Program Staff

Students arrive at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center with their school group and are divided into small trail groups with approximately a one-to-five adult/student ratio. Teachers and chaperones are an integral part of Mountain School, participating fully in all activities. North Cascades Institute education staff design lessons, provide leadership and train instructors at Mountain School. Mountain School instructors include North Cascades Institute staff, graduate students enrolled in the Masters in Environmental Education program through Western Washington University and National Park rangers. 


Codi Hamblin
School Programs Manager
 A passion for connecting people with the natural world originally brought Codi to North Cascades Institute as a graduate student where she lived, studied and taught Institute programs at the Environmental Learning Center. Prior to graduate school, Codi received her B.A. in Environmental Journalism at Huxley College and wrote for  Skagit County newspapers. At the Institute, she provides leadership for Mountain School, Snow School, Forest School and the Youth Ambassadors program.

Molly Harrigan
Education Manager
The natural world has been a strong ally for Molly to understand herself internally and in connection to community. She believes that all people deserve access to this type of opportunity. Molly graduated from Western Washington University in 2002 with a degree in Recreation Therapy and minor in Psychology. She has spent about 20 years managing and providing direct recreation services to people with disabilities in Illinois and Washington. Some of her favorite programs have included supporting a City garden with greenhouse, snow sports, adaptive biking and traveling with people with various disabilities.

Program Coordinator
Growing up in the mountains around Chelan, Mari has always loved working and playing in the North Cascades. Her love for the outdoors compelled her to study Biological Research and Environmental Studies at Gonzaga University where she graduated in 2015. Mari has generally spent her summers doing post-wildfire plant research with Forest Service crews in the eastern Cascades, while working as an outdoor educator during the school year. 

Program Coordinator
Raised among the salty waters of the Salish Sea, Zoe spent her youth immersed in tidepools and the forests of the Pacific Northwest. After witnessing the profundity that is fostered through an appreciation for the natural world, Zoe sought a path that fuses natural curiosity with lifelong learning and children’s laughter. Since 2007, she has facilitated after-school programs, STEM-based sailing camps and informal classroom experiences all across the world. After earning an M.Ed. in 2018 from Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University and North Cascades Institute, she found her love for ecology.

Instructional Team

Kyra Ballas
Program Instructor
Kyra grew up in the foothills of the Washington Cascades, where she went hiking with her family and collected snails in the garden. Determined to play outside for a living, Kyra earned her degree in environmental studies at Western Washington University. She then moved to the Oregon high desert where she worked as an outdoor science instructor and fell in love with teaching and fossils. Kyra believes that nature has the power to bring people together and as an educator, strives to connect her students to the wonders of the outdoors and teach them to share it with others. In her free time, she can be found outside, looking under every rock and leaf, or eating popcorn and playing dinosaurs with her nephew.

Alexa Brandt
Program Instructor
Alexa was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, residing in Renton and Kent before moving to Bellingham to study at Western Washington University. Each year growing up, her family ventured out backpacking around the Washington Coast. This is where Alexa first fell in love with nature and it is still one of her favorite places to this day. She ultimately decided to let this passion guide her in studying Environmental Science at Western Washington University. Over the last couple years, Alexa has been gaining habitat monitoring and environmental education experience working with the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Wild Whatcom and YMCA Camp Seymour. She is stoked for this opportunity to help foster and empower youth to explore self-growth, stewardship, curiosity and respect for the ecosystems in this beautiful state.

Martha Campbell
Martha grew up among the junipers, ponderosa pines and manzanita bushes of Bend, Oregon, and spent much of her childhood in the High Desert and Cascade Mountains. Since then, her explorations have taken her to the highlands of Central Arizona and the coastal deserts of Sonora, Mexico, where she studied environmental science and education at Prescott College, and later to the San Juan Islands and North Cascades of Washington, where she has been working as an environmental educator. Martha is passionate about sharing love and curiosity for the natural world with students through interdisciplinary and experiential learning in the outdoors.

Hazel Cashman
Hazel was lucky enough to grow up in Bellingham, Washington with the North Cascades right in her backyard. Attending Bates College to study geology and anthropology brought her to Maine, where she discovered her interest in experiential education through a NOLS course and a week spent leading new students on an orientation trip along the Appalachian Trail. After graduating she worked with middle school students as an outdoor educator and sea kayak guide for Rippleffect on an island campus in Casco Bay, Maine, where she learned how to facilitate and have fun whatever the weather. She then had the road trip of a lifetime hiking, camping, and skiing her way across the country to Washington. Back in the North Cascades, Hazel is so excited to again experience the joy of living and learning in this incredible ecosystem, and to share that joy with others while deepening her appreciation for the place she will always call home

Addie Irvin
Addie is originally from Birmingham, Alabama and has always loved exploring the natural world. While studying Biology at Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, Addie spent her time sharing the wonders of the outdoors with others. She fell in love with the crisp water and bighorn sheep as a white water raft guide, explored the diverse tropical marine ecosystems while studying in Panama, and developed a passion for teaching as she led student groups on backpacking trips. Last summer, she led these trips in the North Cascades and was enthralled by this unique area. She is so excited to return and share the wonders of the North Cascades with others.

Bridget Jones
Growing up in rural Ohio, Bridget gravitated towards picking mulberries and catching crawdads from the creek. Since then, she has embarked on a journey of assisting youth in finding a sense of understanding, belonging and joy in the natural world as she has herself. Bridget has coached, taught physical education, worked in wilderness therapy and most recently educated middle and high school students from around the country in Yellowstone National Park. She is thrilled to engage her curiosity on the trails in the North Cascades with Mountain Schoolers. Bridget would likely be found practicing yoga, hiking or planning her next adventure at any given time.

Kari Paustian
Program Instructor
Kari began her life in Sitka, Alaska, where she had an adventurous, damp childhood, and fell in love with waterproof layers and the smell of wet humus. When it came time to leave home, she packed up her Extratuff boots and the entire Harry Potter series in hardback, and moved to Walla Walla, WA to attend Whitman College. At school she learned to read rock formations to tell the story of a landscape, and post-graduation, Kari decided to venture off into the woods to find more cool rocks and cool communities. She’s worked on trail crews, as a snow sports instructor, and for various outdoor education programs. Kari loves the soaring terrain, venerable trees, geologic complexity, and relative roadlessness of the North Cascades, and is excited to teach, learn, and explore in this area. She’s worked as a naturalist for Skagit Tours, and is currently traipsing through the woods with Mountain Schoolers.

Jillian Ross
Program Instructor
Jillian grew up in Iowa, but her favorite memories are of summers spent with family in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There she enjoyed spending time in the North Woods, picking berries, collecting rocks and sharing stories around the campfire. Her love for the outdoors grew through outdoor adventure experiences and her work as a camp counselor and wilderness trip leader. Jillian studied Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration at Western Illinois University. Jillian is excited to join the North Cascades Institute staff. She enjoys being in a community of engaged learners, sharing the joy and wonder of nature with others, and watching how students bloom outside the classroom.