Meet Our Instructors
Meet The Board
MLC Teaching Staff
Ryan first became involved with the Montana Learning Center in 2013 as a member of the summer camp staff. Eventually he joined the board of directors. Ryan has been Montana Learning Center’s executive director since the fall of 2016. Ryan worked as a science teacher in Clancy, Montana until 2019 went he went full time with the Center. Teaching science has been his profession for the past seven years.
Getting students and teachers excited about science is something Ryan enjoys. He feels lucky to have had several mentors throughout his career and now wants to share the knowledge and expertise he has with others. According to Ryan, “it is vitally important to inspire and mentor the next generation to become critical thinkers and learn about the natural world around them.”
Ryan has served on the advisory board of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, as well as the education committee of the International Society for Optics & Photonics in Engineering.
While attending Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman, Ryan worked for NASA for four years. For two summers, he worked at the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center on the James Webb Space Telescope mission, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. In addition to collaborating with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and Bill Nye the “Science Guy”, he supported the James Webb Space Telescope mission in the fields of education, public outreach and public affairs.
Before attending MSU, Ryan studied at New Mexico State University-Alamogordo. While there he worked for New Mexico Skies Observatories in Mayhill, NM as a telescope technician, teaching astronomers how to acquire and manipulate astronomical data. He also provided technical support on telescope projects for NASA, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Caltech and PBS.
While growing up in Leesport, PA, Ryan enjoyed astronomy. He was first exposed to it as a Boy Scout and has been “hooked ever since.” He designed and built a telescope while in middle school and in high school he played a key part in putting the first fully remote controlled telescope on the Internet for students and teachers to use.
Ryan has lived in Helena, MT for since 2016. He is married to Melissa Stiles, a physical therapist. They have one dog, a black lab named Tucker, who is the baby of the family.
Walt thinks it’s important that teachers and students have high-quality experiences at the Montana Learning Center. As an author for science journals, a seventh and eighth grade science teacher and adjunct professor in Montana State University’s Masters of Science Program, he knows firsthand what excellence in education means. He applies this to the classes he teaches at the Montana Learning Center.
For thirty-five years Walt and his wife Bridget have lived in Manhattan, MT. They have two children and five grandchildren. He grew up in Pennsylvania and always enjoyed science. Through work with the Boy Scouts of America, he became interested in nature too.
Zachary teaches earth science, biology, chemistry and physics at the secondary level in Whitehall, MT. Since 2015 he has served as a medical lab technician for the 7252nd Medical Support Unit of the US Army Reserve at Fort Harrison, MT.
This will be Zachary’s third year as an employee of the Montana Learning Center. He says he “loves trying to get young students interested in science by leading them in simple, do-it-yourself, experiments that can wow them or make them wonder.” He also enjoys working at MLC because of its observatory and rock lab. He says “its location boasts some of the best sunrises and sunsets followed by incredible starry nights. The camp fires, laughter and positive energy of the camp keep me coming back. This year, I am most excited to take my campers on the many field trips and hikes we have scheduled.”
In college Zachary worked as a trail crew worker and wildland fire fighter for the US Forest Service. After earning his bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology, he took a job as a recovery aid for chemically dependent teenagers in Missoula. That experience helped him realize he had a deep passion for learning, particularly in science. He went on to earned his M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Montana in Missoula where he also obtained the Montana Broadfield Science Endorsement.
At home in Butte, MT he lives with his wife, Kayla, and two children, Samson and Sully. He feels it is one of his responsibilities as a parent to get his children excited about the natural world. His wonderful 11- year-old chocolate lab, Mr. Grover, will join him again at camp this summer.
Kristi has taught in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Polaris, MT with students ranging from grades K-8 for five years. She teaches all subject areas. In the winter months, she is the head coach of an alpine ski racing team at Maverick Mountain Ski Area. She taught middle school language arts and social studies in Bozeman for four years where she led trips to Washington D.C. and New York City with the 8th grade classes.
She is a 2010 graduate of Montana State University’s teacher education program and received a Master’s Degree in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from there in 2016. Before she became a classroom teacher, she taught summer camps with Montana Outdoor Science School and worked as a behavioral support aide at an elementary school in Bozeman. She volunteered as an English teacher in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in the summer of 2010.
Kristi enjoys teaching science and art to multiple grade levels at Polaris School. This year, she has introduced STEAM design challenges every week. Her students have transformed caterpillars into Painted Lady Butterflies, and Northern Leopard Frog eggs into the tadpole stage.
According to Kristi, “The Montana Learning Center is in a special location and always brings together a positive group of staff and children. While instructing there, I absolutely love the opportunities that arise from being directly on the waters of Canyon Ferry. I also truly enjoy the access to the surrounding Helena National Forest. I appreciate how the camp fosters learning, peer collaboration, and design thinking in an outdoor environment. Finally, I always look forward to meeting youth who are passionate about exploring, creating, and making new discoveries!”
This is Kristi’s third summer as a summer camp instructor with the MLC.
Kristi lives in Polaris, a community of 100 residents, situated along the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway. She is married to Erik. They have two dogs and one cat. In her free time, she loves to ski, hike, travel, and camp.
Chris is a retired airline pilot. His career at the airlines involved overseeing 140 pilots for the east coast region, ground school instruction, flight simulator instruction, flight simulator check rides, line checks, overseas flights instruction and heavy maintenance aircraft test flights. Over the years he had a wide range of titles including Captain, Chief Pilot, Check Airman, Test Pilot, Flight Instructor and Ground School Instructor. Now he is part of the maintenance team at Montana Learning Center and a part time pilot for the State of Montana.
For more than 40 years, Chris has been involved with heavy aircraft operations and aviation sciences. An avid student of photography, Chris has been learning about this field for 20 plus years.
According to Chris, “It’s very exciting, fun and rewarding to share my experience and knowledge about aviation with the kids, counselors and teachers at the MLC.”
Chris is almost a neighbor to the learning center and enjoys living on Canyon Ferry Lake. He is single and has two daughters and two grandchildren.
Bryan graduated with a degree in Elementary Education with a creative arts concentration. He teaches at Basin Elementary School in Basin, MT. This is his second summer being a summer camp instructor at the MLC.
A childhood dream was achieved when Bryan was recruited to play professional baseball in Florida as a left-handed pitcher. After a short sports career, he moved on to the culinary arts. He became a kitchen manager and eventually a sous chef. He then began an apprentice position as an assistant brewer because of an interest in the chemistry of beer. After working in the social work field, Bryan decided to become a teacher. He is eager to begin his new path.
While obtaining his degree, Bryan interned at The Science Zone, bringing field trips to schools. The “Zone” also had space for exhibits, lessons, and free play. He volunteered for three years teaching to 4th graders as part of a university program. Students would rotate through educational opportunities provided by different student teachers.
Bryan was president of the National Science Teacher Association chapter at the University of Wyoming and helped coordinate various science events, a “Science Halloween.”
According to Bryan, “I’m looking forward to sharing a communal interest in science with young learners and teachers alike. Life is all about experiences, and I’m eager to see what kind of growth and learning can take place in an environment where kids internally and intrinsically want to be there—learning all about science.”
Bryan lives in Helena. He is single and lives with his 5-year-old son, Emerson, and three fish named Whiskers, Vegan, and Ace of Spades.
DeLacy is a science teacher at Capital High School, teaching Advance Placement Physics, Paleontology, and Honors Earth Science. In the past, she has held a position with the education outreach board for NASA through Arizona State University. She has also been field crew and preparation crew for dinosaurs at the Museum of the Rockies and had the privilege of basic consultation for the movie Jurassic Park 3.
She says, “I not only teach STEAM I live and breathe it. I coach and have coached First Robotics teams with Helena Robotics in the First Tech Challenge disvision. I mentored and coached a NASA ANGLeS team and I am currently coaching and mentoring a NASA ROADS team, two MLC programs. I am the sponsor of the Capital High Science Club and have the continuing honor of being a coach and mentor to our Science Olympiad and Science Bowl teams. I also have had the pleasure of being part of several performances through Heartscope Ensemble, and look forward to many more opportunities.”
As a 2020 Montana Learning Center instructor, DeLacy looks forward to “getting kids to see the wonder that the world has. Robotics is a way to introduce coding and engineering to kids in a fun and interesting way. There are so many possibilities in STEAM fields and I want everyone to revel in the infinite creativity the fields have to share.”
DeLacy lives in the Elkhorn mountains outside of Montana City, Montana. She is married and has two children. Her son is in high school and daughter in middle school. They have 3 dogs—Hugin, Munin, and Maisey and two cats—Pepper and Midnight.
As a science teacher for over 19 years, Kate has taught all ages various scientific topics. She is passionate about teaching students the importance of science literacy, the applications and relevance to science in our everyday lives, and the need for skilled researchers, healthcare professionals and STEM professionals.
Kate has taught for 9 years at MLC and loves the opportunity to inspire students with STEAM in a beautiful Montana setting. As a board member, she supports MLC as a place for students who are curious, motivated and interested in science and engineering, as well as a place for teachers to learn about their own fields.
The Anaconda High School HOSA-Future Healthcare Professionals club was founded by Kate. This brings students to competitions, gives them a chance to organize community volunteer projects and helps them learn about the skills needed to enter medical fields.
A proud Butte, MT native and current resident, she loves to be outdoors, especially hiking and kayaking. She also enjoys reading, cooking and watching documentaries. Growing up she was inspired by strong women in science. She competed in science fairs, attended girls STEM academies and took as many science courses as she could, gradually getting a major in biology and minor in chemistry. She has a master’s in Interdisciplinary Science with an emphasis in Microbiology.
Kate first learned of MLC by participating in family camps. She and her husband brought their children and friends to these family camps. Kate lives with her husband, daughters and two border collies.
Peter K. Detterline
As the director of the observatory for the Mars Society, Peter operates two telescopes, a solar observatory and a robotic observatory. He also teaches astronomy for Montgomery County Community College and Moravian College in Pennsylvania.
He retired after 35 years as the Planetarium Director for the Boyertown Area School District where he gave programs to over half a million people of all age groups. Peter is excited to develop the curriculum for the Montana Learning Center’s Explore the Universe Camp, and is looking forward to seeing it through on its first year.
Peter studied secondary education, concentrating on earth science at Kutztown University and completed graduate school in geology and astronomy at West Chester University. In addition he has done professional research on eclipsing binary stars, and currently works with the American Association of Variable Star Observers on adding to their variable star database.
Peter lives in Pennsylvania with his dog Charcoal. His son, Michael, is in college in Australia.
Kristi is working as a K-8 Science Teacher on Special Assignment for the Bozeman School District. She is the President-Elect of the Montana Science Teachers Association and represented Montana at the National Science Teachers Congress in July 2019.
She has taught kindergarten, first, and second grades since 2005 in Bozeman. In 2017, she received National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education. Her degree is in elementary Education and is from Montana State University.
Science has always been one of Kristi’s favorite subjects, both as a learner and a teacher. This is her fourth year teaching at the Montana Learning Center. Kristi says, “My favorite way to learn about science is to DO science and the Montana Learning Center is the perfect place for kids and adults to experience science together.”
She lives in Bozeman, Montana with her husband Eric and two children, Keelan and Kenna, who can’t wait to attend summer camps at the Montana Learning Center every summer.
Erin recently moved back to her hometown of Havre, the Heart of the Montana Hi-Line to be a 4th grade teacher. She enjoys “making the magic happen through the arts, science, and word play.” She is learning a lot as part of this year’s Teacher Leadership Institute cohort. In her spare time, Erin helps the volunteer—run Bear Paw Ski Bowl. She helps patrol the runs, cuts trails, and teaches new skiers how to enjoy the snow.
Prior to her current position, Erin worked for 6 years at Montana Outdoor Science School in Bozeman where she taught science to kids at local schools and wandered around the outdoors with students “teaching them how the world works.” While working at the science school, she created a curriculum which inspired her to obtain a Master’s of Science in Science Education. She is now finishing up all the requirements to become a National Board Certified Teacher.
Before that, Erin taught grades 2-8, in two-room schoolhouses and larger districts for many years. In Seeley Lake, MT where skiing is a way of life, she implemented a ski program for second graders. She has also served as a backpacking guide for middle and high school girls.
Erin describes herself as a “benefactor of numerous MLC adult programs, Springtime in the Rockies and STEAM in the Rockies. Now as an instructor, she is “looking forward to getting back to nature and getting muddy in the learning process with the next generation of scientists!”
Erin is very interested in the arts and served on the team to write and align the Montana Standards for the Arts. Her 4th grade class is currently working on a gallery showing of their art at a local Havre gallery. She also created a theater program, with second graders performing Shakespeare. Here’s a link to information about one of the plays they performed, Twelfth Night. https://www.seeleylake.com/story/2019/03/28/news/second-graders-bring-shakespeare-to-life/4644.html
Erin is single and has a 6 year-old lab from RezQDogs. She says Flora “is one of the best adventure buddies I’ve ever had. She is always ready to go on a ski adventure (nordic or touring) in the winter, help out a belay partner during climbing season, spend some time in a canoe or raft, or at the frontend of a paddleboard! As long as there is water (in liquid or solid form) in which to recreate, we’re both happy campers!”
Andrew Shulstad is a graduate student at Montana State University in the Master of Science in Science Education program and plans to obtain a teaching position in a rural Montana school this fall. He graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Botany and a Bachelor of Art in Environment and Natural Resources.
Following graduation, he began a 13-year career with the federal land management agencies by working for the U.S. Forest Service. He worked on a study of anadromous fish spawning habitat throughout the portion of the Upper Columbia River watershed within the United States (states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana). For two years, his duties on the project were related to monitoring riparian vegetation along the stream reaches being studied.
His next position at Grand Canyon National Park entailed planning for and leading volunteer service projects related to vegetation conservation. According to Andrew, “the volunteer groups were inspiring to work with, and included school groups, conservation organizations, and Elderhostel. These projects included invasive species removal, native plant salvage, restoration of disturbed lands, and nursery work related to native plant propagation. This was where I first realized how much I enjoy teaching young people about science and conservation. A highlight of this position was a 17-day river trip through the Grand Canyon doing plant surveys. I spent two years in this position.”
He has also worked for the Bureau of Land Management out of Boise, ID, monitoring a federally listed threatened plant species in the Snake River plain and did ecological monitoring in the National Parks of Southwest Alaska (Lake Clark, Katmai, Kenai Fjords). There are no roads in any of the Alaska parks, so his commute to work was typically via single prop float planes. Grizzly sightings were common since this is one of the least visited units in the National Parks system.
In Yellowstone National Park, for three years he worked within the vegetation office, focused on vegetation and wetlands compliance, ensuring that new developments within the park were done in a way that minimized negative effects to rare plant species and wetlands. During his fourth year at Yellowstone he transitioned into working on a new sagebrush steppe monitoring project that was just being launched. This vegetation community represents the bulk of the wintering range for the park’s large ungulates, and he was able to collaborate with the bison management office on components of this work. He spent seven years at Yellowstone.
According to Andrew, “while working at Yellowstone I finally recognized and embraced that I was gaining more from my educational interactions with visitors – especially young people – than my primary work duties. This was really saying something since I loved my job! It was during this time that I applied for the Master of Science in Science Education degree program at Montana State University – which I will be graduating from this summer.”
During the summer of 2019, Andrew was a counselor for five weeks of Young Naturalist camps and the week-long Extreme Yellowstone Expedition. He looks forward to “returning to the MLC for a bunch of reasons – the excitement of campers arriving and getting to know them, weaving science into the fun, taking campers out on the lake, the campfires and s’more contests, getting to use the observatories, the friends I’ve made with fellow staff members, and last (but not least), the food! I’m very excited to be leading the Extreme Yellowstone Expedition this year! This trip was a blast last year, and I look forward to finding ways to make it even better!”
Andrew met his wife while working at Grand Canyon National Park in 2008. They have a feisty little dog, Zephyr, and live in Bozeman, MT. This fall, he hopes to become a science teacher in a small community where he will teach all facets of science and get to work with the same students for multiple years.
Amanda Coyle has always been a passionate advocate for the environment. After graduating from Kenyon College in Ohio with a degree in International Studies and with a minor in Anthropology, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Mongolia. During her two-year stretch, she discovered that she enjoyed working with children, and that discovery changed the course of her life.
Having grown up right outside of Zion National Park in Utah, Alyssa Shaul was hiking as soon as she could walk, which fostered her love of the outdoors, and particularly mountains. It was when she was preparing to graduate from the University of Montana Western that she saw an announcement for the Montana Learning Center, which combined everything that she loves, including teaching, science, the outdoors, and coffee served throughout the day, that she decided to apply, and she is now an instructor for the Young Astronaut Training and the Dinosaur Discovery camps for first through third graders.
It’s a natural fit; during the school year, she teaches first grade at Prickly Pear Elementary School in East Helena. “I especially love working with 1st-3rd grade students because they understand just enough about the world to ask more questions, which, of course, leads to wonderful investigations,” she said.
Shaul is a seasoned educator; since the age of 15, she has been working in schools, but says the MLC offers an incredibly unique learning environment. “Everyone – adults and kids – are there for the pure joy of learning and teaching. I have especially been appreciative of being able to design camps around my personal interests, including space and dinosaurs, which I can share with the younger generation of scientists,” she said.
She says she appreciates the student-led environment at the MLC, where staff provide engaging lessons, often focused on nature, but the day can take a delightful detour when students ask good questions that lead to unplanned activities to find the answer. “That is what being a scientist is all about,” she said. “I have seen students really blossom at MLC; they are able to expand their knowledge beyond a set curriculum which builds a love of learning. As a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding to witness.”
In her spare time, Shaul says she is constantly reading, and enjoys baking, art, and spending time outdoors with her husband and dog.
Katherine Bachrach has been making learning fun and engaging for Montana students for more than three decades as a music, elementary, and middle school teacher and counselor at Helena Flats School in Kalispell, and she is delighted to lend her expertise to the Montana Learning Center.
Her enthusiasm for the outdoors and fresh air has led her to pursue cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or alpine skiing in the winter, and hiking and other activities in the summer. This enjoyment of nature overflows into her teaching methods; she is passionate about incorporating the natural world into her educational practices.
She often leads the Nature Makers camp at the Montana Learning Center, where the Center’s youngest students do crafts using materials they find in nature, sing, and explore the outdoors. Her group can often be found kneeling in the grass with a magnifying glass, looking for bugs. She wants her learners to not only understand the world around them, but to also know their place in it, with the hopes that they’ll go on to be good stewards of the planet in adulthood, and remember the significance of animals, trees, and other plants.
Bachrach also advocates for students to envision themselves as scientists, and says she wants children to have a strong, positive base for their education, particularly in math and the sciences.
As a leader for People to People, Bachrach has taken middle school students on international and domestic field trips, including to European countries, Washington D.C., and Australia. She has witnessed firsthand the importance of being away from the school building. Bachrach said that when she asks students what they remember the most, almost universally, it is the experiences away from the classroom, interacting with their teachers, that make the biggest impact on them.
She’s a natural educator, and it stems from a deep passion. “It’s really pretty simple. I love being with children, and I want them to have positive educational experiences,” Bachrach said. “Education opens all kinds of opportunities, so I really want children to love learning. I love learning! I’m a lifelong learner, and I want them to know that they can also continue learning throughout life. I hope that I’m part of making education a positive experience for children.”
Student to Teacher Ratio
We’re committed to keeping out staff small and personal. Everyone brings their own personal strengths to the STEM curriculum. Our student to instructor/counselor ratio is 1:8. Each of our instructors and counselors are CPR & First Aid certified.
Students & Staff on a science exploration