From Corporate Buyer to Outward Bound Instructor
A Wisconsin native, Maddie Rock had never been to the West Coast. So when, two years out of college, she quit her job as a New York City based corporate buyer to attend a 50-day Northwest Instructor Development course, the excitement was palpable. “I’d heard that Outward Bound courses were great, and I wanted to find a pathway into full-time outdoor education work. An Outward Bound Instructor course was a good way to make the switch,” Maddie remembers. “I chose the Northwest course area based on its geography and course elements: mountaineering, sea kayaking, backpacking.”
And, since she was leaving her job to embark on the ultimate adventure, Maddie wanted to do one of the longest courses available.
“50 days is a good length of time to really get in there and learn,” Maddie explains. “I was most excited about being in a new environment exploring mountains, ocean, and the West. I wanted to formally hone technical and facilitation skills and get feedback on my skills as an educator.”
An Outdoor Education Curriculum Centered on Core Values
“On my course, everything came back to the four Outward Bound core values: diversity and inclusion, compassion, excellence, and integrity,” Maddie says. “I had lots of opportunities to evaluate my own actions and the actions of the group. I learned craftsmanship and excellence –how to go the extra mile and do things well.”
Maddie also got firsthand experience facing physical and mental challenges – a crucial part of the Outward Bound learning framework. “Everyone hit their own walls,” Maddie recounts. “But it was a good way to make people think, gain confidence and get stronger. For me, the sea kayak wet exit was a particularly big challenge. When you’re at a point where you’re truly challenging yourself – that’s when you’re changing.”
Preparing for the Rigors of Teaching
With ample feedback and plenty of opportunities to teach and facilitate groups, Maddie felt she was preparing herself for the rigors of teaching – whether in the field or in the classroom.
“I got firsthand knowledge in long-term backcountry living with a small group. I also gained technical skills and a Wilderness First Responder certification. I learned communication skills that improved my group management abilities – an asset that will translate to just about anything.”
Maddie especially enjoyed the practicum section of the course, when her crew had the chance to run a mini Outward Bound experience for local community youth. “It was a special moment when the crew was working really well together. The practicum was really successful for our students.”
Instructor Development Course Outcomes
When I ask Maddie how she’s changed as a result of the Northwest Instructor Development course, she says, quite simply, that she sees herself in a different way.
“I’m more self aware. I set goals better and have more confidence. I can see what I need to work on now and I have confidence to do a lot of things I had never done before.”
The 50-day Instructor course also showed Maddie how to live simply – a habit she now tries to integrate into her everyday life.
Asked to choose her favorite parts of the 50-day course, Maddie groans – as if there are too many to choose from. “First of all,” Maddie points out, “it was really cool to hear all of the different reasons that students were enrolled in the Northwest Instructor Course. I was surrounded by people from all walks of life, all with different goals. It was pretty special.”
Besides the people, Maddie says the geographical area where her crew mountaineered, kayaked and backpacked was spectacular. “The North Cascades are beautiful,” Maddie remembers. “We spent a night in a big cave on the side of a cliff. We had to climb up there to set up camp. It is quite the image.” But if she had to choose just one day, Maddie says, she’d choose one early morning in the San Juan Islands, when the crew woke before dawn to paddle around Cattle Pass. “It was really beautiful,” Maddie recounts.
Into the Future
Today, Maddie enjoys the fruits of her efforts on the Northwest Instructor Development course as an assistant instructor for Voyageur Outward Bound School in northern Minnesota. We wish Maddie the very best as she moves into a career in education – whether that career finds her indoors or out.
Ready to get started? To learn more about the Northwest Instructor Development course, call 866.467.7651 to speak with an admissions advisor, or visit the website here. To explore all of the Instructor Development courses Outward Bound offers, in locales throughout the country, and during seasons that work with your schedule go here.
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