April Landale arrived in Jackson to work at Teton Science Schools in 1993. A year later, she was ushering the first 13 students into the new graduate program she helped create. Back then students came to the program with internship, outdoor leadership, and even teaching experience, and they were searching for an academic for their careers.
Decades later, Landale is still with the school and she has helped guide the program’s evolution to meet changing demographics. Now, most graduate students come into the program with a plethora of academic knowledge, seeking the experiential piece of their training.
Landale’s role has evolved a lot over the years. She’s now vice president of educator development.
“The scale has changed, but the essential culture of innovation, commitment, and excellence is still really core to what I do,” she says. And what she does is train educators in immersion-focused place-based education.
Landale grew up in Freedom, New Hampshire. She spent her summers out West hiking, and earned an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of New Hampshire followed by a master’s degree in natural resource management from Antioch University in Keene, New Hampshire.
After spending time working for an ecology study abroad program in Australia, she returned to the United States to work at Teton Science Schools for what she thought would be a transition year. That transition year turned into more than 20 years. Ever since she helped start the graduate program, more than 400 educators have completed the program.
Through her career she’s worked in various departments and programs which has given her a holistic understanding of the school and its culture. The mobility and diversity of work has kept her there, along with personal outlets that keep her recharged for the job.
Landale turns to the outdoors for rejuvenation as well as fiber arts, such as spinning and dying fiber with natural dyes, which allows her to balance her extrovert-focused job with moments of quiet.
Working with adults also means receiving feedback and new perspectives each year that help guide how the program is run.
“Each year we are trying something different,” Landale says.
The most powerful part of the program—its mentorship component—continues to evolve, but remains at the graduate program’s heart.
“That’s what I would say makes the program so powerful,” Landale says. “The faculty-staff mentorship of graduate students is extraordinary.”
Landale’s favorite way to enjoy the outdoors is simply to immerse herself in nature to observe, reflect, and find rejuvenation. And that type of place-based immersion experience also benefits students in the program.
“We offer an innovative teaching program that uses place,” Landale says. “And place for us is the outdoors.