The Denali Education Center board is a dedicated group of individuals who work to support the Denali Education Center’s mission to promote understanding and appreciation of Denali through informative and inspiring programs. The board supports and oversees Denali Education Center operations, finances and engages in strategic planning.
Greg LaHaie, Chair
Greg LaHaie joined the Denali Education Center board in 2006 and loves supporting an educational nonprofit he considers vital in the community. He owns and operates Kantishna Air Taxi and Skyline Lodge, both located at the end of Park Road in Kantishna. LaHaie studied business finance at Michigan State University but changed paths before finishing, completing his commercial pilot’s license and starting his air taxi business in 1992. During Denali’s winter months, Greg travels around the world. “I love Alaska for its vast untouched wilderness,” Greg says. “As I travel the world it makes me appreciate [Denali] more every year and realize what a gift it is and how important it is to take care of it and preserve it for the future.” Some of his favorite past times include flying (of course), surfing, yoga, organic farming, and sustainability practices. His favorite motto comes from famous ice cream makers, Ben and Jerry: “If it’s not fun, why do it?”
Scott Kiersztyn, Vice-Chair
Originally from Ohio, Scott first arrived in Alaska in 1999. From 2003-2005, he worked as a program coordinator for the Denali Education Center. He has an MS in Education with a specialization in Environmental Education and an MSc in Marine and Coastal Climate Change, both from NOVA Southeastern University. He received his BS in Architectural and Environmental Design from Kent State University. Scott has worked as an environmental educator at a variety of non-profit organizations including a zoo, an aquarium, and a botanical garden. Scott has traveled to all 50 states, 40 countries, and each of the seven continents. Currently a full-time dad, he finds adventure in local parks and natural areas – where he enjoys splashing in mud puddles, catching frogs, skipping rocks, birding, photography, and hiking. Scott is actively involved with his local Audubon Society chapter and is currently a member of its Education Committee.
The Denali Education Center was a natural fit for Brent Fisher. His interest in the natural world has taken him to the Mojave Desert orienteering for USGS benchmarks, hiking the High Uintah Wilderness, Mt. Fuji, the Aleutian Islands, south Brazil, and winter camping/hiking in wild Alaska. Brent holds a BA in International Relations and Portuguese from Brigham Young University and an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin. He also has a Graduate Certificate in International Business from Thunderbird School of Global Management. He has lived overseas for 8 years and has language skills in Portuguese. Brent loves to share the beauty of Alaska with his wife, four daughters and a son.
Bonnie Westlund, Secretary
Originally from Utah, Bonnie came to Denali for a seasonal summer job in 2001; never did she think Alaska would become her home! She has attended many events and activities at the Charles Sheldon Center over the years and has always been impressed with the mission of the Denali Education Center. Bonnie joined the board of directors in 2013 and she enjoys being a part of this inspiring organization. Bonnie is the General Manager of the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, living in Denali in the summer and Anchorage in the winter. She spends her off time traveling or adventuring outdoors with her sweet chocolate lab, Lola.
Blair Schoenborn, Treasurer
Originally from Pennsylvania, Blair joined the staff of the Denali Education Center in 2006 as an intern, having just completed her BS in Environmental Science at Allegheny College. She spent the next six years leading DEC’s Youth Programs. Her time in Denali shaped her passion for ensuring the long-term sustainability of wild places and the organizations that support them. Blair left Denali in late 2012 to pursue an MBA Sustainability degree from Duquesne University but maintained her connection to the Denali Education Center by joining the board in 2013. She worked as a senior analyst at BNY Mellon where she was instrumental in launching the global Social Finance initiative before joining Bridgeway Capital as the Healthy Food Financing Specialist. She and her husband, Keith, who was also a long-time employee of the Denali Education Center, have made Pittsburgh their home base and enjoy biking, planning future adventures, and exploring Pittsburgh’s burgeoning food scene.
Tennelle Peterson Wise
Tennelle earned a BS in International Hospitality from the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University. She has extensive experience in Alaska’s tourism industry having worked with CIRI Alaskan Tourism Corp., Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Residence Inn by Marriott, the St. Thomas Restaurant Group, and currently Grande Denali, LLC. Being closely tied to the Denali National Park area through the hospitality industry, she believes it is important to promote and educate visitors and residents of Alaska about the area, the park, and everything it has to offer. Tennelle is passionate about leadership and service, as well as the park, the area, and supporting community activities and education.
Eric is a high school English and Engineering teacher at Nenana City Public School (9th through 12th grade). He holds degrees in English, Theater, and Business Administration, and enjoys working with children to help them reach their dreams through education. As an English teacher, and a finalist for the 2017 Alaska State Teacher of the Year, Eric wants his students to be able to examine critically the relationship between man and nature, and debate the juxtaposition of knowledge and instinct. As a lover of the outdoors, Eric has considerable instructional background in the sustainability of natural environments and experience applying technology and mixed-media to enhance student learning. In his teaching duties, he enjoys educating students and community about parks wildlife and environmental issues. In that regard, Eric has been involved in the design of informational and educational materials for distribution to the public and forming educational partnerships with our community.
Dr. Michael Kaplan
Michael Kaplan was born in Connecticut and raised in New York. In 1994, he moved to Alaska in pursuit of a career in outdoor education. At Reed College, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology, in 1991. At the University of Alaska Anchorage, he earned a Masters of Arts degree in interdisciplinary studies, in 1997. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Washington, in 2008.
From 2002-2007, he was an assistant professor and program chair of outdoor leadership at Sheldon Jackson College, in Sitka, Alaska. In 2008, he was appointed the assistant professor of outdoor studies at Alaska Pacific University.
Margi grew up in Fairbanks with a love for the outdoors, social justice, and environmental conservation. Margi has been working in Denali as a naturalist guide since 2010 for the Murie Science and Learning Center, the Denali Education Center, and Traverse Alaska. Margi has a master’s in education equity, has facilitated statewide youth advocacy through Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, and has taught place-based field ecology and outdoor leadership skills on extended wilderness expeditions at the High Mountain Institute. On most winter days you can find her out on the ski trails, and summer months she enjoys romping in the tundra, especially in the golden light of endless Alaskan evenings.