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KVR Instructors

Photo of Barb Duerksen holding binoculars


Barbara Duerksen became fascinated with bird songs when she was growing up in Kansas and continues her interest in studying birds and their habitats today. She is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and the Kickapoo Reserve Bird Club. She serves as the Richland County coordinator for two projects: the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas and the Midwest Crane Count. She enjoys gathering data for eBird – an online bird database that participates in Christmas Bird Counts, hikes, and bird walks.

Photo of Barb Sarnowski

Barb Sarnowski grew up in the Kickapoo Valley enjoying its many opportunities for biking, hiking, canoeing, and horseback riding. Barb’s interest in plant and flower identification helped connect her students to the land they call home in her 35-year career as a K-12 LD teacher in the La Farge Public School system. Barb received her graduate and master’s degrees from UW-La Crosse with additional classes in teaching methods, curriculum and science. Barb’s background teaching a wide age range of students coupled with her broad subject experience allows her to teach a variety of KVR classes to all age ranges and learning styles.

Photo of Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is a professional wilderness guide with over 20 years of experience. Bill specializes in adventure travel such as rock climbing, canoeing, and winter camping with individuals, families, and groups. He sees outdoor adventure as a lifetime activity that can be enjoyed at all ages, either individually or with others. Bill's mission as a guide is to partner with others to create experiences that encourage growth, promote group bonds, and deepen our connection with the natural world. This is how we may appreciate each other and the environment more completely. Bill is the founder of Essential Skills Outdoor School,, and lives in Viroqua, Wisconsin.

Picture of Brad Steinmetzm in winter

Brad Steinmetz taught social studies classes at La Farge High School for over 30 years. He currently is an Affiliated Professor at UW-La Crosse and teaches courses at the Reserve on the history of the northern Kickapoo Valley including the settlement of the area, flooding problems of the Kickapoo River, the La Farge Dam Project and other topics of human history.  He has been writing about various local history projects over the last five years; volume one of his history of La Farge was published in 2010, and the history of the La Farge Dam Project was released in December 2011.  Brad says that his favorite part of teaching at the Reserve is working with people who share his interest in the history of this place

Photo of Carolyn Steinmetz

Carolyn Steinmetz grew up in the Kickapoo Valley on a farm near Viola where she spent a great deal of time exploring the flora and fauna along Camp Creek.  She received a degree in Elementary Education from UW-La Crosse, and later a Master’s Degree in Library Media.  She was K-12 Library Media Specialist at La Farge School District for 36 years.  She enjoys exploring nature with young children and hopes to instill the love of the outdoors in others

Photo of Cathy Chybowski


Cathy Chybowski grew up on a farm in southeastern Wisconsin, where she spent most of her time exploring outdoors.  Under her mother’s influence she became a student of nature at an early age.  Cathy earned her Bachelor’s degree from U.W. Madison in zoology with minors in botany and wildlife ecology, and then went on to get her Masters in teaching environmental science.  Cathy has worked as a DNR naturalist, a high school science teacher (Biology, Ecology, and A.P. Environmental Science) and is now an instructor at the KVR.  Her passion is getting kids of all ages outside and helping them discover that “special something” that connects them to nature.  She enjoys citizen science and has done surveys involving birds, bats, frogs, snakes, monarch butterflies, plants of concern and invasive species

Photo of Chuck Hatfiled

Chuck Hatfield grew up on a farm near Ontario, Wisconsin where he spent most of his spare time hiking and exploring the nearby woods and cliffs.  He received a degree in elementary education and science at La Crosse, and later a master’s degree in teaching from Oshkosh.  He taught for 35 years in Green Bay, serving in both elementary and middle schools.  His second “career” was working with Heritage Hill State Park—locating, moving and reassembling ethnic log buildings.  Gwen and Chuck moved to La Farge in 1998 and built a home on Maple Ridge Road.  He has taught since 2001 for the KVR, working with students from elementary to graduate school.  One of his passions has been to hike and explore all areas within the Reserve, studying the geological and natural history of the area.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Wisconsin Historical Society and Bethel Home & Services of Viroqua

Photo of Dave Sarnowski

Dave Sarnowski is a lifelong resident of Wisconsin and a retired Health and Physical Education teacher, having received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from UW-La Crosse.  Dave taught K-12 students at La Farge Public Schools for 32 years and continues to teach Hunter Safety Education classes.  With his background in Health and Physical Education and lifetime as a hunter, fisherman and outdoor activities participant, Dave sees a unique opportunity for life long outdoor education and enjoyment within the KVR for people of all ages.  Dave will be teaching archery, rendezvous games and other activities for the KVR.






Photo of Dick Wallin

Dick Wallin 







Photo of Gil Hoel

Gil Hoel is a semi retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Early in his career he served as a survival counselor working with adjudicated youth in northern Minnesota. During these years he taught survival skills to young people who were required to take a challenging expedition and solo experience to fulfill their sentences. Gil believes we are blessed with a resource such as the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. He feels that getting young people interested in this gem will help to both serve our environment while encouraging them cultivate a personal environmental ethic

Photo of Joan Peterson

Joan Peterson became certified as a Wisconsin Master Naturalist in 2016, and has been volunteering at KVR as an instructor and in other capacities since then.  Joan first fell in love with the Driftless Area when she attended Luther College (Decorah Iowa) in the 1970's.  When she graduated from Northwestern School of Law in Chicago, her desire to have a career and enjoy the outdoors took her to Anchorage, Alaska.  Joan spent 25 years in Alaska, hiking, skiing, biking, kayaking, and learning about plant and bird identification.  Joan now lives in La Farge with her husband, and enjoys sharing the wonders of nature with others.

Photo of John Heasley next to telescope


John Heasley is an experienced amateur astronomer who shares his love of the starry sky with young people at College for Kids, Middle School U, elementary schools, state parks, libraries, and KVR's Astro Camp and Space Rocks Camp.  He taught English for 25 years at Richland Center High School and is now an astronomy educator with Driftless Stargazing LLC.  John volunteers with NASA as a Solar System Ambassador Master Teacher.  He loves to get folks looking up and knowing their home in the cosmos.

Photo of Julia Buckingham

Julia Buckingham is a current preschool and kindergarten Montessori teacher in Viroqua. She has a background in environmental education. She enjoys teaching others about the wonderful living and non-living gems found at KVR.

Photo of Julie Hoel

Julie Hoel is a retired educator with a degree in Elementary Education from Iowa State University and a Masters in Professional Development from UW-La Crosse.  Julie has taught numerous classes for visiting school groups and summer camps. She is a lifelong camper, hiker, canoeist, and biker.  She enjoys sharing this love of the outdoors with young people and meeting people who truly care about the environment and the place they live.  Although Julie and her husband live on a piece of property that her parents bought in 1970, it was taking the Cultural Tour of the Kickapoo Valley course in 2009 through the Reserve that finally made the Driftless Region feel like home!  Julie is also part of the KVR Astro-Educator team.

Picture of Liz Daines

Liz Daines grew up on a farm just east of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. She spent much of her childhood biking, hiking, canoeing and camping in what was then known as the Government Land, which heavily influenced her interests in nature and history and lead to a degree in Archaeology and Environmental Studies. Liz is active on the Friends of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Board and takes advantage of further learning opportunities at the KVR, such as the Master Naturalist Program, Astronomy Stargazers training, and the Driftless Dialogue lecture series.

Photo of Mary Szepi

Mary Szepi is a retired teacher of Pre-k-2nd grades.  She has led an environmental club of 4th-6th graders and been a Girl Scout lead for many years.  Since retiring she has taught environmental education as a volunteer for grades K-3 at NOW Schools, has taught as a KVR instructor and led the Jeepers Creepers and Kindercamp summer camps at the Reserve.  Since childhood she has loved camping, hiking, canoeing, swimming and exploring the outdoors.  She loves spending time with children in the outdoors experiencing the wonders of nature, observing their curiosity and enthusiasm and helping hone their love of nature

Picture of Mary Dresser

Mary Dresser has worked as an environmental educator for many years in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennessee. She first visited KVR for a bird workshop, has enjoyed the evening programs and participating in the bird group, and is excited to now share the natural wonders of KVR with schoolchildren.

Maureen Allen has a background in biology and outdoor education. She practices and teaches experiential education: the process of learning by doing. She enjoys exploring the outdoors with children and facilitating teambuilding and skill-building activities that get kids outdoors and engaged with their surroundings. She lives with her daughter and husband in the Kickapoo Valley. Together they operate Mastodon Valley Farm, a grass-based livestock farm and ecological restoration project. She enjoys growing and foraging her own food, tending her many animals and exploring the woods and prairies with her daughter. She is learning every day.

Photo of Meaghan Gustafson

Meaghan Gustafson has been an early childhood educator for 10 years, teaching primarily preschool, kindergarten, first and second grade students in a variety of settings.  She is currently the first grade teacher at La Farge Elementary.  She has been leading Jeepers Creepers and Kinder Camp sessions at KVR Summer Camp for the past several years.  Meaghan appreciates the diversity of landscapes, vegetation, and wildlife on the Reserve, where she spends a lot of time hiking, paddling, and snowshoeing.  Meaghan and her husband live outside La Farge on a small-scale farm.

Photo of Nicholas Gale

Nicholas Gale wishes he had been born in Wisconsin a few thousand years ago; but at least he was born in Wisconsin, enjoying the freedom to explore the natural world from an early age. His first loves were insects, frogs and snakes but grew to incorporate birds, environmentalism, earth skills and Native philosophy. At the Teaching Drum School in Northern Wisconsin he immersed himself in a year-long course in wilderness skills, tanning, lodge building, wilderness travel, foraging and food storage and bushcraft. Here he became firmly planted in his passions for living close to the land and sharing this connected lifeway with others. He lives with his wife and children in the Kickapoo Valley and with them celebrates gathering edibles, fishing and hunting, and pursuing the art of dressing and furnishing a life from the gifts of the Earth. He shares this world with youth and adults through classes and workshops on wild edibles, wilderness skills, traditional crafts and nature awareness.

Photo of Peg La Martina

Peg La Martina came to love the natural world as a small girl on her grandparents farm in Southeast Wisconsin.  Her days were spent "bog walking" along a creek in a pair of old shoes, and day dreaming among ancient Oaks and Hickories, as well as Native American mounds.  As an adult, nature continues to nurture her spirit as she spends vacations kayaking, hiking, and camping.  She has participated in an Outward Bound program and has spent time at Camp Woodbrooke for kids in Richland Center, Wisconsin.  She loves to share nature with others, especially children, and feels that when most people are exposed to the natural world an innate connection is sparked.  Hopefully from there, the spark is bright enough that they will, in turn, work to nurture nature. 

Photo of Robin Hosemann

Robin Hosemann has over 16 years of experience as a K-12 public school educator and library media specialist in urban and rural school districts. Throughout her career, Robin has been dedicated to connecting her students with outdoor education opportunities. Her love of interacting with the natural world was nurtured in quiet explorations of the hills, creeks and fields of her family's farm near Ferryville which they purchased just days after she was born. Robin recently completed 200 hours of registered yoga teacher training and she works with teachers and classrooms to promote mindfulness and wellness practices. She is passionate about helping young people develop mindful ways of moving in natural settings, make careful observations of wild things and learn about how connection with the outdoors can inspire better care-taking and responsibility for our precious resources. Robin lives in Viroqua with her son.

Photo of Shelly Brenneman

Shelly Brenneman










Photo of Vicki Ramsay

Vicki Ramsay is a state certified teacher in Biology and Environmental Science.  She teaches biology at Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua to grades 9 through 12.  She has been teaching at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve for the past five years.  The best part about teaching at the Reserve, she says, is seeing how inspired students become through exploring the wild, learning something really cool like survival skills, or just by being out in nature.  She lives in Viroqua with her two sons, ages 10 and 3.