Faculty & Staff

Andy Gill

IB Program Coordinator

HL IB Biology


Soccer Coach & Climbing Coach

BSc with honors in Zoology, Bristol University
MRes with Distinction in Biological Research Methods, University of Exeter

Andy was born and raised in the north of England where he developed a love of the natural world and the great outdoors. He studied at the universities of Bristol and Exeter in the southwest of England, climbing on the rocks and exploring the seaside.

He first came to the U.S. to work at a summer camp in Maine, heading the outdoor program, canoeing in the rivers, and hiking in the mountains and made his home in the U.S. in 2000. He came to teaching by filling a substitute position at Brunswick School in Greenwich, Connecticut, and knew instantly he’d found his career.  After a couple of years at the school – and of hectic big city living – Andy and his wife Jen decided it was time to see some of the world and set off for 15 months on the road. Their trip took in Mediterranean sailing, sunsets at the pyramids, mechanical failure in Ethiopia, rhino spotting in the Ngorongoro crater, and tramping in New Zealand among other things.  Andy had intended to move to Northern Arizona when the time was right and he found VVS the day after touching down on the mainland in 2003.

If there’s one thing he’s more passionate about than traveling and rock climbing it’s teaching science, and in his many years teaching science at Verde Valley School he has found great joy in sharing his passion for understanding the natural world, drawing out scientific curiosity, and helping students realize the thrill of discovery.

Andy is married to Jenifer, who has also worked at VVS for many years and in many capacities, and they live on the campus with their two children, Juniper and Finley.


Beth Suby


B.A. in English Secondary Education, University of Arizona
M. Ed. Reading Curriculum and Instruction, Grand Canyon University

Beth was raised in the borderlands of southern Arizona.  As a child, she fell in love with reading and writing. Her first language was American Sign Language and early in her career she worked as a sign language interpreter, mentor, and advocate for Deaf children and adults.  After pursuing her degrees in English and Reading and teaching English in various settings, she spent 13 years at Cochise College focused on helping students develop their academic reading skills in order to succeed at the college level.

Beth loves experiencing new landscapes and cultures and building community.  She also enjoys pursuing artistic endeavors, baking, hiking, and yoga. Beth joins us at VVS with her husband, Noah, and sons, Koel and Indus.

Bridget Broomfield

IB Higher Level and Standard Level Theatre

Intro to Theatre
Horseback Riding

B.A. in English, Oberlin College
M.A. in English, Middlebury College

Bridget joined the VVS faculty in 2010 as an English teacher, and took over the Theatre Department in 2011. She grew up in New England but after several years of living in NYC and teaching at St Dominic’s Academy after college, she followed the sun to St. Thomas, where she taught at the Antilles School and the VI International Academy as it became an IB school. After marrying Jeremy (Residential Life Director), the two spent a year traveling, volunteering in Kenya to implement reading and writing programs and train teachers, and creating curriculum to support fundraising for a program in Nepal which rescues children sold to circuses in India.
When the two saw the job posting at VVS, they knew they had found a perfect match. The Broomfields love being part of VVS, and especially participating in the development of its exceptional students, both in the classroom and through daily campus life. It is a special privilege to be able to work with so many of the community members in putting on theatre productions.

In addition to teaching Intro and IB Theatre and directing shows, Bridget coaches horseback riding and is a dorm parent. She lives in Sears South with her husband Jeremy, daughter Tesla, son Milo, and dog Sonmi-451.

Caleb Kulfan

IB Environmental Systems & Societies Teacher

B.A. in Natural History and Ecology, Prescott College

Caleb came of age amongst the forests, lakes, and creeks of northern Michigan. He spent his formative younger years at Interlochen Arts Academy, a high school similar to VVS but much less fun. 

After graduating, Caleb spent two years serving with AmeriCorps as part of the National Civilian Community Corps program. As both a corps member and team leader, he completed projects all along the eastern U.S. such as trail building, infrastructure improvement, wildfire fighting, disaster relief, and much more. From there, he attended Prescott College where he studied Natural History and Ecology as well as Adventure Education.

While at Prescott, he also started a Master in Education, which led him to VVS in the spring of 2015 as part of a teaching practicum. He spent some time working as a park ranger at Grand Canyon and a river guide in Colorado’s Rockies before returning to VVS full time in the fall of 2016. He taught freshmen Big History and Physical Science for two years, and this year will be taking over as the IB Environmental Systems and Societies teacher for the juniors and seniors. He is ecstatic to finally start combining his two passions for education and the natural world.


Caroline Diehl

Director of Equestrian Program & Global Goals

B.A. in Psychology, Dartmouth College

Caroline cherishes the opportunity to share her two passions – horses and humanitarian service – with our students. Caroline graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth and although she peaked as an athletic competitor in college when she won the ICYRA Women’s Nationals in sailing in 1992, she still finds incredible joy challenging herself riding, skiing, sailing, hiking and doing yoga. She is a certified yoga instructor and a Wilderness First Responder.

Caroline became the Director of the VVS Equestrian Program after managing a 700 acre private ranch in San Diego. Prior to that she managed guest ranches in Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and California. She was also the assistant breeding manager at Ansata Arabian Stud. Caroline comes from a relational and natural horsemanship background and believes that horses are powerful teachers of leadership, effective communication, and empathy.

Caroline’s extensive international humanitarian experience prepared her to become our Global Goals Director. She spent three years working on the front lines with refugees of 13 war-torn African countries. Prior to that she worked to empower youth through sports and taught English in the townships of South Africa during apartheid. It was during her time spent in Calcutta, India working with Mother Theresa and as a medical assistant for the “untouchables” that Caroline knew she was happiest meeting others at the edge of their need. She also lived in Granada, Spain and has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Central America.

Caroline lives on campus with her daughters, Skylar (VVS Class of ’20) and Riley, who are her greatest source of joy.

Chris Bolton


B.A. in Biology, The University of Chicago
M.Ed. in Education Leadership, University of Oregon

Chris has spent most of his life in Oregon, the past 20 years as a science teacher at Junction City High School, a public high school near Eugene, Oregon. He studied molecular biology at The University of Chicago and later earned his teaching degree at the University of Oregon. Between degrees, he also made a career in graphic design and marketing that specialized in fly fishing and other outdoor businesses.

Chris has taught biology, physics, chemistry, forensic science, history of science, and math in his teaching career. He also has coached men’s and women’s soccer at the high school, club, and collegiate levels. In addition to soccer, he has also coached track & field and chess. Chris also is an accomplished soccer referee.

Chris enjoys fly fishing, backpacking, golf, canyoneering, cooking, and gardening. He also loves hiking to waterfalls and scenic views and kayaking with his wife, Liz – a VVS College Counselor, coach and dorm parent. Chris and Liz are dorm parents and live in the girls’ dormitory complex with Phineas, their 16-year-old miniature schnauzer. They have three adult children – Hannah, Seth, and Zemedkun.

Dana Blavat

Office Manager/Registrar

Dana was born and raised in Shoreline WA, north of Seattle.  She moved to Los Angeles in 1978 and soon began a career in banking.  After completing her assignment as a Vice President at Home Savings of America in mergers and acquisitions, Dana followed her sister to Sedona in 1996.  Working in tourism in Uptown Sedona for 5 years, Dana joined VVS in early 2002.

Dana started working at VVS as a bookkeeper, and has also worked in the Admission, Development, Advancement and Alumni Offices.  Additionally, she managed summer programs and rentals for a number of years, and worked for the Board of Trustees as Clerk of the Board. 
Now, Dana serves VVS as its Office Manager and Registrar.

Dana completed her Master Gardener studies in 2003 from the University of Arizona, culminating in her graduation project at the Oak Creek Country Club in Sedona.  The Cancer Garden, planted in honor of those that have had cancer touch their lives, has been adopted by the Women’s Club and has become a highlight of this beautiful course.  In addition to gardening, Dana is an avid quilter and spends as much time as possible with her wife and pets in their home in Lake Montezuma. 

During football season, you’ll find Dana in front of the television, cheering on her Seattle Seahawks.

David Smeeth

Interactive Maths 1 and 2

Mountain Biking Instructor

B.A. in Earth Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz
M.A. in Counseling Psychology, Prescott College

David grew up in Northern California, and after college lived in the southwest for many years, hanging his hat in Boulder, Colorado, and in Arizona – first in Tucson and ultimately in Sedona.

David began his teaching career at the Verde Valley School in 1989. Working at VVS gave him the opportunity to grow into a caring, compassionate, and empathetic teacher – he counts this experience as essential to most of his work in other areas.

In the mid-90s David left VVS and moved to California where he started a career in information technology, eventually building a computer training company and delivered contracts to government and corporate clients. David also worked as a mortgage broker during this break from teaching, and eventually returned to VVS in 2011 where he has returned to his passion for working with teenagers.

When not teaching, David enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and camping. David and his wife enjoy frequent day-hikes or just hanging out with their cat Tweety.

Donita Coburn-Amadio

Director of Advancement Relations & Special Events

B.A. in Theatre and Philosophy, St. Andrews Presbyterian College
Peaceable Schools Institute, Leslie University
Brewster Academy Summer Institute, Teaching Methodologies
Tuwa Yoga Teacher Training
Certified Shamanic Reiki Master Teacher/Trainer
Nia Certified White Belt, “Dance” Instructor

Donita is a veteran independent school person who has worn many hats in her 20 plus years of teaching and directing programs in various independent schools on both U.S. coasts. Prior to, and weaving throughout working in schools, she had three additional careers in recruitment & staffing, health & wellness, and fashion.

Donita’s career in schools has included the following roles – Director of Alumni Relations, Marketing, Communications, Parent Programs, Special Events, Diversity Programs, Summer Programs, After School Programs, External Relations, Head Dorm Parent, Advisor and many areas of teaching & directing- Theatre & Performance, English, ESL, Yoga, Mindfulness, Recreation & Play and Women’s Empowerment.

Donita is the spouse of the Head of School, Paul Amadio, and mother to three wonderful children, Colton who is a chef;  Natalie who is a teacher; and Galen, an NAU student; and mother to three furry children:  two pups, Cat & Hunter and one kitty, Mr. Blueberry Muffins. Recently, Donita became “Glammie” to Finn, her first grandbaby.

Donita’s passions include coaching acting, play & performance, working in healing modalities, empowering adult women and teens, singing, dancing, practicing yoga, swimming, and paddleboarding.

Holly Vaughn

Jeanne Howell

IB Standard Level Mathematics

IB Standard Level Math Studies

B.S. in Mathematics, University of Utah
B.A. in Psychology, University of Utah

Jeanne knew she wanted to be a math teacher since 5th grade.  She has more than 20 years experience teaching the full range of high school math courses including AP and IB.

She and her husband moved to the Village of Oak Creek from Johannesburg, South Africa where she taught IB Math for 4 years. Jeanne initiated a number of programs at her previous school to promote community, such as inter-house competitions, student and faculty talent shows, spirit week, parties and dances.  Equally committed to fitness, she has successfully led both students and faculty to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Jeff Perkins

IB Higher Level and Standard Level Ceramics and IB Higher Level

Standard Level Photography
Intro to Ceramics
Intro to Photography
Field Trip Coordinator
Master Teacher

B.F.A. in Ceramics and Photography, Arizona State University
M.A. in Ceramics, Northern Arizona University

Jeff grew up at Verde Valley School with his parents, Maggie and Cliff Perkins, who taught at VVS for 34 years prior to their retirement in 1989. 
Jeff is well-known as a ceramist and photographer throughout the southwest, and he exhibits in galleries in Sedona, Arizona, and Taos, New Mexico. Jeff’s work is also in numerous permanent collections, including Del Webb, City of Phoenix (Sky Harbor Airport), Arizona State University, and in the private collections of many art collectors, including Jackson Browne, David Crosby, and Bonnie Raitt.

In addition to teaching ceramics and photography, Jeff coordinates the school’s Field Trip program, that includes annual two-week trips around the southwest and California. He lives on campus with his wife, Crissy, who was the assistant to the dean of students prior to her retirement.
 In 2010, Jeff was awarded the Warren Award for Creative Excellence by the alumni association.

Jen Gill

IB HL English B

Theory of Knowledge

B.S. in Communications, Shepherd College
MSJ in Journalism, West Virginia University

Jen came to Verde Valley School in July of 2003 with her husband, Andy, and what fit in the trunk of their VW Jetta.  They had just finished a year of world-wide travel in which they visited 25 countries on four continents, shamelessly devouring transformative experiences, and making countless lifelong friends. The thought of settling down was tough, but instantly VVS felt like home and a place to raise a family. Prior to joining VVS, Jen taught at an independent school in Connecticut, ran the office at a summer camp in Maine, promoted shows in DC, interned at a film museum in England, worked in the education department at National Geographic and snagged free concert tickets while a radio deejay in West Virginia.

With so much on offer at VVS, Jen hasn’t wanted to miss a thing. In her time here she has worked as a teacher, dorm parent, college counselor, communications director, admission director, and oversaw production of the newspaper, yearbook and literary journal. She is also very proud of her work as one of the architects of the Shixi program.

Every day Jen looks forward to the discussions that unfold in her classroom. She respects the level of thought her students show and the values they staunchly defend. And she often silently thanks Ham and Babs Warren for their vision and execution, both of which allow her to live in a place that she values deeply.

When not hanging out in Classroom 10 talking about how and why we tell stories, Jen can be found hiking trails down by the creek, sweating it out at hot yoga, writing, and spending time with her children, Juniper and Finley. After all these years, VVS still makes good on the promise of being a place where “how are you?” is genuine enquiry rather than just a salutation.

Jeremy Broomfield

Database Administrator

Sears Dorm Head

B.A. in Studio Art, Oberlin College

A native New Yorker who grew up in the gallery scene of Soho in the 80s, Jeremy spent several years after college working in graphic design, digital pre-press, and web design. During that time he founded a public performance art group, published ‘zines of his own comics, and released two albums of original music. He worked for nine years as IT director for a New York state agency before he and his wife Bridget left the continent to do eight months of service in Kenya, India, and Nepal.

After five years teaching IB Visual Art, Jeremy is now focused on dorm life and software development. In his spare time, he records music, bakes desserts for students, and dotes on his daughter Tesla and son Milo.

John Chorlton

Director of Technology

Mountain Bike Program Director
Overseer of Composting

B.S. in English, Western State Colorado University

John and his family found their way to Verde Valley School from Crested Butte, Colorado in 2011. John’s education and coaching career started in 1992 teaching skiing and snowboarding. Working with local students opened the door for starting the snowboard program within the community ski development program and then into the Crested Butte Academy where he became the Snowboard Program Director and taught Freshman Grammar, Art, Magazine Production, and Video Production.

John also worked in multi-media for the two largest snowboarding publications in the world before moving on to television production work with ESPN and the X Games. John is married to Katie and they have two sons, Kai and Gus.

John Kelley

Assistant Head of School and Dean of Students

M.A. Adventure Education, Prescott College
B.F.A., Colorado State University

John has worked in traditional and adventure education for the last 15+ years, and he is passionate about helping Verde Valley School maintain a healthy, balanced, and compassionate community.

He is excited to have returned to Verde Valley School as Assistant Head of School/Dean of Students. During his time away, he worked as the Dean of Students at another well-respected boarding school in his home state of Colorado.  John has served in many roles at VVS in his tenure: Interim Head of School, Dean of Students and Residential Life, Work Jobs Program Coordinator, Outdoor Program Director, Dorm Parent, Coach, and Field Trip Leader.

John has also worked as an administrator at a number of independent schools both domestically and abroad. In addition to his work in private schools, John has worked in therapeutic wilderness programs, taught in Prescott College’s undergraduate adventure education department, led numerous outdoor trips both locally and internationally, worked as a rock climbing guide, and for a number of adventure travel organizations. He also serves on the Education Accreditation Team at the Association of Experiential Education and presents regularly at the NOLS Wilderness Risk Management Conference.

Having worked and traveled throughout the US and abroad, John is proud to live and work at Verde Valley School.  He believes strongly that the founding vision of VVS is even more relevant today. It is a powerful act to bring people from all over the world to live and work together in a small intentional community.  In so doing, students get to experience the inarguable truth that we are all connected and grounded in our common humanity.

When not working with students in the beautiful Sedona landscape, John can likely be found spending time with his wife, Lauren, and their gregarious twins, Neve and Elias.


John Sheedy

Spanish B1

Spanish 2

B.A. in Documentary Photography, Prescott College
M.A. in Education, Prescott College

John has spent much of his adult life straddling both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.  He received a Master in Education from Prescott College in 2005 after spending two years researching immigration and border issues for his master’s thesis in Tucson, Arizona.  His time researching these issues inspired him to create two award-winning documentaries, El Inmigrante and The Tijuana Project, both of which paint a human face on the important topics of borders and immigration.

In 2008 he met his wife Sandra in Alamos, Mexico and in 2011 they started an international film festival in Alamos dedicated to the many diverse voices of the borderlands.  The festival continues to thrive and offers a space for sharing positive stories from both sides of the border.

John also worked from 2012 to 2018 at the United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico teaching IB Spanish, running a filmmaking program, and leading border studies trips to the U.S.-Mexico border with Sandra and their son Joaquin.

John grew up in Colorado and his passions include mountain biking, skiing, and sustainable building.


Kaylyn Oates

Big History & Physical Science Faculty

B.A. in Geosciences and Education, Smith College 
M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, High Tech High Graduate School of Education

As an educator, Kaylyn has had the privilege of working with amazing kids in incredible places! From snorkeling in crystal clear Caribbean waters while monitoring sea-grass health with middle schoolers in tow, to releasing classroom-raised trout back into a Californian watershed with elementary schoolers, and hiking a 25-mile Grand Canyon rim-to-rim with high school students, Kaylyn brings a wealth of experience in educational adventures with students.

With a bachelor’s degree from Smith College in Geology and Education, Kaylyn has been able to meld her scientific knowledge, curiosity, and love of the outdoors with her passion for teaching.

Kaylyn was a Park Ranger for four years at Grand Canyon National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, leading educational programs, field trips, and science field camps for students of all ages.

She earned her Masters in Educational Leadership at High Tech High in San Diego, where she was immersed in the world of project-based learning and school leadership. She spent last year as a middle school science teacher at Grand Canyon School working with the students and staff to do meaningful work across subjects.

Kaylyn is so excited to join Verde Valley School and dive into the VVS experience. Outside of the classroom, Kaylyn loves doing absolutely anything outdoors, especially backpacking, exploring new places and cooking/eating delicious food with friends and family!


Kim Hollingsworth

Director of Enrollment Management

B.A. in Secondary Education, Arizona State University
MEd in Human Relations, Northern Arizona University
Graduate Certificate in Positive Behavior Support,  Northern Arizona University

An Arizona native, Kim grew up enjoying the diverse landscape of the high desert and mountain regions of central and northern Arizona. Although she has since lived in several states, first while her husband was enlisted in the army, and later for work, Kim has always considered Arizona home.

Kim began her teaching career over 18 years ago, working in a multitude of educational settings. She began her career teaching in public school and still holds her secondary teaching certification. However, she quickly found her passion working in the private setting, both teaching and in various administrative roles. She has spent the last 14 years working primarily in college preparatory boarding schools in Arizona and the northeast. Kim has served as Residential Dean, Associate Admissions Director, Academic Technology Coordinator, Support Services Coordinator, Behavior Specialist and Dean of Students.

Throughout these roles, Kim’s commitment to teaching and positively influencing the lives of her students has always remained her primary focus. She believes strongly that an intentional residential curriculum not only improves student learning but also provides students with the skills needed to navigate the non-academic challenges they will encounter in both college and the workplace.

When not working, Kim can be found outdoors with her husband, hiking, backpacking, and camping. She also shares this love of the outdoors with her students and has led many outdoor adventures throughout her career.


Lauren Kelley

Director, Experiential Education Program

Theory of Knowledge
IB HL English Literature

B.A. in Religion, Vassar College
M.F.A. in Writing, Goucher College

Lauren Kelley rejoined the Verde Valley School faculty in 2018 with 14 years of teaching at other institutions across the country and abroad.

Lauren directs the Experiential Education Program at VVS, a group of programs that challenges students to grow as people, not just thinkers.  Work Jobs, Field Trips, Project Period, Outdoor Education and other programs demand that VVS students try out their theories, roll up their sleeves, and push themselves to personal frontiers. Lauren is proud of the grit, resilience, and wisdom these experiences grow in VVS students.  In addition to her administrative work, Lauren teaches IBHL English and Theory of Knowledge courses.

Beyond her work at VVS, Lauren has directed a Global Scholars Program and taught religion, philosophy, and globalization courses at White Mountain School and Fountain Valley School of Colorado. Outside the classroom, Lauren has worked with young people as a mountain guide, whitewater river guide, educational facilitator in maximum security prisons, and farmer on an educational organic dairy.

Though she loves to bounce ideas around a room and pour over elegant sentences, Lauren is just as passionate about getting outside. When not teaching she can be found running the trails of Sedona or running after her twins, Neve and Elias. She lives on campus with her husband, John Kelley, Assistant Head of School. The Kelleys are honored to call Verde Valley home.


Lee Zimmer


Associates of Arts in Music,  Orange Coast College

Lee Zimmer recently moved to the Verde Valley after serving as an adjunct professor of Guitar Studies at both Cal Baptist and La Sierra Universities since 1990 as well as and  Riverside City College beginning in 2015. At Cal Baptist Lee taught private lessons and guitar classes and started and directed the CBU guitar ensemble.

Lee was also one of the first instructors for the non-profit music program, “Kids Rock Free” at the Fender Center for the Performing Arts. Lee has been on the board of directors for the Orange County Guitar Circle since 1984 where he served as the president of the organization from 1996 to 2005.  Lee has arranged a variety of music for one, two, and four guitars. He recorded and released a CD as guitar duo, Duo Sesoko, in 2003 which features his arrangement of Le Tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel. In 2007 Lee recorded a solo CD, Encarnacion, which features the music of Augustine Barrios, Manuel Ponce, Federico Moreno-Torroba, and others. Lee’s background includes experience in classical, pop, rock, blues, and jazz styles. He has also worked as a consultant for Fender Musical Instruments on a hand-made classical guitar line by Spanish luthier, Manuel Rodriguez.

Leigh Carter

Social & Cultural Anthropology 1 & 2

Native Programs Coordinator

Recycled Fashion Instructor

B.A. in Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
M.A. in Anthropology and Applied Archaeology, Northern Arizona University

Leigh loves the American West more than any place in the world.  She has worked as a Forest Service archaeologist and as a National Park Service ranger in Arizona, Colorado, and Alaska.  She has a passion for Native American rock art and has collaborated with Hopi and Navajo tribal representatives to increase protection and respect for rock art sites in northern Arizona.  Her primary research interests are southwest archaeology and federal tribal relations.

Leigh is married to the author, Bill Carter, and they live on campus with their two daughters Josie and Poppy.  Leigh says, “As an anthropologist, I feel lucky to be teaching at VVS because the campus is in an area rich with prehistory. More than that, the school itself is a model of human diversity founded on the principles of anthropological wisdom.” Leigh enjoys trail running and designing clothing from recycled fabric.

Lianne Lydum

Spanish 2

Spanish 4

Spanish 5

Cross Country Coach

B.S. in Industrial Engineering, Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora (Mexico)
M.A.T. Spanish, Northern Arizona University

Lianne was born in Los Angeles, California, however she has lived most of her life in Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico. After teaching English as a foreign language in Mexico for several years, she received a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for General Electric for three years. Soon Lianne realized that she missed teaching and decided to move back to the United States and get her master’s in teaching Spanish. She taught in Flagstaff, Arizona and later in Providence, Rhode Island.

Longing to be back in the west and closer to her home in Mexico, she came back to Northern Arizona to teach Spanish at Verde Valley School.
Lianne has two children who are both going to college in Mexico at the same school where she received her bachelor’s. When her kids visit they enjoy having movie marathons and making homemade pizza.

Lori Perkins

Chief Financial Officer & HR Director

B.A. English, Northern Arizona University, Summa Cum Laude
M.A. Literature, Northern Arizona University, With Distinction

Lori was born in Southern California and raised in many places across the western United States, eventually making her way from Washington to Arizona in 1993.  She had plans to attend graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania after graduating from Northern Arizona University, but met her husband during her senior year and has been here in the Verde Valley ever since. They have two children.

While in graduate school at NAU, Lori had the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant teaching composition and Shakespeare, and as a summer research assistant/editorial assistant for a compilation of essays on literary theory and the environment.  She also worked as a department-assigned language tutor for an international student from Egypt.

After completing her M.A., she taught briefly before starting her own business management service in Sedona.  The relationships established through that service led to many exciting and diverse professional experiences, including the business management of one of Arizona’s largest winery and vineyard operations.

In her free time, Lori enjoys reading, writing, independent film,  going to the gym, and hiking the creek with her husband and dogs.


Mackenzie Abernethy

History & English

TEFL, Toulouse Language Center, France
B.A. International Relations, Northern Arizona University
M.A. Teaching, Brown University

MacKenzie’s upbringing emphasized multiple perspectives and adapting to change. They appreciate having lived in many places: Carefree, Arizona; Portland, Oregon; Walla Walla, Washington; Los Angeles, California; Providence, Rhode Island; and different parts of France.
During their Master’s in Teaching at Brown, MacKenzie administered non-profit Frequency Writers’ workshops and lived as an artist-resident at AS220, a sustainable community-arts organization. Previously, they wrote Social Studies textbooks with the Choices Program and continue to leverage technology for global discussions of current events—most recently as a study abroad program leader in Paris.

After class, MacKenzie teaches Yin and Vinyasa yoga as a Yoga Alliance certified instructor, following over ten years of practice—which they carry wherever they go!

Mattie Guelinas

Director of Health Services

B.Sc.Ed., University of Northern Arizona
Registered Nurse, Mesa Community College

Mattie has been an Arizonan for most of her life. Growing up in the desert lands she developed a love for the outdoors at an early age. As a young adult, she moved out of the desert and up to the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. It was here that she discovered her true passion for adventure.

While obtaining her Bachelor of Education from Northern Arizona University she worked part-time as a climbing, backpacking, and mountaineering guide.  After graduation, she couldn’t walk away from the guiding world so she went on to float the rivers of the Southwest and eventually ended up as a Grand Canyon River Guide. The majority of her trips were spent with youth from Northern Arizona through non-profit adventure organizations, the US Geological Survey, and the National Park Service.

In addition to guiding Mattie also fulfilled her love for teaching by instructing wilderness medicine courses and certifications throughout the country. This led her down a path to nursing. The majority of Mattie’s nursing experience has been in the emergency rooms of both big cities and rural towns while specializing in pediatric care. Prior to coming to VVS, she was working as a flight nurse on helicopters for the local air ambulance company.

As the Director of Health Services, she is involved in the day to day nursing responsibilities as well as the overall health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff on campus. In her free time Mattie can be found volunteering for Remote Area Medical, traveling to Hawaii where her parents own and operate a Kona coffee farm, riding one of her many bikes, strumming music with friends, cooking delicious vegan meals, traveling in her camper, and creating new adventurous experiences with her amazing daughter Vella.


Meg Haesloop

Director of Academics & College Counseling

B.A. in English, Brown University
M.A.T. in Secondary English, Brown University

Meg assumed this role after serving as English Department Chair at VVS for five years and College Counselor for three.  Prior to VVS, Meg spent eleven years teaching high school English in both Tucson and New York.

In addition to her work as a high school teacher, Meg also worked to help teams of teachers and administrators develop professional learning communities at their schools.

A National Board Certified teacher and former IB Examiner, Meg loves engaging with all aspects of teaching and learning at VVS.  Having spent several years as an alumni interviewer for Brown University and an SAT coach, Meg enjoys sharing her knowledge of the college admission process with VVS seniors and their families in her additional role as Director of College Counseling.   Meg lives here on campus with her two daughters, Lucy and Juniper, and her husband and VVS Farmer, Mike Spielman.

Michael Briggs

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, chef Michael Briggs has refined his exceptional culinary skills for 20 years through extensive experience creating healthy, organic menus. 

Currently at Verde Valley School, Chef Michael utilizes its ever-growing organic garden to prepare everything from scratch using raw, fresh, simple ingredients. His passion for healthy, beautiful food has earned him the respect and appreciation of the students, faculty, and staff who he serves.

Michelle Williams

Associate Director of Admission

B.A. – English, New York Institute of Technology
M.Ed – Educational Technology Design, Northern Arizona University

Michelle is a California native who was born and raised in San Diego.
Having worked as an elementary teacher for both public and private schools, the majority of her career has been spent in management for assessment and educational publishing companies such as McGraw-Hill Education, and Cengage.

Being a life-long learner, she continues to explore and apply new ideas which have meaningful impacts on teaching and learning. With a desire to further develop her 21st-century learning skills, she recently obtained a M.Ed in Educational Technology Design. 

Often traveling to Sedona for vacations, she fell in love with the area, and when her daughter graduated from high school in 2009, she made the decision to move to the Verde Valley.
In her spare time, Michelle enjoys traveling with her partner Tony, spending time on the water at various regional lakes, and hiking.

Natalie Parsons

American History

IB World History I (SL & HL)

IB World History II (SL & HL)

B.A. in Secondary Education – Expeditionary Learning Emphasis, Prescott College
B.A. in Critical Theory in Social Sciences, Prescott College

Natalie grew up in New England before moving to California to attend a small, academically rigorous, arts-focused boarding school. Her experience inspired her to find a college that shared similar values: experiential and self-directed learning in a small tight-knit community which lead her to Prescott College. After falling in love with the Southwestern landscape, she has spent the past 9 years here and has experience teaching in expeditionary learning and college prep environments.

Here at VVS Natalie teaches American History and upper-level IB World History classes. In her classes, she hopes to create meaningful connections between students and past events using a variety of inquiry-based and student-centered approaches. Her ultimate goal is to provide students with the tools and inspiration to become responsible citizens and lifelong learners.

Along with teaching, she is a co-dorm parent for Motel dorm and advisor. Outside of work, Natalie enjoys swimming, her dog, Clover Gary, and exploring the world with her young son, Finn.

Natalie Plueger


M.S. in Mathematics, Pennsylvania State University
M.A.T in Mathematics Education, Northern Arizona University

Natalie taught IB Mathematics at Verde Valley School from 2011 – 2016 when she moved to Flagstaff to start a family. She spent the next three years as an instructor at Northern Arizona University in the Mathematics and Statistics Department. She found out that she missed the incredible students and experiences at Verde Valley School and decided to return in 2019. Lead by her passion for mathematics, Natalie tries to guide students to develop their own intuition and appreciation for the topic. She tries to make mathematics approachable, fun, and applicable while maintaining rigor.

While at Northern Arizona University, Natalie also took a variety of classes on economics and accounting and is excited to incorporate these new topics into her mathematics courses and her IB Economics class.

Natalie incorporates her love for geometry and patterns in her favorite hobby: quilting. She is also a mountain biker, trail runner, and experienced hiker. She lives on campus with her 3-year-old son, Owen.

Natalie Rockwell

Behavioral Health & Equestrian Program

Natalie Rockwell, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC, is a licensed advanced practice nurse, who holds a Master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University, and who currently practices as a psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner.  Her clinical experience includes working with individuals with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorders, as well as high-risk adolescents.  Natalie also has twenty years of experience in caring for women and families in the capacity of a certified nurse-midwife.  In this role, she identified and treated a broad range of behavioral health issues, including anxiety and depression, suicidality, addiction, and domestic violence. 

Her current scope of practice includes formal psychiatric evaluation and diagnosis, prescription and management of psychotropic medications, evaluation and triage of psychiatric crisis, and psychotherapy.  Natalie has an eclectic approach to nonpharmacological therapeutic intervention, that draws upon a number of theoretical models, including psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, family systems, and humanistic/existential theories.  Natalie particularly embraces a trauma-informed approach that acknowledges the significant impact of adverse life experiences upon an individual’s mental health and level of function.  

She addresses students’ needs on a personalized basis, with an emphasis on genuine caring, interpersonal connection, development of a meaningful, integrated narrative, or “life story;” as well as effective management of anxiety. 

Natalie participates in the VVS Equestrian Program, in the capacity of instructor and coach.  She is a lifelong horsewoman, and a graduate “A” rated member of the United States Pony Club.  She has competed nationally in the equestrian discipline of eventing that encompasses the three elements of classical dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping.  More recently, Natalie’s interest has turned from competition to “relational” horsemanship, and to facilitating intentional, mutually beneficial interactions between horses and humans.  She is a certified therapeutic riding instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH) International, an organization dedicated to the provision of safe and empowering equestrian experiences to individuals with physical, behavioral, and mental health disabilities, in addition to teaching able-bodied riders.  She is also a certified Wilderness First Responder.


Nathan West


M.A French, Middlebury College
B.A in Spanish, Millersville University

Nathan first connected with the beauty of nature through the rolling cornfields and tall forests of Lancaster, PA, where sincere farmers model an honest life well-lived.  After exploring architecture, acting, and music as possible vocations, he ended up focusing on what had always been a clear love: foreign languages.

Nathan cut his teeth teaching English in Paris, where he first discovered how all-encompassing language instruction really is.  Throughout teaching stints in Sierra Leone, Benin, and boarding schools in the US, he has always enjoyed weaving art, music, history, literature, and even social media into his projects.   Seeing students develop a love for language through cultural inquiry is what he considers the sweetness of teaching.

Reading, journaling, and bombastic orchestral symphonies by the likes of Mahler and Tchaikovsky keep Nathan inspired in his free time.  Wherever his decades-long wanderlust has taken him on a shoestring budget, from Swaziland to Sweden, the memories of local landscapes catalog each adventure, and interactions with locals leave him in awe at human beings’ remarkable ability to overcome adversity.

Noah Suby

Director of Facilities & Operations

B.A. in Geography, University of Arizona

Born in New Zealand and raised in southern Arizona, Noah was brought up in a family that considered the Volkswagen bus a second home. Extensive family trips in the bus, as well as his own international travels and friendships, are what Noah attributes to his ability to collaborate with others in various work settings.

He received his B.A. in Geography from the University of Arizona but found happiness and success with his hands. Working in all facets of construction, from a wooden boat workshop in New Zealand, to a firehouse renovation in Boston, Noah found himself back in his hometown of Bisbee, Arizona, where he started Suby Construction, a successful residential contracting business.

Noah views his work at Verde Valley School as a way to continue to grow in the challenging field of construction and management while living in a community atmosphere and an educational environment.

Noah enjoys problem-solving and hopes to help to continue an era of sustainability for VVS.  He has a passion for community radio, where he has volunteered and deejayed for the past 13 years, and enjoys the outdoor activities that come with living in a rural area.

Noah lives on VVS campus with his wife Beth, and his sons, Koel and Indus.

Paul Amadio

Head of School

B.F.A., Roger Williams College
M.F.A., Wayne State University

Paul Amadio’s work in education spans nearly three decades of school leadership. He has served in many roles in schools, from teacher, dorm parent, department chair, coach, theater director, admissions and development director, advancement, assistant head, and head of school.

He is also a founding partner of both Independent Thinking and Cardenio Consulting and has consulted for schools and non-profits throughout the world. Paul frequently presents on educational leadership, marketing, philanthropy, and sustainability at workshops and conventions nationally and internationally.

Paul and his family consider VVS to be the perfect fit for their educational philosophy and values, and feel blessed each day to work and wake on this dramatic landscape called Sedona on the campus of the most unique school in the world, just recognized as the 15
th best boarding school in the United States. He is proud of the school’s partnership with world-renowned SHIXI High School in Shanghai.

Paul began his career as a stage actor and was cast in tours of 
Grease, The Musical, Foxfire, Mikado, The Fantasticks, as well as playing several Shakespearean roles in classic repertory companies. It was through service teaching theater in the inner city of Chicago and Detroit that he realized that working in schools was his true calling.

Paul has served on many nonprofit boards, including the Ojai Playwrights Festival, Global Awareness Local Action, and Massachusetts Council on the Arts, ArtSpace, and Very Special Arts. 

Paul lives with his wife Donita and daughter Galen, on the glorious Verde Valley campus.

Robin Bailey

Executive Assistant to the Head of School

Camden County Police Academy
Camden Community College

Robin is the owner of The Spa of Sedona, where she specializes in colon hydrotherapy. Her main interest is helping people along their personal journey of health and healing.

Before moving to Sedona in 2012 she lived in New Jersey, where she had a career in law enforcement. She worked in a variety of positions, including hostage negotiator, supervisor of school resource officers and initiated multiple programs, such as the “adopt-a-cop” program.

Robin lives in Sedona and is the mother of two children and she loves spending time with her family. She is passionate about hiking, being outside and giving back to her community.

T. McKinley


BA in Religious Studies, Haverford College 
MA in Folklore, University of Pennsylvania

T has been teaching English and Theater in public and private schools for twenty-four years. T is passionate about language, both written and spoken, its mechanics and its expressive power. He draws his students into the ongoing literary conversation, exposes them to multiple genres of writing, and encourages them to craft unique contributions of their own. T believes every one of us has something to say, something we need to hear, something we can learn from no one else.

T’s interests include playwriting, acting, storytelling, and participating in the occasionally difficult conversations that facilitate our living together with peace and justice. T is an author whose self-published memoir, Boy in the Ivy, recounts his journey as a suicide loss survivor, and he has spoken about suicide, depression, and the importance of asking for help at schools, conferences, and churches around the country. He also performs stand-up comedy and participates in storytelling events whenever he can. Big picture, T is committed to empowering all voices in a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community.

Finally, T is a husband and father who, having emptied the nest and entered the second half of life, is particularly excited about the unique opportunities VVS has to offer. He and his wife Gracia have long felt a connection to the land and people of the American Southwest, and in many ways this new chapter of their life together feels like coming home.

Todd Richardson

Visual Arts

B.F.A. in Art Education, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
M.S. in Educational Leadership, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Todd comes to Sedona from Northeast Wisconsin where he spent 11 years teaching in the frozen tundra of Green Bay. He taught IB Visual Art for six of those years alongside a courseload of ceramics, sculpture, AP, and foundations art courses. He sought to get the art and the artists out of school and into the world as often as possible by organizing public murals, art exhibitions at local businesses, and field trips to Milwaukee and Chicago. He is also a practicing ceramic and sculpture artist who has exhibited throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

Todd and his wife Veronika have three girls–Isla, Penelope, and Freddie–each of whom are wild-at-heart adventurers who revel in the Arizona sunshine.

Verde Valley School is a co-educational, International Baccalaureate boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12.