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


Ford 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) Program director


Teagan has a background in education and event management and brings both passions to her role as Program Director. After teaching in public education for 5 years, she transitioned into planning events while pursuing her love of travel and activity in the outdoors. As an avid trail runner, backpacker, and biker, her experiences in nature have been transformative. At Cottonwood Institute, she brings her enthusiasm about outdoor learning to build strong community connections in order to create impactful, lasting, and meaningful experiences for students.






CHELSEA TOSSING, (She/Her) Education Director


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 Management, & 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. Sadie brings her experience as a healing-aware and student-centered experiential educator to Cottonwood as a CAP instructor, event coordinator, and risk manager.




Field Instructors




Cottonwood Institute Board of Directors 2021



Governing Board Members