Staff – 2016 Oregon Session 1, Camp Latgawa


Session Director

Evan Wright ~ see his bio on admin page




Advisors do lots of things: teach workshops; lead games, sports, hikes, fieldtrips, and other activities; help out with logistics; and other stuff. But most essentially, they connect with campers–individually and in small groups. Each advisor meets daily with his or her group of 11 or so campers, and is generally available for support, hugs, and conversation.


Tilke Elkins
Springfield, Oregon

A Portrait of Me: Seven Things I Would Like To Do with You

1. Climb a Tree: Oak trees are wide ancient rooms with broad chaises and shelves of arcane leaf books.

2. Play with Color: Can you take a color you don’t like and make it appealing by surrounding it by other colors? Can you make a green sock look blue by dropping it in a field of buttercups?

3. Wander Around and Experience Plants: I love being shown, by someone who knows a plant, that it’s safe to touch and smell and possibly EAT. I love all their shapes and personalities. I love the names that humans use for them sometimes, like Loropetalum, and Hamamelis, and Sarcacocca. I love when the jewelweed seeds pop and scare me.

4. Make Tasty Snacks: First you plant it. Then you talk with it. Then you harvest it. Then you dry it. Then you soak it. Then you sprout it. Then you ferment it. Then you steam it. Then you eat it. 🙂 Baby Lima Beans with Tarragon. Sweet and Sour Corn and Quinoa Pudding. Almond Butter Shortbread Cookies. Steamed Squash Dumplings. These.

5. Tell Stories Based on Excellent Questions: What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done? When were you surprised by your own humility? What tiny way has a stranger connected with you?

6. Invent Drawing Games for Two or More People: Draw something together, both with your eyes closed. Draw with one person telling the other person which direction to move the pen. More?

7. Go walking in the Dark Barefoot if possible. Sounds get bigger and stars settle on your shoulders.

NBTSC history: Advisor 2001-2015 (except 2007), mostly in Oregon – also Vermont and Joshua Tree.


Autumn Star, 24
Seattle, Washington

Autumn is a long time self directed learner and a lover of curiosity. These days they spend their time teaching dance, working with unschoolers, and facilitating experiential trainings on the operating dynamics of building peaceful, conscientious lives and communities. They are in the midst of moving from central New York to Seattle, WA to live with their partner of two years.

Autumn’s life is an eclectic combination of experiences and wanderings which include: traveling to Indonesia 3 times, building a cabin to live in on their parents land, driving across the country…often, being in a committed long term relationship, living with a parasite, deepening their understanding of racial justice, going to Goddard College, sleeping in Zuccotti Park in NYC while participating in Occupy Wall Street, and getting certified as a Postpartum Doula.

Autumn has a passion for people and loves learning about how people function, especially in relationship to how they grow, struggle, flourish, and heal. They enjoy thinking, learning about, and being active in understanding identity and how it affects people. Autumn is focused on exploring how to create meaningful and committed community by developing personal practices around self care, healthy communication, and communal support. They have a love for writing and sharing poetry, dance, travel, their Indonesian family, kids and babies, playing, and sitting with friends while laughing and smiling until their cheeks hurt.

NBTSC history (all Vermont): Camper 2006, 2007, 2009; Junior Staffer and Co-Mama Bear 2011; Dish Queen and Advisor 2012, Mama Bear & Advisor 2013, Mama Bear & Advisor 2014; Mama Bear 2015.




Jackson Perrin, 53
White Salmon, Washington

The path that lead me to unschooling was a bit unconventional. As a kid I did just fine in public school. I had a few great teachers and lots of extra-curricular stuff. But as a teacher I never fit in. My teaching venues have included a boarding school in Turkey, a little alternative school in the Rockies, summer camps, bike, hike and river adventures, and a Montessori school. I am certified to teach high school science but I doubt that I would last one week in a public high school. I love teaching science in big chunks of time making big messes with glue guns and soldering irons. One place where I did feel at home as a teacher was at the Vision program for non-traditional learners in Paonia, Colorado. In this publicly funded program I got to join 6 self-directed learners on a three month journey from to Vancouver B.C. to the Copper Canyon in Mexico to home again. I also co-created The High Desert Center for Sustainable Studies, where I got to teach the skills needed to live a simple yet rich life. Many unschoolers interned on our campus where I guided them through the construction of straw bale houses finished with natural plasters and earthen floors.

I now run Gorge MakerSpace(www.gorgemakerspace.com) where kids learn STEM subjects by building really cool stuff. I also coach the local high school robotics team, build planes and copters with middle school students, and offer weekly makerspace activities for homeschoolers.

I like working in both the un- and public schooling realms, because both are filled with dreamers. I like to meditate with others and talk about Buddhism, identity, mortality, infinity and nothing. I love to play all sports, even golf.

I am 53 years old, married to science journalist Michelle Nijhuis, father to Sylvia Wren (age 7) and live in White Salmon, WA.

NBTSC history: advisor 2002-04, 2013-15




Nathen Beryl Lester, 43
Joshua Tree, California

Nathen is a therapist intern in Joshua Tree, California. He is happily married to Reanna Alder, an adult unschooler, and lives with her and their new baby in a little house near his extended family. Nathen has been an advisor at Not Back to School Camp since 1999. He is famous there not only for being sincere, friendly, enthusiastic, and sometimes potently amused, but also for the zeal, intellect, and originality with which he teaches workshops on subjects such as the human digestive system, partner dancing, and Einstein’s theories of relativity. He says, “What I love about camp is the people who come–the staff, the campers–and how they interact, how they share their excitement and inspiration and how they form friendships and communities with each other.”

Among his plans for NBTSC 2016 are a workshops on emotional resiliency, partner dancing and suicide prevention.



Blake Boles, 33
South Lake Tahoe, California
Advisor and First Aid Dude

Hey there! I’m a writer, adventurer, entrepreneur, and educator who started working at NBTSC in 2006 and then designed my career around creating immersive experiences for self-directed teens. I’m the author of College Without High School and Better Than College, and The Art of Self-Directed Learning. I direct the travel and education company Unschool Adventures.

Since last year at camp, I…

– co-directed a 10-week Adventure Semester for 23 teens in Colorado

– tramped around New Zealand with 11 teens for 6 weeks

– did a ton of trail running in the California High Sierra mountains, including a mind-blowing 32-mile all-day run from Yosemite to Mammoth with my friend Hannah

– traveled independently in Mexico, Guatemala, New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina

– road-tripped across the U.S. and back, giving a few presentations on self-directed learning

– did some introspective writing about my nomadic lifestyle

– laid the groundwork for my big new program for 18- to 21-year-olds, the Argentina Semester

Some other occupations I’ve held include: Aurora Borealis physics research assistant, delivery truck driver, math tutor, outdoor science teacher, EMT medic, summer camp director, summer camp head cook, marketing researcher, freelance web designer, windsurfing instructor, snowboarding instructor, tree climbing instructor, and real estate mystery shopper. Before discovering the ideas behind unschooling in college (and subsequently designing my own major around it), I studied astrophysics and thought I wanted to become a high school science teacher.

Learn more at blakeboles.com and unschooladventures.com.

NBTSC History: Advisor, 2006-present


Zoe Vlastos, 22
Denver Colorado.

Zoe grew up homeschooled on her family farm in rural Illinois, attended Not Back To School Camp five times (once as staff), graduated from Regis University with majors in Neuroscience and Psychology and a minor in Music, and staffed the Real World Retreat through Unschool Adventures. In her adventures she has founded a biannual benefit concert, traveled and studied abroad in South America, worked as a teaching assistant and writing mentor, authored a digital storytelling thesis on how technology affects romantic relationships, worked in research science labs, and mentored teens with eating disorders.

Zoe is an avid skier, pianist, cook, writer, trail runner, partner dancer, listener, reader, traveler, questioner, chocoholic, hugger, and learner. She believes in the power of storytelling and movement to connect and to heal. She has aspirations of becoming a mental health counselor and working with teens and with individuals who have eating disorders and/or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Zoe’s current passions/interests:
-Dance: I have discovered dance as an art of listening, helping us to connect to music, partner, body, and self.
-Travel: I’ve been bit by the travel bug and can’t stop dreaming of the next place I’ll go.
– Emotional health: I am extremely passionate about moving past the stigma surrounding mental health, breaking the silence, and holding open conversations, not only about mental health but also many other uncomfortable topics.
-Being in nature: Breathe. Fresh air. Breathe.
-Other: Recently I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to find and/or create meaning in one’s life, how to help others reach their fullest potential, how to live with the way things are, what success means, and the importance of living with an open heart.


Night Owls

In early camp years, we had a few vigorous staffers–the most memorable was our beloved Billy (Upski) Wimsatt, also the author of a couple marvelous books–who tended to stay up all night right along with campers. More recently, as our staff aged and wrinkled, this niche didn’t get filled as automatically, so we made an official position. Now, at each session somebody (or somebodies) sweet and strong stay up late–until 2 or 3 a.m., depending on when most campers have nodded off–to be a reassuring and attentive adult presence.

Margie Sanderson, 21
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Margie is always thrilled to be joining NBTSC again! Previously she has attended camp as a camper from 2009-2013, Junior Staffer in 2014, and Senior Staffer in 2015. She is having a great time working on behind-the-scenes staffing logistics for camp, and is even more excited to work at both Oregon sessions.

Since bumping into unschooling along her traditional education path, Margie has done a lot of thinking, reading, writing, and researching about the worlds of schooling, learning, and education. She served as student representative to the school board at her high school and has spent hundreds of volunteer hours at an array of elementary and preschool programs. Margie is now a staff member at the Philly Free School, a democratically run school (taking inspiration from the Sudbury Valley School) for young people 4 through 19. She spends most of her waking hours working for this school in one way or another, and loves it.

Throughout the years Margie has tried on the hats of competitive gymnast, amateur photographer, nanny, and bookworm. This year she finished reading all of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories, started practicing gymnastics again (recreationally), helped to design a website for the first time, played lots of board games, and continued to enjoy living with her boyfriend and cat in their west Philadelphia home.

NBTSC History: camper, 2009-2013; Junior Staffer in 2014, administrative assistant and night owl in 2015.


Dandy Denial, 28
Manitoba, Canada

Dandy Denial is a photographer, Anarcho-Cynicalist, crafts person, and an obsessive fermenter of foods. They live in small town Manitoba, in a tiny house, several hours from the nearest major city. Infatuated with the antique, they spend a great deal of their time banging away on old typewriters, or tinkering with old cameras. Stubbornly old-fashioned, their photography is often limited to the use of analogue technology, although lately they’ve begrudgingly conceded that digital cameras have their place, and have picked one up from time to time. They hve crammed a tiny photography darkroom into their basement, and have been experimenting with different processes and techniques regarding that aged craft. Dandy has also been spending a lot of time seeking out hidden corners of town, and can recommend a great cemetery swamp to picnic at.

Dandy is a life-long unschooler, having never attended public school, or university. They have spent much of their adult life living in shared/communal living situations, but have lately come to appreciate the value of solitude, while thinking about how to deal with isolation, and how to stay connected in the digital age.

They have devoted much time in the past to volunteering in collective organizations, such as Food Not Bombs, taught photography at a free drop in program run out of an art gallery, and been a librarian at an anarchist lending library. They’ve traveled extensively, by means of cheap and free methods, and love sleeping outside in the bush.

Together with their partner, they are learning how to fix and repair the things you’re told you need to pay a professional to do for you, be it renovating a house, or repairing a truck. They create crafty and artistic goods from recycled materials, and sell them both in person at craft sales, and through the internet. They really love to barter.

At camp, they can often be seen meandering about, day and night, seemingly led from place to place by their camera, which they are rarely seen without. They thrive on conversation about the passions that inspire people, and are far more approachable than their somewhat intimidating appearance might suggest. Honest. A life long introvert and shy person, it’s hard to believe, at first impression, how much they enjoy speaking with just about anyone, and are interested in most any subject that lights the fire in your eyes.

NBTSC history: camper from ’99 to ’04, Night Owl at some session or another ever since. (Also Advisor in 2015.)



Logistics Coordinator

Matt Sanderson! See his bio on our admin page.


Administrative Assistant and Mama Bear


Sophie Biddle, 20.
Portland, Oregon

Sophie has dipped her toes into almost every type of schooling. As a 14-year-old honor roll student turned enthusiastic high school drop out, Sophie discovered the joys of unschooling, community college, and democratic schools. Now a senior in the University Honors College at Portland State University (PSU) she is taking full advantage of independent study options. She has spent extensive time researching and writing about the sociology of childhood, participatory research methods with youth, and alternative pedagogies. Additionally, Sophie serves on the Chiron Studies board as the Chair of Curriculum where she promotes, creates, and facilities democratic, student-lead courses on PSU’s campus. Sophie’s life currently spins around her senior thesis, which explores how kids (ages 5 – 12) use, see, and relate to urban public space. Her goal is to publish a case study that advocates for child-friendly urban planning policies.

Sophie has worn many hats in her life, and in addition to being a complete super-nerd, she is also a swimmer, ballet dancer, nanny, sign language enthusiast, stage manager, Taylor Swift fan, and loving cat owner. She can likely be found romping through the streets of northeast Portland with her motley crew of small children, a cup of coffee in one hand and her camera in the other. Sophie is thrilled to bring her love of organizing and caring for others to NBTSC this year as the Administrative Assistant and Mamma Bear.

NBTSC History: Camper 2011-2014, Jr. Staff Logistics Coordinator 2015


Junior Staff

Xander MacSwan

Xander first came to NBTSC as a camper in 2010, and instantly fell in love. The sense of community and openness and unconditional lovingness was jaw-droppingly wonderful. Xander went to camp four more times after that, and each session was as magical as the first. Each one full of delightful memories of music, laughter, and friendship.

Between camp sessions, Xander helped found a free school in Arizona where they taught music to children. Attended a student led school in Maryland until deciding it wasn’t unschooley enough. And finally co-started an unschool umbrella group through a unitarian church, where they facilitated community building events and activities for teens.

Since their last session, Xander has been on a year of crazy adventures. They rode a bicycle from Seattle to San Francisco, meditated in sacred caves, lived in the jungles of Thailand, planted an oasis in the Mojave, and countless other tales.

Now Xander is cozied up in a community in Portland OR, where they live as an activist, helping to feed the homeless, practicing permaculture, going into prisons to help teach and learn NVC, and best of all, Junior Staffing at NBTSC!


Back to administrative staff page

Oregon Session 2 staff

Vermont staff

Joshua Tree staff (coming soon – 2015 bios are still up)