Staff

  Jessica Denison, Executive Director

Originally from Upstate New York, Jessica has called Durango home for over thirteen years. Before joining Vallecitos, she was an integral part of a local, veteran-owned small business, Chinook Medical Gear, as its chief operating officer. The company proudly provides life-saving medical supplies to our country’s military, law enforcement and first responders.

Jessica has been a yoga practitioner since 1997 and became a registered yoga Instructor in 2010. Her passion for the yoga tradition eventually led her to the Durango Dharma Center where she has been a member and served on the board of directors for five years, including serving as board president. A lifelong learner, her practice has taken her to places like India, Belize, Costa Rica, Telluride and others. Vallecitos offers a bridge for her to further connect her work and her practice, creating a wonderful experience for herself and others centered around heart and nature.

 Erin Treat, Guiding Teacher

Erin’s love for wild nature, her passionate commitment to serving collective liberation, and decades working as a somatic bodyworker are all palpable in her Dharma. Erin is Guiding Teacher at both Vallecitos and and Durango Dharma Center, is on the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and core faculty of the sixth Community Dharma Leaders (CDL) Program, and is participating in Thanissara and Kitissaro’s Dhammapala Training to bring forth an embodied bodhisattva ideal within the lineage of Theravada Buddhism.

Erin was born and raised in the prairie of Fargo, North Dakota to a family of Irish, British, French, German, and Scandanavian heritage. After attending college in New York, she moved to Santa Fe to attend massage school. She felt an unexpected sense of homecoming – an immediate connection to the cultures of the southwest as well as the magic of the red rocks, high desert, and alpine landscape of the Four Corners area. She’s lived in Durango for 23 years.

Erin is committed to fostering communities of belonging. In both her teaching and Dharma leadership, she works to decenter whiteness and heteronormative culture. In her hometown of Durango, she teaches classes that help practitioners understand and deconstruct whiteness in their own minds and acts as a resource for other dharma teachers engaging these issues. In 2018, she was part of a team that developed the groundbreaking “Race and Dharma” course for the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. Erin is also committed to practicing and sharing the depth of the dharma, including teachings on emptiness and not-self, and loves mentoring students over time as their practices deepen and mature.

Erin is happiest dancing, hiking, cooking, and being in the mountains and rivers she calls home.

  Melissa Hay, Registration Manager

Originally from Massachusetts, Melissa has lived in the western part of the U.S. for the past 17 years. She loves the open vistas, mountains, sunshine, and rivers of the west. Before relocating to Durango, CO in 2018, Melissa attended the Anake Outdoor School at the Wilderness Awareness School in Washington state. For 9 months she immersed herself in nature-connected learning such as bird language, wildlife tracking, ancestral and wilderness survival skills. Melissa has been a registered nurse since 2005. She currently works in her local community as a Home Hospice nurse and deeply enjoys connecting with patients and their families. During two retreats at Vallecitos Mountain Retreat Center in the summer of 2018 she fell in love with the land and the way it opened and supported her meditation practice.
Melissa has practiced meditation for the past 15 years in various traditions. She started her journey in diversity, equity and inclusion work several years ago including attending a “Power and Privilege” workshop as well as community council discussions exploring white privilege, unconscious bias, and the role of white people in racial justice. In her personal time Melissa also seeks out books and various media resources to continue her own work in “waking up white” and exploring systems of oppression in our culture.

Retreat Managers

Katya Lesher

 

Facilities Managers

Gary Sharlow

Mark Bluestein

Daniel Caimi

Cooks

Katie Gall, Head Cook

Amy Gates, Head Cook

Kat Henry, Assistant Cook