Nick Blanco

Nick Blanco

Year of Graduation: 2010

Major(s): Economics

Current Position: Elementary Teacher, Kodiak Island Borough School District and Founder/Operator of Driftwood Wilderness Lodge, Larsen Bay, Alaska


Please provide a brief description of your current position and what your work entails.  My work as a teacher entails preparing lessons for students in all the disciplines. Currently I teach 1st through 6th grade, and there is quite a range of topics to be covered in the classroom. Part of my job is getting to know the kids and the way they learn, then trying to give them the best instruction I can based on how they learn. Sometimes, after all the reading, writing, math, and science books have been shut, I also find the time to teach them to dream. In addition, I also coach the village basketball and volleyball teams.

As a builder and lodge owner, I am constantly trying to improve the lodge, its buildings, equipment, and level of service. I think of how to use my resources most effectively to bring clients into the lodge. I think about and choose the most efficient ways of getting building materials to my lodge. I think of how I can improve the experience of the average guest, and I am always maintaining my equipment engines. I have to make sure I have the correct state and federal licenses to operate as a guide and business owner.

What path did you take to your teaching position? My love of coaching, school, and the summers off to pursue the outdoors led to my choosing teaching as a career to pursue.

What are the most challenging parts of teaching? The most challenging part of teaching is finding enough time in the day. There is never enough time to teach as well or as thorough as you would like. All you can do is try to use every second you possibly can the best you can.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for a teaching career? CSB/SJU built within me an appreciation for community. I love communities and growth and I believe teachers contribute to the strengthening and growth of community and individuals.

What advice would you give to students who are thinking about a teaching career? This career is not for the faint of heart. It can be a battle, but it is a battle worth fighting. Hours are long, pay small, rewards big.

How did you make you dream of an outdoor lodge a reality? I worked and worked and saved and saved and kept my eye out for land that was feasible to build a lodge.  I gathered driftwood and then used a sawmill and milled the lumber to build the lodge myself. This saved quite a bit of money. I also made sure to obtain an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) license from the Coast Guide, stating I can have six paying guests on my vessel. I took risks, stayed disciplined, and made baby steps everyday towards the final goal.

What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of running a lodge? It is a lot of work and there are many things to keep track and manage. Living off the grid is great, but has a unique set of responsibilities. As far as rewarding goes, it is great seeing people enjoy the beautiful experiences this place has to offer.

What advice would you give a student thinking about starting an outdoors business? You get out what you put in! Focus on providing a world class experience and stay out of debt as much as possible. Write up a business plan.

What skills are most important to your teaching career and running an outdoor business? Compassion, patience, curiosity, fortitude, resilience, fearlessness are character traits and traits that make us what we are. A good work ethic, a sense of adventure, and honesty will take you to great places.

(April 2017)