2014 AMS Workshop Instructors


balenger-nicoleNicole Balenger, Beekeeping Basics
Nicole Balenger thought she was passing time between gardening seasons by learning about honey bees. That field day turned out to be her entry to the wonder of beekeeping. She helped start the Highland County beekeepers spring short course to encourage new beekeepers and for keepers to share best local practices.  Beekeeping has been Nicole’s way to tune in to the weather, plants, bloom and a quick way to determine whether the babies are wearing shoes in the summer clover.

Billingsley.KirkKirk Billingsley, Grafting
Kirk Billingsley grew up outside Monterey Virginia, surrounded by old heirloom apple trees, and took for granted all apples were similar to those and that all apple cider is good.  When life took him to college he found that all apple cider is not what he grew up with.  The search for the reason why, introduced him to Dr. Elwood Fisher a well known heirloom apple collector, JMU biology professor, and a grafting instructor.  Since that grafting class, Kirk has grafted hundreds of apple trees and has made wonderful cider from his grafted trees, just like the cider he took for granted as a child.  Kirk is a passionate about anything apple, most particularly, sweet and hard cider.

Kathleen MaierKathleen Maier, Herbalism
Kathleen Maier, RH(AHG). PA has been a practicing herbalist for over twenty years. She is currently director of Sacred Plant Traditions in Charlottesville, VA where she offers a Three Year Clinical/Community Herbalist training program. SPT’s free clinic was one of the first on the east coast and is still growing strong. She sits on the United Plant Savers Board and was the recipient of their first Medicinal Plant Conservation Award. Kathleen’s studies of plants began as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile and her training as a Physician’s Assistant allows her to weave the language of medicine we know today with traditional energetic systems. She is co-author of Bush Medicine of San Salvador Island, Bahamas.

Trevor photoTrevor Piersol, Permaculture
Trevor is a native of Richmond, VA and has a BA in history from the University of Virginia. He developed a passion for growing food while volunteering at the UVA Community Garden in college and has since pursued an interest in ecological landscape design, receiving a Permaculture Design Certificate and a Permaculture Teaching Certificate. Before attending the AMS fellowship in 2012, Trevor led youth nature walks in Charlottesville, worked as an outdoor adventure instructor in Wyoming, and spent a year teaching English in China. Trevor’s professional interests all revolve around the sustainable, community-based production of food and medicine. He is thrilled to be part of the AMS staff, where he manages the new VSDB Educational Farm in Staunton, VA and teaches permaculture in Phase I of the fellowship. In his free time, Trevor enjoys writing, running, studying herbal medicine, and, most all, exploring the beautiful natural ecosystems of his Appalachian home.

Betty MitchellBetty Mitchell, Non-Profit Organizations
Betty Mitchell has served as Executive Director of The Highland Center since it was established in 1998.  She is also a staff member of Allegheny Mountain School and serves as our fiscal Project Manager.  She has extensive background in non-profit management, having worked for Saint Paul’s College and the Mental Health Association of Virginia before moving to Highland, as well as experience in business planning, marketing and community development.  Betty’s community involvement includes current and past board positions with the Highland County Economic Development Authority, Shenandoah Valley Partnership, Highland County Sheep and Wool Producers Association, and the Alleghany Highlands Agricultural Center Steering Committee. She is a founding member and past president of the Virginia Business Incubation Association. Betty is also the founder of the Blue Grass Book Bank in Blue Grass, Virginia, where she and her husband Brian live and operate a small sheep farm. Betty has a BGA degree and Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies (Non-profit Management emphasis), both from Virginia Commonwealth University.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARobert “Bobby” Whitescarver, Birding and Soil & Water Conservation
Bobby retired from federal service in 2011 with 31 years as a field conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Virginia.  His work there led to the establishment of over 5,000 acres of riparian buffers and the planting of half a million hardwood trees.  He now has his own consulting business, Whitescarver Natural Resources Management LLC, and is under contract with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to expedite fieldwork and outreach to improve the quality of streams to restore and protect the Bay.  He teaches Natural Resources Management at James Madison University.  He enjoys farming with his wife in Swoope, Virginia where they have cattle, horses and many acres committed to wildlife habitat especially for quail.  He is a founding board member of the Valley Conservation Council – a private land trust, and is currently on their board.  He is also on the board of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation chose Bobby as their “Conservationist of the Year” in 2002.  He has a degree in Agronomy from Virginia Tech and a Masters degree from James Madison University. He can be reached at  http://www.gettingmoreontheground.com.

Scott DureskyScott Duresky, Astronomer
In the early and mid 1970’s, Scott traveled extensively throughout North America, often with a pack on his back, graduating with a B.S. degree in Sociology from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1975. After a career in bakery ingredient sales, which included a longtime relationship with the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia, Scott and his wife retired to Charlottesville.

In retirement, Scott has been involved with a number of volunteer programs for the Jefferson Area Board for the Aging, and has developed his life-long interest in Astronomy into involvement with the many outreach programs of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society. Scott also is an advanced mineralogist, with interests in other sciences such as Physics, Cosmology and Paleontology, and has recently developed an interest in the rise of Agriculture in early civilizations.

Ed PrestonEd Preston, Astronomer
I was born and raised in Atlanta Georgia.  I graduated from Georgia Tech (Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, ’64 and Master of Science in Industrial Management, ’65).  After three and a half years in the US Air Force, I began my engineering career at Allied Chemical in Hopewell, Virginia.  Successive employment was at Adolph Coors Brewery in Golden, Colorado, and at Celanese Chemical Corporation, south of Houston, Texas.  I met and married my wife, Barbara, in Hampton, Virginia.  While in Texas, I became interested in amateur astronomy.  I was active in the Houston Astronomical Society for about 20 years.  With Celanese, I was a mechanical project manager in a large project that moved my wife and me to Leipzig, Germany for 18 months.  That was hard work, but a lot of fun.

In 2008, I retired from Celanese Chemical and moved from Houston (too many hurricanes), to Albemarle County, Virginia, to be reasonably close to our two children and grandchild in Norfolk, Virginia, but not close to the light dome that runs from Richmond to North Carolina.  I have been active in the Charlottesville Astronomical Society since 2008.   I enjoy attending star parties and doing astronomy out-reach programs.  I particularly enjoy showing interested observers some of the brighter deep-sky wonders through my 20” telescope.




Find out about the events, workshops, farming and life as an AMS Fellow.

Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) is a project of The Highland Center, located in Monterey, Virginia. It’s mission is to serve all citizens of Highland County by being a catalyst for cultural and economic development, and to preserve a historic landmark as a symbol of unity and community pride. [Read More]

Story.Dawn1 Read about this season’s workshops and instructors.


Allegheny Mountain School PartnersPhase II of the AMS Fellowship is spent working for a non-profit for one year.

In 2014, AMS Senior Fellows will be working for these organizations in our region focused on local food, conservation and strengthening communities.

City Schoolyard Garden
Project Grows
New Community Project
Valley Conservation Council
Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind

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