Volunteer Profile: Trevor Nichols, Teacher-in-Residence for Rocky Mountain National Park

rolston_5y7a0416Trevor Nichols is a science teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School in southwest Denver. He’s in his fifth year of teaching AP Environmental science, Earth System science, and Earth Science for English Language Acquisition students.

Trevor comes to teaching with a degree in wildlife biology. He wasn’t intending to teach until he was inspired by a lecture given by Dr. Paul Angermeier, a professor at Virginia Tech. Dr. Angermeier’s message was strong: if you want to make a difference in conservation efficacy, go into education and teach young students about the natural world.

Trevor took this message to heart.  He teaches at a high school with a broad student demographic, in a neighborhood where some students rarely venture outside an eight-block radius of the school. The Rockies are right next door, but it’s not uncommon for a student to graduate without ever having made a visit. Trevor hopes that science education can help to repair the ongoing disconnect between youth and the natural world.

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That’s why, every summer for the last four years, Trevor had finished up his school year in early June, and moved up to Rocky Mountain National Park to take up his post as Teacher-in-Residence. Working with the incredible educational program in place at the park, he designs and implements lessons for student groups that range from kindergarten to community college.

The educational program at the park gets high marks from Trevor. “They’re aligned with quality standards up there that cross into the classroom and support teachers with their work. I can’t say enough about the resources and quality of the experience. Some programs for upper level use actual field methods—giving the kids a real experience of what a natural resource manager may do for the Park Service.” Field experiences provide exposure to correct scientific methods and possible careers.  Most importantly, it connects kids to the wonders of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Says Lindsey Lewis, Trevor’s volunteer coordinator:

I can’t think of someone with a better rapport with their own students and coworkers than Trevor.  He arrives each summer having given his all to teaching all school year and sees his time at Rocky as a way to continue to contribute but also as a time to relax and recharge.  Of course, his idea of relax and recharge might be a bit different than most folk’s idea.  As he spends his free time during the summer hiking, summiting Rocky’s high peaks, and backpacking on longer weekends.

He spends his time in the office providing feedback on curriculum development and correlating programs to education standards as well as advising new interns and education instructors in techniques and educational theory.  He also assists with training as he knows more Latin than most regular park rangers.  He loves to identify flowers and even grasses by their Latin names.  When he finds one he doesn’t know or can’t remember he’s immediately looking it up and sharing it with others. 

During field programs he is quick to create a rapport with his students of the day.  Being a former hockey player who stands well over 6 feet tall, his presence is not easily missed but his calm and patient demeanor allow him to work with students of all ages.  He has a way of making learning fun and taking the fear out of the unknown for students.  He easily laughs at his own mistakes and is quick to help others handle their own challenges in the same way – with an easygoing and positive attitude.

Trevor, thank you so much for your efforts and outreach on behalf of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Photos of Trevor Nichols courtesy Trevor Nichols, used with permissions.

Rocky Mountain photography by Pendleton brand ambassador Kate Rolston. See more of her work HERE.

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Volunteer Profile: Jim and Ellie Burbank for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Our National Parks are protected and enriched by a small army of volunteers whose time, enthusiasm and energy are put to use in so many ways. Over the next year, we would like to recognize the efforts of some of the people who help protect America’s Treasures. Today, we’re going to start with Jim and Ellie Burbank. The words below come from Lauren Gass, Special Projects Director for the Great Smoky Mountains Park.

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Jim and Ellie Burbank give selflessly of their time on a weekly basis to enhance and improve Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Residents of the great state of Tennessee, they embody the volunteer spirit.  They are former operators of the Snowbird Inn in Robbinsville, NC.  Ellie is a world-class chef and baker and Jim is a retired biologist with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Both are weekly hikers who thrill at any chance to introduce their friends and family members from across the U.S. and around the world to the wonders and beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Jim is a key member of the Volunteers-in-Parks program, and the Friends of the Smokies Tennessee office just would not function very well without Ellie’s help.

Jim actually goes out and meets strangers and tells them about the national park in his work as a weekly educational interpretive volunteer in Cades Cove, and he meets plenty of them with 2.5 million people visiting this beloved valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park every year.  He also leads monthly full moon walks in the Cove for campers and families to experience the quietude of this mountain treasure at night.  Jim also leads wildflower walks for other nonprofit organizations including Friends of the Smokies, and has helped countless hundreds of hikers differentiate between a yellow trillium and a trout lily.

Ellie acknowledges all of the contributions made to Friends of the Smokies, which involves keeping the organization’s donor records up-to-date and accurate, printing tens of thousands of acknowledgment letters each year, and she does it all in two days each week.  She has volunteered with Friends for more than 14 years, and is the equivalent of another part-time staff member. Jim and Ellie dedicate substantial amounts of time to impart their love of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to others, and they take their volunteer work very seriously.  They are extremely knowledgeable about the Park and its needs.

The Great Smoky Mountains national Park hosts over 9,000,000 visitors each year. Yes, you read that correctly–Nine. Million. Visitors. As the most-visited park in the United States, it needs the help of people like the Burbanks. We thank them sincerely for their generosity and commitment.

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Learn more about helping to support our National Parks here.