Phil McDonald (Badger)


Phil grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania. While earning B.S. in Natural Resource Management from Northland College in Wisconsin, he discovered the field of outdoor education and developed a passion for teaching. Working with the Great Basin Institute brought him west, and once he discovered the Sierra Nevada Mountains he never looked back. Phil has worked as an Interpreter Specialist for California State Parks, Development Manager with the Nevada Conservation Corps, and non-profit outdoor education centers. Phil is excited to be part of the SOS team and looks forward to helping students discover the outdoors and experience science in the field.

Maggie Berisha (Monarch)


Maggie has worked for SOS since 1997. She loves working with the staff, interns and all the students that visit our beautiful site. You will find her teaching classes, driving the bus for field trips and in the native plant gardens. Maggie graduated from Humboldt State studying science education and outdoor recreation. She has raised her children here and enjoys spending time gardening, walking, bicycling and running.

Thomas Forquer (Otter)


Thomas grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County. He holds a B.A. in Communications from Santa Clara University and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of Redlands. He has worked in "traditional" schools as an 8th grade math/science teacher and has also worked as a special education aide. Thomas knows that ultimately he can best serve students by helping them make connections with their ancestral habitat, the outdoors. When not at Sierra Outdoor School he can be found kite-boarding at the beach, exploring desert canyons, paddling a river, climbing a rock, or cruising down the highway toward a new adventure.

Angel Olavarria (Bobcat)


Angel joined the teaching team in the Fall of 2015. When he's not working on the High Ropes Course he serves in a local volunteer fire department and spends time with his family.



Traci Gardner (Beetle)


Traci grew up in the countryside outside of Syracuse, NY where she developed a love for nature and science. After studying Forest Biology at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse she got her multiple subject teaching credential a few years later. Fall of 2000 brought her to Sierra Outdoor School as a substitute Naturalist and from 2003-2010 Traci served in various Program Coordinator positions. After four years off to start a family and a farm, she is excited to be teaching full-time again. According to Traci, being a naturalist that gets to drive school bus, too, is the best job ever! She and her husband keep busy with two boys, foster children, chickens, goats, pigs, ducks, a dog, and a big garden.

Andrew Martin (Summit)


Andrew studied Recreation Administration at Fresno State University. After coming to SOS as a 6th grader and then completing his Naturalist Internship last year, Andrew was super excited to become an SOS Naturalist to continue giving kids the same great experience he had as a student!! A few of his hobbies include photography, guitar, hiking, long boarding, hammocking, and playing with his new puppy, Juno.

Tom Gonzales (Just Tom)


If you have visited SOS in the past 27 years, chances are pretty good that you know Tom.  After working full-time as a Naturalist for 22 years, he retired and is now enjoying a part-time schedule as a sub.  He continues to enjoy driving a school bus for field trips and belaying at the High Ropes Course. 

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