Jodi Rodwell – Executive Director
Jodi came to Denali in 1995 to work for a summer and has remained here ever since. She has a BS in geology from Montana State University and began her career at the Denali Education Center teaching about the Denali Fault Zone. She loves living in this wonderful community with her husband and daughter, who keeps her “old” parents young! In winter, she enjoys skiing on the dog mushing trails and playing pick-up hockey on a local pond.
Jill Boelsma – Operations Director
Jill changed her life when she moved to Alaska in 1999. It only got better when she began working at the Denali Education Center in 2004. She lives with her husband Carl and a rescued German shepherd in view of Denali National Park in a home they constructed with the help of friends and family. Her favorite things include the return of daylight, singing avian migrants, and emerging plants in the spring, endless summer days, the tapestry of the autumn tundra, and the quiet of winter that allows plenty of time for stargazing, dinners with friends, visits with family, and keeping the woodstove stoked. She enjoys travel and exploring the world with an open, inquisitive mind and a pair of binoculars.
Hannah Noel – Program Director
Hannah came to Alaska in 2010 from the midwest- Iowa specifically. It may sound cheesy, but when she first set foot in Alaska she was overcome by a deep sense of belonging. She quickly fell in love with the vast landscapes and breathtaking wild-ness. It took her and her husband Chris three summers of seasonal living before they decided to sink their roots in Alaskan soil. In their spare time, they enjoy running around after their son, going for hikes, working in their greenhouse, catching up with friends, and soaking up the midnight sun. Every day they fall more in love with this wild place that they are lucky to call home.
Jake Hill – Marketing and Communications Director
Jake left Ohio in 2008 and, like most people, headed North for “just one summer.” The next year, he met his best friend Anna, and they both fell completely in love with Alaska. They are now happily married, and happy to be full-time Alaska residents. Jake enjoys exploring Alaska by foot, by ski, by raft, and by hammock. Despite earning a B.A. in Creative Writing, he has found that Alaska defies description; which might be what he loves most about it.
Justine Schmidt – Youth Program Manager
Justine was born and raised in sunny California but has been coming to Alaska since she was a kid to visit her aunt and uncle in Fairbanks. She started joking in high school about “just moving to Alaska” and many years later, after living and working in San Francisco for a number of years, she made that dream a reality in 2018. She has worked with youth in the outdoors in a wide range of settings and is particularly passionate about making the outdoors accessible to underserved populations. Justine loves running, biking, and hiking in all of Alaska’s seasons.
Katie Pankow – Talkeetna Campus Manager
This is Katie’s third summer in Denali, and each year she falls more head-over-heels in love with this incredible place. Hailing from the Sunshine State, Katie works as a professional actress. She has an MFA in Acting from the University of Florida, and a BA in English from Florida Gulf Coast University. Katie is an avid hiker, a wannabe chef, a huge bird nerd, a book devourer, and a maker of strange faces.
Dave Kuecha – Maintenance Manager
Originally from Florida, Dave is now a long-time Alaskan resident. Dave is no stranger to the Denali Education Center campus as he served as our maintenance manager for six years before taking a two-year hiatus to work for an Alaska Native corporation. Dave has 35 years of experience as an ASE auto and truck-certified mechanic and has aviation repair/maintenance experience. Skilled in carpentry, electrical, and plumbing, he says he has the best job maintaining this wonderful place, nestled in this great land!
Emily Fleissner – Youth Field Educator
Emily grew up exploring the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. She first traveled to Alaska in 2019 and spent 2 months living in Southeast Alaska before moving to Talkeetna where she worked as a baker and volunteer coordinator for the Northern Susitna Institute’s youth programs. She returned to the lower 48 to complete her master’s degree in Water Resources Science but found her way back to Alaska as soon as possible. Emily loves spending her free time playing soccer, running, cross country skiing, and hanging out with her beagle, Penelope.
James Palmer – Campus Cook
James will tell you he grew up in the woods in Virginia. When his two kids were grown, he decided to attend the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Charlotte, where he found his passion and calling as a chef and baker. Often using the ingredients he finds available to him in nature, you could say that he aspires to be a truly sustainable chef and subsistence hunter. James has spent the last few years cooking in Hawaii, but we sense that he’s found a home here in Alaska, as many of us do.
Lori Moore – Group Leader
Lori may not have been born in Alaska but she got here as fast as she could! Over the past 18 years, she has worked as a park ranger, copy maker, bus driver, arts and crafts leader, and grad student. She is now an elementary school teacher and loves keeping busy with year-round outdoor activities and learning new things. She looks forward to spending her summers riding the rails with Road Scholar groups and meeting new people!
Jimmy Sandy – Special Projects Volunteer
Jimmy came to Denali in 1990 “just for the summer” and proceeded to make Alaska his home. He is best known as a founding member of the Denali Cooks, a rock and roll band that is still rocking twenty-plus years later. He has volunteered at the Denali Education Center since 1993, helping out with the construction of the Charles Sheldon Center and with many other projects large and small. Jimmy hatched the original idea for the ever-popular annual auction and continues to bring stellar live music to many DEC events.