Sara Jackson has been part of the Junior Naturalist staff for Family Nature Summits since 2003. She is currently a piano teacher in Ann Arbor, MI, however, prior to that she worked in the environmental education and communications field for many years. Experiences include nature camp program director, challenge course facilitator, invasive species removal crew member, and communications associate for National Wildlife Federation. Sara loves the Summits and can’t wait for another fun week of exploring and learning about nature with all of the awesome kids in her group!
Steve Houser Jr has a master’s degree in Elementary Education as well as a graduate degree in counseling. Steve is certified in gifted education, social sciences, and geography, as well as being certified as an Environmental Educator by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. His work as an educator of young people for over 40 years has been recognized through numerous awards, including: The Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (the nation’s highest science teaching award sponsored by the White House and the National Science Foundation), the Governor’s Award for NC Environmental Educator of the Year, the American Geological Institute’s US Earth Science Teacher of the Year, the Mecklenburg County Arts and Science Council’s Outstanding Educator Award for his contributions to the Arts, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System’s Wachovia Ben Craig Teacher of the Year Award.
In addition, Steve is a professional storyteller with over 35 years experience in telling the old North Carolina tales and international stories that inspire and educate the listener. He worked over twenty summers as a National Wildlife Federation Family Summit faculty member at locations all over North America, and he currently serves as Director of the Family Nature Summits Junior Naturalist Program. Recognized as an “Educator of Excellence” with the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, Steve has participated in educator institutes in Sweden, Belize, Yellowstone National Park, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest in Peru
Jan Houser has attended or volunteered at 24 Summits. After teaching for 33 years, she retired and has her own private tutoring business. She enjoys being able to schedule her time in such a way as to spend ample time outdoors walking her dogs and riding her horse. Family Nature Summits have been an important part of each summer for her family, and she has enjoyed seeing many beautiful places across the United States in conjunction with Summit adventures.
DeLene Hoffner is currently teaching 4th grade at School in the Woods, a natural science immersion school. She has been an elementary teacher for over 28 years. DeLene earned her Masters degree in Integrated Natural Sciences from Colorado College. She has been recognized for her teaching with numerous honors; 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence, Teacher of the Year, Exceptional International Elementary Science Teacher, Space Foundation Advisory Teacher, to name a few. DeLene also is a regional director for Colorado Environmental Education Council, a teacher trainer for her school district, President for the Colorado Association of Science Teachers, executive board member/instructor for eleSTEMary and an adjunct professor for a local university. She is very involved in the National Science Teacher Association where she previously was the Preschool/Elementary Committee Director and now reviews articles for the Science & Children magazine and chairs the committee for the selection of the Outstanding Science Trade books award. She is an international teacher/presenter who shares her passions for learning with teachers ranging from her local state conferences to Australian teachers!! (She spent a year in Australia on a teaching exchange) DeLene marvels at the wonders of the world we live in and strives to share ways for all to enjoy, understand and care for our precious natural world!!
Peggy Hays teaches elementary science in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She has been teaching for 32 years in all grade levels with the past thirteen years as a science specialist. She has also created and taught several outdoor education classes and science workshops for both students and teachers. She loves to ski, bike, hike, play tennis, and spend time with family and friends. She especially enjoys helping children to appreciate and take responsibility for the preservation of nature. She is very excited to be returning for her 12th summit as one of the Junior Naturalist teachers.
Matt Hays has been teaching high school science in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for twenty-eight years. He currently teaches AP Environmental Science, AP Biology, and AP Chemistry. In addition, he organizes hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing trips for his high school students and faculty. Matt is an avid hiker, backpacker, rock-climber, skier, and mountaineer. He has climbed all fifty-four fourteeners in Colorado numerous times, many in the winter. He has also climbed Mt. Whitney, CA and the Grand Teton in Wyoming via the Exum Ridge. He summited Mt. Rainier last summer for the second time; this time via the Emmons Glacier route. Also in the Cascades, Matt has summited Mt. Hood via the Hogback route. He would like to pursue more peaks in Mexico and South America. This Christmas he hopes to summit Pico de Orizaba, an 18,491 foot peak in Mexico. Long term, he hopes to have the opportunity to climb Aconcagua, the highest peak in the southern hemisphere (22,841 ft.) in Argentina. Denali is also on the radar.Matt Hays has taught high school science in Colorado Springs, Colorado for the past thirty years. Matt is retiring this May and is eager to begin another chapter in his life. Matt would like to pursue a career in wildlife/adventure photography. Not one to sit for long, Matt will continue to seek out peaks to scale, rocks to climb, ice to ascend, canyons to explore and long trails on which to walk for days. He is married to Peggy Hays who is one of the Junior Naturalist instructors with Family Nature Summits.
Amy Hahn grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. In 1988 she moved to Colorado and in 1989 led her first hike as part of the faculty of Family Nature Summits (then National Wildlife Federation Conservation Summits). She worked in the outdoor industry for 22 years as a product tester, sales rep and consultant, before turning her attention to the world of conservation, where she still works. She is a confirmed altitude junkie, and spends as much time as possible in the mountains of CO and WY near her home. She enjoys turning people on to playing outside, environmental stewardship, green habits and activism to address environmental degradation.
Brete Griffin has been looking for “birds” for more than thirty years and started out by chasing down the songs of birds he did not recognize while traversing the hills and hollers of his native West Virginia. Before going back to Toronto to get his teaching degree, Brete worked near Fort Sill, Oklahoma to help collect data for a longterm study on the threatened Black-capped Vireo. Brete has also worked to help raise awareness and support for bird conservation projects and research conducted by Bird Studies Canada in his community in the Toronto area by promoting IMBD activities and by conducting a Baillie Birdathon each spring for the last twenty+ years. He broke in with the Family Nature Summit program when they were in the Canaan Valley Resort in WV, now our 500th National Wildlife Refuge, and found breeding birds for the summiteers on his old stomping grounds back in 2001.
Tina Egan has been attending Summits with her family for over 24 years and has volunteered at every summit she ever attended. Tina has been assisting on hikes at Family Nature Summits for over 10 years and can’t wait to get out hiking with Summit participants enjoying the coast of Maine. When Tina is not at a Summit, she savors time with her husband, Dave, and three kids (ages 25, 23 and 17). She also enjoys yoga and running. Tina works as a vocational counselor for persons with disabilities.
When not acting as President of Family Nature Summits Chris Blank is a private practice attorney based in Newport Beach, California. His firm’s focus is business litigation, business law, and bankruptcy. In addition to his law practice he sits on the board of a local educational non-profit organization and founded a political action committee to support local candidates. He has been coming to the Nature Summits since 1994. This is the highlight of the year for he and his sons. He has been a committed environmentalist since the 1970s and is excited about continuing the Summit mission