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 and National Park rangers. 


Eric Buher
Mountain School Manager
Eric grew up in Skagit County, and first encountered North Cascades Institute as a Mountain School student in the late 90’s. He received a B.S. from Western Washington Universy, and taught high school mathematics for 10 years. Seeking to pursue teaching beyond the classroom, Eric returned to the Institute to complete a M.Ed in Environmental Education as a part of our 17th graduate cohort, C17. He has spent the last 3 years working as a Program & Camp Director for the local Boy Scout council. Returning once more to the Institute, Eric is excited to be leading the Mountain School program that continues to impact so many youth. In his free time Eric enjoys swimming, hiking, and reading a good book.


Hannah Black
Mountain School Coordinator
Hannah Black grew up in Seattle and credits the region with her curiosity and love of crafting and natural history. She pursued a B.S. in environmental science and an M.A. in environmental communication at Stanford University. Over the last decade, Hannah's passion for experiential education brought her to jobs across the American West including peering into the depths of the Grand Canyon and tromping through snow in the Tetons. The regional scope, integration of science and art, strong community, and prolific quantities of moss, lichen, and fungus are what drew Hannah to the North Cascades Institute. In her free time Hannah enjoys cooking, writing letters, trail running and all types of skiing. Her guilty pleasure is glitter.

MK Kirkpatrick-Waite
Mountain School Coordinator
Originally from California, MK recently moved to Washington in September of 2020. Growing up, she would visit family in Washington, and fell in love with the mountain ranges stretching across the horizon. She has been wanting to move to Washington ever since, and finally made it! While residing in California you could find MK navigating through redwood forests with students, or kayaking in the Monterey Bay. Getting to know the Pacific Northwest has been an incredible experience so far, and she's looking forward to continuing with the Institute as the Mountain School Coordinator! MK likes to spend her free time going on nature walks, biking, kayaking, and cooking up some delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes.