Building Great Instructors – OET Program

Each season, at the beginning of December the Outdoor Emergency Transportation (OET) Program gathers OET staff members from across the Eastern Division for a weekend focused on leadership and professional development. This year’s conference was aptly named, Building Great Instructors. So, what makes an instructor great? The International Olympic Committee summarized it well.

What makes an instructor great?
1. Understands the sport and leads by example.
2. Sponge for knowledge.
3. Shares the knowledge with others.
4. Highly energized and a motivator.
5. Knows the student, values, and respects the relationship.
6. Is an effective communicator and teacher.
7. Is a good listener.
8. Is disciplined, strong in character and integrity.
9. Leads by example very high attitude for hard work.
10. Displays commitment and clear passion for the sport.

The OET program’s mission is to create an environment of learning that elevates the skills, ability, and techniques needed to safely and efficiently transport guests to a higher level of care. Delivering on this mission begins with building great instructors, and leaders, within the OET program.

The Learning Connection
During this year’s conference, OET leaders were introduced to the Learning Connection model developed by the Professional Ski Instructor Association (PSIA). The Learning Connection emphasizes that great lessons rely on the instructor’s ability to offer a blend of people skills, teaching skills, and technical skills. This approach creates informative, fun, and personalized experiences that keep students engaged in the learning process. To learn more about the Learning Connection, check out this write-up by PSIA.

OET Teaching Philosophy uses FIVE Essential components:
●  Lesson Progressions that chain together “snippets” to facilitate incremental success as a pathway for mastering skills.
●  Snippet-sized lessons with manageable objectives are designed to simplify guided practice, leading to quicker student success.
●  Ongoing Monitoring and Evaluation to re-teach skills, customizing faster student success, known as ADAPT.
●  Six-Pack Lesson Planning with an emphasis on creatively re-teaching and re-designing student activities, more ADAPT.
●  Individualized Positive Immediate Student Feedback is used throughout all learning activities, practiced as PISE.
●  Teach OET Instructors how to structure on-snow lesson activities.

To learn more about PISE and ADAPT, check out this Toboggan Instructor Refresher summary.

Bringing It Home – Building Great Instructors
An essential function of an OET Staff member is to build great instructors in their home region. The learning activities and professional development that Staff members access at the OET Conference help provide them with the tools to bring that knowledge home to their regions, where the Regional OET Advisors can leverage their conference experience into training their Regional Senior Training staff as well as influence training improvements for local mountain Toboggan Instructors. To learn more about the OET Program, visit

A Certified Journey – Following In My Father’s Footsteps

Jessie Miller

Jessie Miller

Growing up in a patrol family, first on, last off is what we did. I first heard the phrase “train to be above the bar” as a child, listening to my dad’s conversations about ski and toboggan training. Later I heard it as a patroller preparing for my own Senior and Trainer Evaluator exams. As I considered the goal of becoming Certified, I knew the bar would be higher; I would need to train harder than ever to be above it. I also knew this would also be an emotional journey for me. Although my dad, Dave Ronald, Certified #171, has been gone for more than 20 years, his coaching and mentorship left a lasting impact on many patrollers; quite the legacy to follow.

I set out on a mission. There were spreadsheets, lists, and binders. My questions and curiosity were endless. Before the snow flew, I spent nine days working on my personal development as a patroller, and throughout the winter season, I spent 14 more. As I reflect on the season, these are the approaches that helped me most—and the lessons I will carry forth into all areas of my life.

Elk Mountain Certified 2023 (Left to right) Sarah Keating – 564, Mike Ksenich – 854, Matt Nebzydoski – 706, Bob Bluff – 497, Jessie Miller – 860, Ken Kelly – 587, Bill Jordan – 369, Lisa Kelly

    1. Find a supportive and involved mentor— better yet, several.
    2. Be vulnerable enough to admit what you do not know and ask for help.
    3. Go forth with joyful entitlement, asking for what you need with the assumption that the universe is on your side. Then, if you don’t get what you need the first time around, ask again and be specific.
    4. Build your network — contact program chairs. Spend time with members. Collect knowledge and build relationships.
    5. Blaze in, ready to light it up! But remember, each time you go down in flames training, you are learning, growing, and building resiliency.

My heart has immense gratitude for everyone who supported me on this journey. First up is my partner, Sam, and our daughters, Claire and Stella. Sam supported endless conversations about patrolling, sharpened the skegs on my sled (and all the skis), manned the girls’ races, and cheered me on.

Women of Certified 2023 (Left to right) Inese Jardine – 761, Sharon Friedel – 606, Sarah Keating – 564, Jessie Miller – 860, Linda Helms – 647, Jenn Laitala, – 765 Denise Kaus, – 833, Mary Bozack – 26

Thank you to my mom, Cheryl Ronald, and my grandmother, Loryce Detra, for leading by example and claiming space for women and mothers on patrol. To Sarah Keating, who took me under her wing from day one. I cannot imagine my life without her years of coaching, encouragement, and friendship. The certified members and the entire patrol family at Elk gave me the foundation to build. The Eastern New York Region and Gore Patrol for giving me opportunities to grow and to lead. Bill Zink for fielding each “question of the day,” pushing me to solve problems and find my way, and for breakfasts. To my dear friends and family for cheering me on, especially Lauren Olinksy, Amy Reinink, and Chrissy Ludka.

To all of the certified members and patrollers who spent time with me this season—the list is long. You are amazing, generous mentors who give back to this organization in so many ways. Thank you.