M.S., Biology
  • Appalachian State University, B.S., Biology

Experience

  • Outdoor  Academy Director
  • Head of School, The Outdoor Academy
  • Director, Wilderness Southeast

Ted was the founding Director of The Outdoor Academy. He is serving in this position for the 2014-15 school year while devoting himself to what he loves most:  teaching and mentoring students. His knowledge of the land, history, and culture of the Southern Appalachians brings depth and quality to our academic and extracurricular programs. Ted’s personal demeanor gives students and faculty alike a sense of what it means to ‘belong’ to, and care for, a place. Many students appreciate most the way Ted shares his passion for woodworking and other historic Appalachian crafts.