Mission

Olympic Nature Experience’s Vision is that every person in our community has the opportunity to develop a deeply felt sense of connection and appreciation for our local, natural environment that positively affects their daily actions and decisions.

Our Mission is to nurture our community’s connection with nature through immersive outdoor experiences.

Our Values

Through our interactions and programs, ONE board members and staff strive to embody the following values, continually working to create a safe, meaningful experience:

STEWARDSHIP: We take personal responsibility to protect our natural resources, the beings that depend on them, each other and ourselves as a collective part of nature.

GRATITUDE: We practice appreciation for each other and the natural world, which helps us remember how we are all connected.

RESPECT: We honor the rights of all living creatures to live in a clean, healthy and peaceful environment. We practice respect for each other by honoring our various needs and personal choices.

AWARENESS: We aim to increase our understanding of the world around us. From wild spaces to our relationships with others, we are committed to understanding how our actions create change in the world.

Our Team

Olympic Nature Experience teachers bring many years of experience working in naturalist roles, teaching, raising young children, and mentoring. Staff are specially trained in nature-based teaching and also trained to recognize natural dangers to keep participants safe. All staff members are First Aid/CPR certified and background checked.

Would you like to join the Olympic Nature Experience team? We are always looking for passionate nature educators to join our team! If you are interested in joining our staff, fill out an application and we will get back to you if you are a fit for one of our current positions.

Positions Available:

Employment Application

Staff

Merissa Koller Williams
Executive Director
Merissa Koller Williams is the second Executive Director for Olympic Nature Experience in its storied tenure on the Peninsula since inception in 2014, taking over for Founder Sarah Salazar-Tipton in May 2021. She has a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Minnesota State University. Merissa has worked in the nonprofit industry since 2010 with various organizations and roles, from entry level employee to Executive Director and Founder. She spent her childhood on a dairy farm in south central Minnesota where her connection with the outdoors was sowed, which flourished when she moved to Alaska after college. Merissa and her family moved to Port Angeles in June 2018 from Kodiak, Alaska, where she first began admiring the outdoor education model. Merissa looks forward to nourishing the healthy organization Sarah and company have created and helping it grow so more children can discover their place in the world via Olympic Nature Experience.
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Sarah Greenwald
Sarah Greenwald
Program Director

Sarah began working at Olympic Nature Experience in 2016 as a teacher and administrator. In 2022, she stepped into the Program Director position. Sarah has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara and a M.Ed in Environmental Education from Western Washington University. Sarah has been teaching outdoor programs for over a decade and has a Forest Kindergarten Teaching Certificate. She is grateful for the Olypmic Nature Experience community and loves stomping in puddles, exploring beaches, and eating trail snacks.

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Jill Zarzeczny
Administrative Coordinator & Teacher

Jill, a native to the Midwest, moved to the Peninsula in 2009 to work in Olympic Park where she spent 5 years leading volunteers and growing plants for the Elwha River Restoration Project. Jill has a B.A. in Environment & Development from Boston University and a MES from The Evergreen State College. Most recently, Jill has focused on raising her two wild girls and studying herbalism. She is grateful to get to spend her days exploring the natural world with children. In her free time, she and her family can be found searching for banana slugs and wild berries in the forest, digging in their garden, cooking up tasty food, or lounging along the bank a nearby river.

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Melissa Forster
Teacher

Melissa moved to the Olympic Peninsula to attend the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in 2016 and decided to call it home after falling in love with the unique ecology and community. Learning the art of traditional boatbuilding led to a burgeoning passion and commitment to teaching young children in her ideal classroom environment, nature. After pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education from Peninsula College she has taught young children through Headstart and a local nature preschool. She is honored to have the opportunity to join the Olympic Nature Experience team while serving the children and families of Owl’s Hollow Early Learning.

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Amanda Murphy
Teacher
Amanda grew up in Olympia, WA where she enjoyed playing numerous team sports and spending time at her favorite beaches. She attended college at Eastern Washington University where she earned her Elementary Teaching Certificate. Later, she earned her Masters in English Language Learners after teaching English overseas. She has spent the last 10 years teaching children in recreational and academic settings. Amanda has lived in Sequim for seven years. She and her husband have two young kids who are curious outdoor explorers. Amanda and her family love picking berries, watching their apple trees grow, gardening, paddle boarding, and eating home-grown food together.
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Joshua Sylvester
Teacher

Teacher Sylvester grew up along the saline coastal forests of Maine and the Smokey mountains of Tennessee, where he fell in love with the natural world. After attending Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School in 2007 he began mentoring the children in his life. Moving to Washington and teaching at Olympic Nature Experience has brought many opportunities to share his passion for nature connection and primitive skills with children and continue his education.

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Mahina Hawley
Teacher

Mahina recently moved to Port Angeles. She was born in Hawaii, and grew up in New Mexico, but she has settled and is putting down roots here in the Pacific Northwest. She is an artist with many years of experience as an art educator, childcare provider and mom. She loves being out in nature and feels passionate about the positive effects of outdoor education and play for young children and is so excited to be joining the team at Olympic Nature Experience.

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Jesica Haxel
Teacher

Jesica comes to Olympic Nature Experience with a bachelors degree in Marine Biology and a masters degree in Science Education.

She has worked in outdoor education for years teaching at aquariums, science centers, on boats and islands. Jesica most recently spent her time teaching science at a public charter school in Oregon and is looking forward to getting back to teaching students outdoors.

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Amanda Erickson
Teacher
Amanda moved to Port Angeles in 2021 after a decade in Alaska and is thrilled to be exploring the Olympic Peninsula with her active and curious toddler.  She was raised in Charleston, SC, where she began kayaking, surfing and a life-long love of the ocean. On most days you can find her outside with her family gardening, paddle boarding, camping, practicing amateur photography, and cooking with foraged and local ingredients.

Amanda has a degree in Child and Family Studies with a focus in Outdoor Education from Portland State University. She has a lengthy history with kid’s camps, and playing and teaching outdoors has been a consistent theme in her life. Amanda’s favorite part of working with young people out of doors is seeing them overcome natural challenges to become a stronger and well-rounded person. She loves the natural curiosity young people have and abides by her favorite motto: always learning, always observing.
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Sammi Grieger
Teacher

Sammi has been living in Port Angeles since 2020. After working as a research scientist studying water quality and river ecology, she is excited to begin her teaching career at Olympic Nature Experience. Sammi has a bachelors degree in Biology and a masters in Environmental Science. Originally from Kansas, she has a great appreciation for prairies, open skies and intermittent stream critters. Sammi loves to spend her free time rollerblading, gardening, reading with her cat, and doodling local plants.

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Moya Cavanagh
Teacher

Moya grew up climbing mountains, supporting monarch caterpillar habitats and painting sunsets in Vermont’s Green Mountains. In high school she studied abroad in India, attending a student-run eco-based boarding school in the Himalayan region of Ladakh. This experience ignited a love of place-based student-lead learning. After earning a Bachelors in Global Studies from St. Lawrence University, Moya spent her twenties as a museum educator, working in college admissions and college access support, traveling the world solo with her two trusty backpacks, as an au pair in rural Australia and a private childcare provider for infants, toddlers and preschoolers in Appalachia. Moya, her partner and her dog moved to the OP in the fall of 2023 from Asheville, North Carolina. When she’s not at school you can find her on a dog walk, carving print blocks, cooking something yummy or looking for good rocks.

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Mallory Watson
Substitute Teacher
Mallory grew up in CO loving the outdoors and traveling all over. Recently, she and her husband spent 10 year  in Florida adventuring in the swamps and springs. Before having their two kids, Mallory worked as an environmental scientist surveying grasses, fish, and soil, and driving the most fun airboats around marshes. Her family made a spontaneous move to Washington at the beginning of the pandemic. Now settled in Port Angeles,  you can find them camping and surfing most weekends. They discovered the Olympic Nature Experience community in ‘21, and absolutely love the idea of kids being in nature to learn about the world.
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Nora Pitaro
Substitute Teacher

Originally from New York, Nora has lived in Washington for the last ten years. She moved out to Port Angeles with her husband two years ago, and is so happy to live amongst the mountains and the sea. She has worked for years as a newborn baby and family photographer, and is looking forward to getting out in nature and being a part of Olympic Nature Experience to work with children and families in a new and exciting way!

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Danielle Mills
Substitute Teacher

Danielle has lived most of her life on the Peninsula and has grown up hiking and exploring the Olympics. She has trained with Ben Sanford at Tribal Edge and Tom Brown at Tracker School to sharpen her outdoor skills. Most recently, she worked at Washington Outdoor School (preschool and elementary) in Ellensburg and Roslyn, Wa. She currently lives in Port Angeles and has three children– an 8 year old and twin two year olds. Danielle also teaches Baby Signing Time and is a Math tutor. She absolutely loves being in nature and has a passion for helping others feel more comfortable in the wilderness.

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Tegan Glaude
Substitute Teacher

Tegan moved to Port Angeles in 2011 from the Seattle area, where she had completed a dual degree in Biology and The Program on the Environment from UW. She loves living on the North Olympic Peninsula and exploring the forests and beaches with her husband and three kids. When not searching for slugs or sea glass she can be found reading, crafting or puzzling.

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Brittany Wilmot
Substitute Teacher

Brittany has a strong sense of community and a deep respect for the environment. Having spent the majority of her life on the Olympic Peninsula she has explored a vast amount of the natural world around. She spent several years preforming scientific research in the Elwha valley, which lead her into a decade of work as an education ranger at Olympic National Park. Brittany has a degree in Environmental Science and Education. She has been a substitute teacher at the Children’s Montessori school, facilitated community based play groups, homeschools, volunteers with the local cub scouts and has helped support and coach youth sports. She finds children inspiring and loves the natural wonder, playful imagination, determination and joy children bring to the world. She has two amazing children that bring her happiness each and every day. She can be found gardening, playing board games, laughing, hiking, exploring, cooking and reading with her family.

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Board of Directors

Glen Wade
Vice Chair
 Glen lives in Port Angeles with his wife and two boys, ages 2 and 5. His oldest son is an Olympic Nature Experience student and the youngest will be joining the program next summer. Glen was born in Washington, but has also lived in Wyoming and California, moving to Port Angeles in 2014. Glen works as an Engineering Geologist, and has his own Geotechnical consulting business. Their family has chosen to live here for the unique coast and mountain environment, and love for the community. He has 3 donkeys, 2 mini horses, and 5 chickens. Glen was inspired to join the board in 2021 after seeing the incredible experience his son has had at Olympic Nature Experience.
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Bryan Harp
Board Treasurer

Bryan spent the first few decades of his life on the east coast before deciding to move to the Olympic Peninsula in 2018 with his wife. He has two children; the eldest of which is an enthusiastic Olympic Nature Experience student. Bryan works professionally as an employee benefits consultant. He has a life-long love of board sports, enjoys gardening with his family and taking advantage of all the amazing nature the Olympic Peninsula has to offer.

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Joe Churchill
Board Secretary
Joe moved to Sequim from Omaha, Nebraska in 2018 with his family. He and his partner were looking for a place to live with ample opportunities for outdoor adventure, and finding the Olympic Peninsula felt like a stroke of luck!
A Connecticut native, Joe went to dental school in Buffalo, New York and served the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska for 6 years as their dentist from 2012 to 2017. He currently serves as dental director for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe at their wellness center in Port Angeles.
He has two children who have enjoyed participating in ONE programs. He believes building strong connections from a young age with the community of life that flourishes around us is essential to individual and collective wellbeing. Joe is delighted to have the opportunity to serve on the ONE board as the organization nurtures these connections for the children of the northern Olympic Peninsula.
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Serena Williams
Board Chair

Serena moved to the Olympic Peninsula with her family in late 2020. She is grateful for the welcoming community of Olympic Nature Experience and her daughter’s transformative experiences in ONE programs. Serena holds an MBA with a Leadership focus from the University of Washington and has a background in aerospace and avionics supply chain. She is also a certified event planner and is especially excited to share her skills to help ONE grow through Outreach and Fundraising efforts. Serena and her family live in the mountains and are currently developing their property into a working farm and event venue.

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Poet XIX
Board Member
Poet is a first generation Guatemalan American who grew up in the SF Bay Area when their family settled there after the 1976 earthquake. Having a diverse set of life experiences, Poet has enjoyed time as a Park Ranger, a bilingual Program Coordinator for Latino Outdoors, an Operations Manager for different industries and with an extensive range of volunteering history with wildlife, citizen science and counter culture endeavors. Poet is grateful to call the Olympic Peninsula home and for her little one to have had incredible experiences with ONE. Poet is looking forward to supporting as a Board Member committed to access, inclusivity and respect for all beings we share this earth with.
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Amber Novack
Board Member
Amber was raised in the PNW and moved to the Olympic Peninsula in early 2023. She is passionate about supporting ONE becuase of the opportunities it provides children to engage with and learn from nature. Amber is an attorney and currently works as in-house counsel for a local healthcare center. She enjoys ceramics, cooking, and taking walks with her family.

 

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Olympic Nature Experience has tuition assistance available for low-income families. Tuition Assistance applications are due June 1st, 2024. You will find the tuition assistance application as a part of the registration process. The Tuition Assistance committee will determine TA awards by mid-June.