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.

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. 

Zion Dungo (Water Bear)


Zion is an outdoor fan. Raised in the city of Los Angeles he still found a  way to appreciate nature. Zion loves to combine his interest in art and nature. Being able to share the outdoors with the next generation is the best part of working at Sierra Outdoor School.



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.

 Maddie Maney (Nova)


Born in Massachusetts, Maddie grew up in a small town in Southwestern Ohio, where her love for the outdoors flourished through running her forested streets. She studied Biology and Sustainability at George Washington University in Washington D.C., which only increased her resolve to pursue a career working with wildlife, outside everyday. Maddie stumbled upon environmental education post-grad, and found fulfillment not only in learning about the natural world itself, but sharing her passion with all who are willing to learn. Since then, Maddie has worked in Georgia, Southern California, Sequoia National Park, and she is excited to find herself here, at the Sierra Outdoor School.

Angel Olavarria (Bobcat)


Angel grew up in a small town in the California Delta. He moved to Southern California where he studied Social Science at College of the Canyons. Angel joined the teaching team in the Fall of 2015 as a substitute naturalist and was hired full time in 2017. When he's not working at SOS he serves in a local volunteer fire department, volunteers as a soccer coach and loves exploring the sierra with his wife and two kids.

Shawn Estes (Vortex)


Shawn grew up exploring the woods, creeks and fields of southwest Ohio. After university he headed west stopping over in St. Louis and Phoenix. Eventually reaching the Sierra Nevada Mountains, he discovered outdoor education in Yosemite National Park, reoriented his life and became an educator. He has since worked as a naturalist and wilderness guide for non-profit organizations, an Interpreter for California State Parks and most recently was a Lead Interpretive Ranger for the Forest Service. In addition to raising three children, he and his wife enjoy music, storytelling and exploring.

Corrie Billiet (Ostrich)CorrieBilliet.jpg

Corrie grew up exploring the beauty of many natural regions in California: body-surfing in the Pacific Ocean, hiking at Big Bear Lake, camping at many state beaches, rafting down the Klamath river...  She earned a bachelor’s degree at Whitworth and a teaching credential at Fresno State, taught 1st, 2nd, and sixth grades for Visalia Unified, and worked as a community organizer in downtown Visalia. She and her husband have been married for 26 years and are raising two boys together. Corrie is a lifelong learner and enjoys yoga, jogging, playing guitar and piano, and she has recently taken up painting. At Sierra Outdoor School, she loves learning from all the naturalists, admiring the view from the top of the mountain, and breathing in the fresh air created by the forest.

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