Meet the Instructors

Joel Sager

Joel Sager lived a full life before he joined Northeast PA Kayak School. His life resume includes being a full-time actor, voice and dance teacher, ski and snowboard instructor, and on top of it all he is a fine electrician.

In the dictionary, under Jovial and Fun Loving, you might just find a picture of Joel. His lifetime of teaching various skills gives him a unique approach to getting you to believe that you can accomplish a skill new to you. This is a big reason why he was invited to join the KayakSchool staff. When Joel is your instructor, there aren’t many minutes between periods of laughter. We’re happy to have Joel on board…

Northeast PA Kayak School Students and Instructors

When you meet your instructors, like, Dara, Doug, Alex, Tom, and Ed – you’ll immediately catch their passion and exuberance about whitewater kayaking. We are all avid kayakers, and we hope you catch our fun affliction!s.

Tim Schwartz

With Northeast PA Kayak School from its beginnings, Tim Schwartz is highly experienced and truly one of the funniest smart guys you’ll ever meet. Recognized world-wide by his “fireman” kayaking helmet, he has been responsible for changing the lives of thousands of kayak students. Tim uses his keen sense of humor while creating a super-positive learning environment. Laughing while you learn how to kayak makes things go a lot easier! We’re honored to have Tim as one of our Lead Instructors.n!s.

Jerry McAward

Jerry McAward – was on a perfectly acceptable career path working in New York City when a whitewater kayaking class completely derailed his plans in 1983. Obsessed with the practice of paddling, he worked through all the usual challenges to eventually become a kayak guide on the Lehigh River. He started Northeast PA Kayak School in 1999, and continues to find great joy in seeing how kayaking enriches the lives of people. As an ACA-certified Instructor Trainer Educator in whitewater kayaking, he leads instructor certification classes as well as classes for regular folks. And he laughs hardest at Tim Schwartz’s jokes which he has heard for 14 years…

Doug Bowman

Kayaking is nothing but a really fun physics experiment for Doug, a full-time physics teacher and revered instructor here at the Kayak School. His honest, straightforward way of tuning into a student’s style is amazing to watch. Calm, cool, and collected at all times, Doug is among our most-requested instructors. Once you’ll meet him, you’ll understand why… his classes are positive, fun, and benefit from his intuitive teaching style. He likes to be vertical in his kayak about a hundred times a day – bow up or bow down – and he’ll show you how any chance he gets. You’ll catch the kayaking bug from Doug… for sure. He is the most genuine guy you’ll ever meet, and you’ll be instant friends. Bet on it!

Denise Hackman

Denise has been kayaking for a long time, and got serious in whitewater kayaking in 2007. She worked hard to get to where she is as an instructor. Her own experience gives her a keen sense of compassion and empathy for what new students experience in their first kayaking class. Don’t let her petit size fool you – she likes to say “big things come in small packages – like dynamite!” We’re pleased to have Denise on our instructional staff and to call her our friend – you’ll feel the same way

Tom Fliss

If you’ve taken a class with Tom, you already know. If you have yet to meet Tom, he is like a cross between a Lab puppy and the Energizer Bunny. Enthusiasm for kayaking and for teaching oozes from him, and it is indeed infectious. Tom’s love of fitness, biomechanics, and outdoor sport has drawn him to a full-time career in physical therapy. If you’re in one of his classes, you get the whole enchilada, and you’ll remember him forever. AND… he’s the Cover Model on our Northeast PA Kayak School brochure.

Mike Bandala

Paul Albin

Sean McGinnis

Sara Baker

Bill Sweeney

Tom Bilotta, da Instructor and Natalie Yocum, da Student

Doug and Paul Albin at ASCI

Sonya Fellows

If you’re the type that needs a little more encouragement, Sonya’s your gal. Besides being quite skilled as a kayaker, her greatest strength is possibly her ability to see inside you. Her empathic style and winning smile will have you believing in yourself very quickly. She’s another person who worked hard at getting good at kayaking. She never played any sports as a girl or young woman, so the learning process was a long road for her. You’ll find her long road to be to your advantage if you’re lucky enough to be in a class with her – she’ll POUR passion and positive energy your way. And Sonya laughs. A LOT! You will, too!

Mike Roehner

Tom Fliss and Sonya Fellows at ASCI