2021 Awards Recipients

Inspiring! Amazing! Innovating! Check out this year’s 2021 NAI Sierra Pacific Region Award Winners!

Your Sierra Pacific Region is here to help you honor outstanding achievements in interpretation. Awards will showcase achievements of Sierra Pacific members and others working to advance the profession of interpretation. 

Need more information? Contact Regional Awards Co-Chair Karen J. Barrett and Co-Chair Renee Fitzsimons at awards.nai@gmail.com.

Kyle Achziger – Outstanding New Interpreter

Describing Kyle, NAI National Board Member Erin Gates says, “Knowing that Kyle is performing at the level that he is, with only a few years of experience in his interpretive career, makes me believe that he is so much more than just a shining star, he is a future leader of this profession.” 

Kyle shows an outstanding ability to develop and conduct innovative field and digital programming, to lead and train co-workers, and to collaborate with park staff and community members. As a Park Interpretive Specialist for the California State Parks North Coast Redwood District, Kyle uses video conferencing to engage audiences with the challenging story of colonization on the California’s North Coast and its impact on Indigenous People. As District social media lead, he creates engaging near-daily Facebook and Instagram posts. In the face of COVID-19, he’s led dozens of Facebook Live events providing virtual interpretive opportunities to thousands. He took the lead on training staff on how to present Facebook Live events and then gave them generous IT support. Under Kyle’s influence the District’s Facebook audience has increased from 3,000 to 10,000 followers.

Kyle coordinated and promoted the first annual Fort Humboldt History Day recruiting volunteers, presenters, musicians, students; hundreds attended. He was the Lead Producer when the annual Candlelight Walk, a collaboration between Redwood National and State Parks and the Redwood Parks Conservancy had to go virtual. He coached presenters and edited video. On the day of the successful event, he was at the helm on Zoom.

Kyle is an active Region member who’s volunteered since 2017. This year he heads the Spring Workshop’s IT and tech support playing an indispensable role in the ability to execute the ambitious plan of delivering a virtual workshop.

Sara Arnett – Master Front-Line Interpreter

For the last 14 years Sara Arnett has been the lead Interpreter for the Big Sur Sector of the California State Parks, Monterey District. There she delivers an engaging variety of field programs and is a master of many associated roles such as interpretive trainer, volunteer coordinator, non‐profit liaison, historic collections manager and lead staff for the Student Conservation Association participants.

Sara served as the field representative on the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campfire Center Project’s (state park) Director’s Award-winning team. She deftly navigated the design challenges of preserving historic fabric and incorporating Accessibility elements so that now this beautiful site meets the needs of visitors and interpretive staff. Sara’s innovative thinking took flight as the field lead for the renovated Ewoldsen Memorial Nature. She made her vision of an interactive flying condor display become a reality by using technology developed for the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Ventana Wildlife Society data. The result is a unique visitor-driven experience of flight dynamics and parkland vistas. 

When pandemic restrictions shut down Point Sur State Historic Park’s new volunteer training, Sara quickly revived it by adapting the six-month training to Zoom. Her knowledge, experience, and positive attitude are credited with being invaluable to its success.  An active NAI member Sara’s volunteered on workshop planning teams and from 2009-16 served as our Region’s Scholarship Chair.

An active NAI member Sara’s volunteered on workshop planning teams and from 2009-16 served as our Region’s Scholarship Chair.

Linda Yemoto – Outstanding Senior/Retired Interpreter

Linda Yemoto was a seasonal interpretive naturalist with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service for several seasons; she later she served for 33 years as full-time, career naturalist with the East Bay Regional Park District. Since retiring in 2010, Linda has continued to present interpretive programs for day camps and cultural programs. She joined the Storytelling Corps of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, CA where (pre-COVID-19) she led tours for school groups and families using stories to interpret the museum’s art collection. Due to the pandemic, the museum tellers have pivoted to providing online storytelling tours to over 250 school groups. Linda has been involved in creating those tours and training the storytellers. She co-chairs their Resource Committee and participates in the Diversity, Equality, Accessibility, and Inclusion Committee.

Linda is part of a group of Asian American storytellers producing a YouTube channel to provide stories and activities that promote awareness and appreciation of Asian American culture. She chaired and served on the Board of the National Storytelling Network for six years and chaired their national conference in 2018. She currently co-chairs their EarthUp conference to be held in April addressing the climate crisis through storytelling and science.  From 1982 to 2016, Linda produced the Bay Area Storytelling Festival.

Linda has a long history of supporting NAI. She was Program Co-chair for several NAI conferences, Auction Co-chair, and presented sessions for dozens of workshops. She has been recognized nationally with NAI’s Meritorious Service and Master Frontline Interpreter Awards.

Jim Covel – Master Interpretive Manager

Since 1987, Jim has been the Director of Training and Interpretation for one of our country’s top aquariums, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He’s responsible for training over 700 staff and volunteers who annually, share the wonders of Monterey Bay with more than two million guests. During his career, thousands of volunteer guides have been trained by Jim and his team to bring the cultural and natural history of Monterey Bay to over 50 million visitors.  The aquarium’s volunteer guide program has been recognized as “simply the best” in the country.

Jim also is a popular and well-received trainer for California State Parks at its Mott Training Center and state parks and county parks through-out the region. Jim serves on Monterey County Hospitality Association Education Committee providing staff trainings for it and many of other organizations. He’s taught recreation, hospitality and ecotourism courses at the University of California, Davis, Sacramento State University and since 2015, at California State University, Monterey Bay.

When the Pacific Grove’s natural history museum was being closed, the Aquarium sent Jim to help. Leading a small team, they created a sustainable financial and administrative structure. When his assignment ended, Jim continued as a Board Member, President and currently is its Treasurer.

Jim is a founding member of NAI and a NAI Fellow. He’s chaired many NAI fund-raising efforts, been Vice President of Programs and served two terms as President. He served as national Board’s first Emeritus Director. He’s also an NAI Certified Interpretive Guide, Certified Interpretive Trainer, and an Interpretive Host trainer. Jim actively participates in our Region, frequently conducting workshop sessions and is a sought-after trusted, career advisor.

Lisa Borok – Meritorious Service Award

Lisa has demonstrated extensive involvement in the leadership structure of our Region and the success of our Workshops. Since 2015, she has shown her commitment to keep our Region strong. She’s served on the regional election committee twice in the past five years and serving our national organization, she was a program reviewer for 2020, a Legacy magazine awards reviewer for 2019, and an ongoing reviewer (since 2018) for NAI’s Certified Interpretive Guides and Certified Interpretive Hosts certifications. She has actively participated and presented at our Workshops, served on the Workshop Committee and has even been a Workshop Co-chair – this year included!

In every position Lisa holds, she goes above and beyond what is expected and is someone that you can count on to get the job done. She doesn’t hesitate to initiate the needed contacts, will always follow through with the plan and finish the project. She volunteers for NAI projects without complaint and without any special consideration for herself.

Lisa has proven that she is highly committed to make sure that the Sierra Pacific Region thrives today and into the future.

Mary Loan – Meritorious Service Award

Once Mary discovered NAI, she never stopped making a positive difference. For 15 years she was our Region’s newsletter editor, she’s the founding director of NAI’s largest Section – the Interpretive Naturalist Section and serves as its Director, and she is a NAI National Board member! What makes her service even more impressive, is that for the last 17 years Mary’s job has not included being an interpreter!

Mary started her career as a volunteer and soon became a seasonal interpreter who was so good at what she did her supervisor rewarded her with a trip to the NAI national conference. By the next year she’d successfully helped to create a new NAI section, the Interpretive Naturalist Section, and become its first Director. Mary is known for reaching out to its members to help them with their interpretive skills development. Of the 958 members of our region, a whopping 800 are also I.N. members!

As a National Board Member, Mary has worked on teams to bring youth into interpretation, improve member services and scholarship offerings, and strengthen NAI Communities. For over 20 years, Mary’s dedication has greatly contributed to our region’s growth, vitality, and sustainability.

Congratulations to our 2021 Award Recipients!

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