Cottonwood Institute staff members taking a selfie with one of our tents



Full-Time Staff


FORD CHURCH, (he/Him) M.A., Founder and Executive Director

FordChurchFord is ultimately responsible for the success of the Cottonwood Institute. Ford has 24 years of professional experience working for a variety of nonprofit environmental education organizations, for-profit outdoor companies, and public schools in Colorado. Ford received a M.A. in Adventure Education Program Management from Prescott College in 2003 where he designed the Community Adventure Program as a culminating project of his thesis. He received a B.S.B.A. in Marketing from the University of Denver in 1998.

TEAGAN PAPKE, (She/Her) director of strategic partnerships

Teagan brings a unique blend of experience in education and international program management to her role as Director of Strategic Partnerships. With a degree in Bilingual Education and an extensive teaching background, she understands the transformative power of experiential learning. As a Colorado native and avid long-distance trail runner, backpacker, cyclist, and snowboarder, she is shaped and nourished by time moving through outdoor spaces. This combination of skill sets and passions fuels her enthusiasm to build intentional community bonds that bring Cottonwood’s programs to students and catalyze meaningful experiences for lasting impact.

CHELSEA TOSSING, (She/Her) Associate Director & Senior Instructor

Chelsea blends her love for immersive learning, leadership development and the outdoors to create engaging curriculum for student programs as our Curriculum Manager. She has spent 8 years in public education as a teacher and program manager, and believes deeply in the transformational power of student-centered and relationship-driven learning. Whether planning for a class or managing an event, she is passionate about creating experiences that inspire wonder and build connection.

ERIN ANGEL, (She/Her) M.S., Senior CAP Instructor

Erin (she/her) believes that life should be super fun and full of adventure and growth.  Her own childhood was filled with long days playing with friends in the woods and fields around her house and punctuated with zany summer camp adventures.  After college at Indiana University, a job as an environmental educator sealed her fate!  Since then she has been guiding and teaching in the U.S. and abroad.  She got her masters’ degree in Recreation Administration at Chico State and did her masters’ project in Nepal developing a Wilderness First Aid and CPR course for Nepali guides.  After working for American Red Cross for a few years and having adventures with her own family, Erin is thrilled to be teaching CAP classes for CI where she strives to push her students to squeeze the most out of each day they are given.

CARLY WINNER, (She/her) CAP Instructor & Events Manager

Carly is one of our CAP Instructors and works on events, social media, donor relations, and other duties. Carly comes to Cottonwood Institute as a certified Environmental Educator with experience in public schools, outdoor classrooms, and backcountry learning. In her teaching, she encourages students to be curious through using hands-on and place-based learning. Outside of Cottonwood, you can find Carly probably still outside, or cooking an elaborate meal in her kitchen.

SADIE NORTON, (She/Her) B.A., CAP Instructor, Risk Manager, & Events Coordinator

Sadie’s formative experience in the outdoors took place in the backwoods of Ohio, where her exploration of the forests and swamps of her home led her to discover her love for wild spaces, as well as her passion to protect them. Since then, she has worked for organizations such as the YMCA, Kent State University’s Outdoor Adventure Center, Outward Bound and NOLS, dialing in her skills as a guide and outdoor educator. In addition to education, Sadie has also chased her passions in emergency management and remote medicine as a W-EMT and as a Wilderness Medicine Instructor at Backcountry Pulse. Sadie brings her experience to Cottonwood as a CAP Instructor at New Vista High School, Risk Manager, and Event Coordinator.


Maeve’s passion for outdoor education is rooted in her belief in the power of challenge to create growth, connection, and an ethic of care. This philosophy has led her to guide canoe and backpacking expeditions in the Arctic, teach and plan environmental education programs for students across Colorado, and now to manage gear, travel, food, and more at Cottonwood Institute. When she’s not at work, you might find Maeve running absurd distances, knitting sweaters, and exploring rivers, lakes, and mountains of the Rockies and beyond.

Field Instructors




Cottonwood Institute Board of Directors 2021



Governing Board Members

Past Board Members — Friends of Cottonwood Institute

Advisory Board