Explore

Faculty & Staff

Andy Gill

IB Program Coordinator
HL IB Biology
Soccer Coach & Climbing Coach

BSc with honors in Zoology, University of Bristol
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.

Anja Herrman

Director of Dining Service

Anja Herrmann was born and raised in Germany and moved to Arizona in 2010. She mastered her "cooking skills" while in Germany but found it difficult acquiring a Chef's position upon locating to Sedona. Anja's determination found her, accepting a position as a Dishwasher, and working her way up to a Sous Chef. After working eight years as a Sous Chef at a Retirement Community i.e. Sedona Winds Independent Living, Anja felt honored in accepting the opportunity to become a vital part of the Verde Valley School as the Kitchen Manager/Chef "The Face of Nutritional Value". Anja is a very creative and organized Chef with 20+ years’ experience. Anja's statement: "This is too funny... I am a German Chef living in the United States of America preparing  Mexican Cuisine!" 

On her Days off, Anja loves taking her Dog "Rusty" for a long walk. She also enjoys her Home Decorating Skills each year with the Annual Seasons.

aherrmann@vvsaz.org

AZ Palmer

Executive Assistant to the Head of School

B.S. Computer and Information Systems, Florida Atlantic University

After Graduating VVS in the late ‘80s, I went on to graduate from Florida Atlantic University in the computer field.  I spent many years as a computer programmer and then a manager of computer programming teams.  I met my husband and we were chatting about our lifelong dreams and we both had a desire to live and travel on a sailboat.  Within two years, we bought a 47 foot ketch, we sold our house and re-homed our pets and set sail.  We spent three years cruising around most of the Caribbean.  We then returned and I homeschooled our two children for most of their education and they are both in college today.  In the early 2000’s I spent several years as a board member for Verde Valley School.  I am  extremely thrilled to have the opportunity to work for VVS as the Executive Assistant to the Head of School.

Beth Pauline

Academic Support Faculty

Beth's journey as an educator began over 30 years ago when she accepted a position as an adult ed teacher in New York. Her path then took her to alternative high schools, where she taught social studies and English, and then onto Cali, where she taught special education and college-prep history at a comprehensive high school. In 2005, after almost twenty years working for districts, Beth followed her calling and ventured out on her own, opening an educational therapy practice. Now, she is incredibly excited to be back at a school, working with students and being a part of an academic community.
 
Working with learners from all walks of life and ages revealed to Beth that, no matter a person's skill level or cognitive ability, the most effective approach to supporting someone is by showing compassion. Beth believes that learning and growth is possible for everyone and works to instill that idea in each learner with whom she works.
 
Beth and her husband are truly enjoying life in the VOC as are their two pups and kitty. When not out on the trails, Beth enjoys geeking out to their shows, listening to music, reading, getting ready for Comic-Con, and lamenting over the NY Jets.

Beth Suby

English

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.

Caleb Kulfan

IB Environmental Systems & Societies Teacher and IB Music 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

Equestrian Program Director
Global Goals Program Director

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 in 2007  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

Chemistry, Engineering and Physics
Girls' Soccer and Chess Coach
Canyon Athletic Association Liaison

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

Chris is in his third year at Verde Valley School after having spent 20 years as a science teacher in 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 chemistry, physics, engineering, biology, 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 and 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 –VVS Director of College Counseling. Chris and Liz are dorm parents and live in the girls’ dormitory complex with Stella, their Bernedoodle puppy. They have three adult children – Hannah, Seth, and Zemedkun.
 

Christine Webb

Dining Services

Christine is originally from California, where she attended Upland High School. She spent many years as a respiratory therapist and worked in local hospitals. She currently spends her days working in the VVS Dining Hall which she enjoys very much! She loves working in the beautiful red rock environment and enjoying the wonderful students and staff that she spends time with each day!

Cynthia Santillanez

Business Office Assistant

I was born and raised in Cottonwood, AZ. I frequently traveled to Agua Prieta; Sonora where most of my family is from. Part time I worked in a small-town Sushi Restaurant as a Sous chef for many years - In 2015 I began my career in banking full time as a teller and worked my way up to Assistant Manager. After the branch closed in 2021 I began my career at Verde Valley School. My world consists of my family (including my pup Teela), they are my sunshine each and every morning. I enjoy cooking dinner for family nights, dancing, spending time outdoors and coaching. My life-long dream is to own a ranch with chickens/horses/donkeys and more.

csantillanez@vvsaz.org

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.

Danielle Luchkowec

Farm Assistant

B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology
MA current graduate student at NAU in Sustainable Communities - expected Spring 2023

Danielle grew up in the suburbs of New York state, and after receiving her Bachelor’s of Science decided to up and move to Utah to start her path in environmental education. Danielle
has worked in many realms of environmental education across the U.S. including in National Parks, AmeriCorp programs, Outdoor Schools, summer programs, and recently here at VVS
starting the summer of 2021.

Danielle first discovered her passion for permaculture/ gardening during her time living in New Zealand in 2018 during her year and a half solo travelling abroad. She spent months living and working in an intentional garden-based community. After that transformative experience Danielle sought out volunteer experiences living and working in other gardens/ farms in Hawai’i and Washington state where she got certified in Permaculture Design. Danielle has a great
passion for building community through the garden, really loves garden events that connect people closer to the natural world and their food, and aims to continue exploring alternative food systems to create social change through experience and education.

When she is not in the garden, Danielle will most likely be found doing grad school work, hiking, doing yoga, cooking, going for walks and cuddling with her cat Mānuka, or spending time with her partner Zac who also lives at VVS.

dluchkowec@vvsaz.org

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.

Gary Farr

Dining Services

Gary was born and raised in Orange County, Southern California where he worked as an art designer. He came to Arizona 12 year ago and started a community supported agriculture (CSA) hobby farm in the VOC  growing a variety of vegetables. Gary has been at Verde Valley School (VVS) for about 7 years. Gary loves working in his garden and caring for his goats and chickens. He hopes to have his own eggs and goat milk soon. Gary loves the exciting educational environment and the concentration of all these smart people. He says, “Everyone is engaged and the energy is wonderful which makes it easy to come to work”. Gary loves being part of the wheel of creativity that VVS provides. 

Jeanne Howell

IB Standard Level Mathematics
Afternoon Sports and Activities Director
Workjob Coordinator

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 30 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

Intro to Ceramics
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.

Jeff Wurzer

Dining Services

Jeff Wurzer is originally from Iowa. He came to Arizona when he was asked to open up and run a local restaurant. Jeff has been working in the restaurant industry for over seven years. He says that he had a good friend who recommended he apply for the position at VVS because he would be a great fit. His friend has incredible insight.  Jeff says he loves the pleasant atmosphere and kind students along with the camaraderie shared among his colleagues. When he isn’t in the kitchen he likes to hit the trails and be outdoors.

Jen Gill

IB English Literature HL
Theory of Knowledge

B.S. in Communications, Shepherd College
MSJ in Journalism, West Virginia University
Masters of Liberal Arts in Creative Writing and Literature from Harvard 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.

jeniferg@vvsaz.org 

John Chorlton

Director of Technology
Sustainability Coordinator
Mountain Bike Program Director

B.A. 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 club 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 travelled extensively with students for training and competition and developed a strong understanding of caring for a close-knit community of young people.

John also worked in multimedia for the two largest snowboarding publications in the world before moving on to television production work with ESPN and the X Games for 17 years. He has also covered professional cycling and triathlon events including the Ironman World Championships.
 
Since being assigned the composting work job in 2011, John has developed a profound love of soil. Working closely with his community to improve Verde Valley School's sustainability efforts has become a strong passion.
 
Good fortune has allowed John to share unbelievable experiences with VVS students and staff in Malawi twice and in the Grand Canyon on many field trips.
 
John is married to Katie and they have two sons, Kai and Gus. They live on campus in the Fannie Hill complex.

 

John Gordon

Assistant Head of School and Dean of Students

M. Ed - Curriculum & Instruction - Concordia University
B.A. - Classics - Hamilton College

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, John grew up on a hobby farm where his parents, both educators, kept various animals including sheep, cows, horses, and golden retrievers. John attended Hamilton College in Clinton, NY where he studied Classics and played ice hockey. Upon his graduation, he set out on a journey with a goal of playing one season of professional hockey in Europe.  One season quickly turned into seven, with stops in The Netherlands, UK, Serbia, Australia, and Germany.

After his hockey career ended John’s wife, Kristen, introduced him to the boarding school world where he would serve as a history teacher, dorm parent, and coach before spending time as a Dean of Students and overseeing the development of new summer and boarding programs. Kristen and John live on campus with their daughter, and their husky, Dakota. In his free time you can find him (hopefully) out on the golf course, on the biking trails, or enjoying an adventure with his family. 

jgordon@vvsaz.org

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.

 

Jose Garcia Udave

Maintenance

Jose has been working with VVS for seven years.He loves spending time with his family, hiking, visiting family in Mexico, and cooking Mexican food. What he loves most about working at VVS is that he is always learning and growing.

Joseph Espinosa

Dining Services

Joseph is from Silver City, New Mexico and a graduate of Silver High School, where he became a long distance runner and ten time State Champion in cross country and track. Joseph went on to Marshall University on Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. He has ran many distances in cross country and track and became an All American, excelling in marathon running, placing 18th in the Boston Marathon. After holding a variety of different jobs over the years, Joseph feels honored to work alongside the staff and students here at VVS.

Josh Jeffery

History Teacher

B.A. in History from Warner Pacific College
M.T.S. in Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University
M.A. in U.S. History, University of Tennessee

Josh is from Northwestern Oregon, where he was the Watershed Ranger Sergeant in charge of protecting the Bull Run Watershed Management Unit on the Mount Hood National Forest, the City of Portland’s water supply. While serving his community, Josh earned a Bachelor of Arts in History at Warner Pacific College in Portland. After graduation, Josh left public safety in order to pursue a Master of Theological Studies degree in Religious Studies, focused on American Religious History and Political Theology. Josh then completed a Master of Arts in History from the University of Tennessee. After earning his M.A., Josh taught U.S. History and Government at the Orme School of Arizona, where he was also the chair of the Humanities Department. Josh then served as an Assistant Professor of History/Dine Studies, and Assistant Professor of Law Enforcement at Navajo Technical University, where he also coordinated the Navajo Police Training Academy. Josh is a member of the H-Net Teaching and Learning Advisory Board, as well as an Advisory Board Member of H-Teach. Josh is formerly the editor of H-High-S, H-Net’s High School History and Social Studies Education Network.

Josh is passionate about incorporating Native American and indigenous history into the high school history curriculum, and loves working with young adults to help them pursue their dreams while educating them to be responsible, thoughtful, and ethical human beings. As a specialist in Religion, War, and Empire in American History, Josh regularly publishes in academic publications, speaks at history and religious studies conferences, and influences thought through publishing in popular publications. When not in the classroom or the archive, Josh loves hiking, camping, backpacking, and serving his local community.

jjeffery@vvsaz.org


Julie Pompos

Director of Health Services
B.S. in Nursing from the University of New York, Albany


With an international and domestic medical background encompassing over 30 years, Julie has expertise in highly-specialized surgical arenas to writing policy and procedure for the Department of Defense as a Naval Officer. In addition, she has held numerous positions of leadership in dynamic capacities from the Veteran's Administration to serving as a Clinical Educator in one of the nation's leading trauma hospitals. With a fundamental passion and commitment to bettering the health of each generation, Julie's decision to pursue nursing within educational institutions has become her foremost conviction to making a positive difference.
 
With over 12 years of her experience centralized within schools, she has fostered an intimate understanding of culturally diverse spectrums of adolescent care from urban high-risk to rural demographics. Collectively, these experiences have cultivated extensive knowledge in managing complex health issues as well as social and emotional challenges. Complimenting science with compassionate care, she holistically strives to ensure every student has the best opportunity to succeed and live a healthy life to the fullest.
 
Julie's decision to join Verde Valley School was influenced by a fervent appreciation for the community's philosophy as well as mission. As a mother herself, she has always sought to embrace diverse experiences for her children—academically and culturally from the nature of governance, a comprehensive educational framework for intercultural understanding, world citizenship, environmental stewardship, and service.
 
A global traveler, avid hiker, jazz enthusiast, golfer, and lover of nature, she can often be found enjoying the great outdoors or with music playing and a culinary pursuit underway. Julie resides in Sears as a dorm parent on campus. 

Kate Stanley

School Counselor and Wellness Coordinator

B.A. in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, Wheaton College MA
M.S. in Environmental Studies, University of Montana
M.Ed in School Counseling, Northern Arizona University (expected completion Fall 2022, currently supervised as an intern under Yamile Daher, LPC, License # 18671)
 
For over the last ten years, Kate has been a noteworthy leader in the field of outdoor education and mental health. Kate is an experienced educator, mental health professional and non-profit coordinator and greatly enjoys working with adolescents through experiential education settings. Driven by curiosity and respect, she takes pride in providing the ample educational opportunities to learn, grow and participate in a wonderful community. As a school counselor, she aims to support every student’s social, emotional and academic goals while helping foster the special community that makes VVS so unique.
 
In addition to Kate’s contributions at VVS, she also serves as board member for a local mental health non-profit and volunteers on a national suicide prevention hotline. During her free time, Kate enjoys exploring the natural world through gardening, outdoor recreation and wildlife watching. 

kstanley@vvsaz.org

Katie Feld

Dining Services

Arizona born and raised. I have lived in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson, and all over the Verde Valley. Something about the Verde Valley always draws me back and I love calling it home. I’m a mom of two, Liliana age 10 and Jackson age 5. I love reading, coffee, and snuggling with my dogs  Walter and Lilu. I have run multiple small businesses for years starting with furniture refinishing, a sublimation print shop, and now I run a successful online store selling rug making, tufting, and punch needle supplies. My other half in life, Christopher, homeschools our two children while running his small business selling butterflies and insects to artists.
 
I began working at VVS 4 years ago to get out of the house and take a break from being a stay at home mom. I adore working with my kitchen co-workers because they are some of the kindest people you could ever hope to know and love. 

Kaylyn Oates

Big History & Physical Science Faculty
Director of Experiential Education

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!

Lamar Lewis

Dining Services

Lamar was born in Louisiana and he is most recently from Los Angeles, CA. He moved to AZ about 19 years ago. What brings Lamar the most joy are reading and collecting comic books, playing video games, and watching movies. Lamar studied cinematography and journalism, and business in college and he played basketball, football, and tennis in high school. He is a self identified film junkie who loves James Bond and horror films.

Leigh Carter

Social & Cultural Anthropology
Native Programs Coordinator

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.  Before teaching at VVS, she 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.
 
To support Indigenous voices in education, Leigh coordinates the Native American scholarship program, the VVS Dream Concert, and the VVS Dream Run. She also created the school tradition known as Hopi Work Weekend.

Leigh is married to the author, Bill Carter, and they live on campus with their two daughters Josie and Poppy, two sleepy cats, and one energetic dog who herds the entire family at dinner time. Leigh enjoys trail running and designing clothing from recycled fabric. 


Lianne Lydum

IB Spanish
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.

Lindsay Wellman

Art Instructor

BFA Hamilton College

Lindsay has been teaching visual arts in independent and public schools for 14 years and loves sharing her creativity and enthusiasm with students of all ages. She obtained her BFA from Hamilton College, completing a major in studio arts with a concentration in ceramics and glass and participating as a dedicated member of the Adirondack Adventure program, leading annual canoeing, kayaking, and backpacking trips. After graduating, Lindsay stayed on at Hamilton College as an artist in residence for two years. There she developed her independent work in pottery and was represented in several local galleries and community art shows. Lindsay moved to Park City, Utah, in 2006, where she pursued her career in education through a variety of roles, including visual arts teacher, Outdoor Education Director, and Middle School Director. Lindsay joins VVS in Sedona from her most recent position at the Winter Sports School, a charter high school for elite athletes, serving as a teacher, curriculum consultant, and instructional coach for the Visual Art program over the last three years. Lindsay’s extensive background in outdoor leadership, team building, and experiential education have complimented her success at integrating creativity, collaboration, character development, and interdisciplinary content into her classroom. Lindsay’s art students have received national recognition, including representation in the National K-12 Student Ceramic Exhibition and Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. When not at work in the studio, Lindsay is inspired by exploring and photographing her adventures in the great outdoors and international travels.

lwellman@vvsaz.org

Liz Turner-Bolton

Director of College Counseling

B.A. in Psychology, Northwest Christian University, Magna Cum Laude, with emphasis in counseling, behavior strategies, sports performance, and athletic training.

Liz shares her wealth of experience as a high school college and career advisor. As an educator for the past 14 years, Liz has proven to be a strong communicator, a colleague who believes in a team-oriented collaborative environment, and a creative self-starter who works tirelessly to improve college access for all students. She provides crucial academic and emotional support to students of diverse backgrounds, socioeconomic conditions, identities, and cultures. Her responsibilities include preparing all VVS students and their families for the college admission process through academic preparation, advising, and assessment.  

Her professional training includes work with the Decision Education Foundation, board positions with local and regional scholarship foundations, equity in education training, Sexual Assault Support Services team, Soroptimist International, Trauma Informed Care training, as a success facilitator with at-risk and disabled youth, and writing a schoolwide College and Career Readiness curriculum.

In addition to building a career as guidance counselor, Liz has also built a 30-year career as a college, professional, and high school basketball coach, which began when she was a player at the University of Oregon. Toward the end of her playing career, she played and coached basketball professionally in Australia.  

Liz has also been chasing the stunning light of the Southwest through her camera lens for several years. As a native Oregonian, she has found a new love for adventures in Arizona slot canyons, 4WD roads, and mountain trails. As a curious life-long learner, the opportunity to immerse herself in an educational community that reflects her faith, values, and deep commitment to serving others was too good to pass up. With one year under her belt at VVS, Liz has loved her work as a college counselor, dorm parent, and coach. 

Liz and her husband Chris have 3 adult children: Hannah 25, Zemedkun 25 and Seth 22.  As a life-long Oregon Duck sports fan, Liz enjoys college football and basketball, international travel, hiking with her Bernedoodle, Stella, and nature photography. 

lbolton@vvsaz.org

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.

Maddie Smith

Assistant Director of Equestrian Program
Experiential Education Program Associate

B.S. Parks and Recreation Management, Northern Arizona University
M.S. Applied Geospatial Sciences, Northern Arizona University
 
I grew up right here on the VVS campus, as my parents worked here as administrators for many years. VVS is home, where my foundation for horseback riding began and where I fostered my love for the desert and the Southwest that has driven my academic and professional careers. My background is in outdoor and experiential education, and I've been fortunate to learn from and work for some amazing educational organizations over the last several years, leading backpacking trips and developing Citizen Science programs for youth river expeditions across the Southwest. I found that my recreational passion and my academic curiosity often aligned on water in the desert, and much of my research and past time is spent either playing on or studying desert rivers. Most recently, I worked for an organization where I led groups of volunteers across Arizona and Utah for conservation and research projects, and this passion for working with people and getting our hands dirty in the name of environmental stewardship is definitely a seed that VVS planted in me at a young age.
 
My horseback riding experiences have spanned from coast to coast across the United States, with a short stint in Quebec thrown in there, and I've had some incredible opportunities to train with a variety of professionals over the years. In high school I competed in IEA shows in Colorado on a team that ranked at a national level, and I have also competed nationally in A rated shows in the hunter/jumper disciplines. While my forte lies in show jumping and in the hunter/jumper arenas, many days I love nothing more than going for a trail ride on the incredible trails that our campus has to offer right out our back door. I have enjoyed getting to teach at different barns across the U.S., but I love being back where I learned my foundations in horsemanship, with some of the very horses who taught me much of what I know.
 
When I'm not at the barn or helping with our experiential education programming, you'll probably find me running on my favorite trails, playing with my two wonderful dogs, gearing up for a river trip, or planning some extended backcountry excursion that will usually be in the hottest part of the desert at any given time of year.

msmith@vvsaz.org

Mario Hermann

Dining Services

Mario is from East Germany and he is a dog lover. He and his wife, Anja, came to the United States in 2010. They have lived in their favorite state of Arizona for the past twelve years. Mario and Anja had their own limousine and charter service before coming to the USA and Mario has also worked as a specialized Harley Davidson motorcycle mechanic. Mario says that he and Anja make a great team working together in the kitchen. Mario has always worked in the service industry and he says what he likes most about being at Verde Valley School is the opportunity to work with and to serve the people here.

Martha Duarte

Housekeeping

Martha enjoys the staff and students at VVS. What brings her joy is spending time with her family taking long walks, going to the river, and traveling to Mexico. She loves cooking and she especially likes the tradition of making posole, tamales, and cookies with her family during the holidays.

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.

Mike Spielman

Farm Manager and Orchard Keeper

BA Creative Writing, University of Tampa

Mike teaches the Intro to Farming class, co-leads a Field Expedition, wrangles a garden work job crew, maintains the VVS Seed Library, and operates the VVS wood fired oven.  Before finding his calling as a tender of plants, he was a roofer in the South Bronx, a bread delivery man in New Hampshire, a kayak ranger in Alaska, a janitorial technician in Tucson, a Nigh watchman in South Lake Tahoe, and a backcountry ranger at Keet Seel.

mspielman@vvsaz.org

Natalie Plueger

Mathematics

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.

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.

Sean Fagan

Director of Enrollment

B.A. - Business Administration - Saint Michael's College, Burlington, VT

Sean has returned to VVS to serve as the Interim Director of Enrollment Management. He previously served as Director of Admissions at VVS from 2015-2019. Working in boarding/day schools domestically and abroad has given Sean a panoramic appreciation for the vitality of a global education. Introducing the VVS community and educational experience to prospective parents and students from around the world continues to challenge and enrich him. Sean and his wife Jean, who has also worked at VVS teaching art, travel often to visit their older son in Ireland and their younger son in the middle of New Mexico's Gila National Forest.

sfagan@vvsaz.org

T. McKinley

English

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 is a working artist and professional educator with 13 years experience in public and private schools. He taught IB Visual Arts in Green Bay, WI before relocating to Sedona in 2019. Now heading the Arts Department at VVS, Todd balances his time between developing and teaching rigorous IB Visual Arts courses, coaching mountain biking, and spending every possible moment with his adventurous family. He loves the wild spaces of Sedona and beyond, the rich history of pottery and filmmaking in the West, and the simple joy of a backyard barbecue surrounded by family.
 
He lives on campus with his wife Veronika, their three wild daughters, and their massive pup Bruce.
 

Tom Stanley

Maintenance

Tom has been a core member of the maintenance crew here at VVS. Tom's background in cabinetry makes his job in maintenance a great fit. Tom enjoys working on a variety of projects and using his creativity on a daily basis to serve others.

Vanessa Trujillo-Tenbrink

Admissions and Communications Manager

Vanessa spent much of her childhood soaking in the sunshine of California, Arizona and Hawaii, while spending most of her adult life exploring the four seasons of Wisconsin. She moved back to Arizona in the summer of 2019 and joined the VVS community shortly after. Her passion for communication grew over the 12 years of her work and education in midwifery, supporting hundreds of women, children and families during their journey into childbirth. Vanessa graduated in the spring of 2020 with a degree in Professional Communication and is currently furthering her communication education at Northern Arizona University. Her greatest love is her family, her 3 children and husband of 17 years. She loves ALL people, most food and anything that gets her outside hiking, running and biking.

vtrujillotenbrink@vvsaz.org

Zane Dickey

Associate Director of Admissions

Zane Dickey, M.ED, NBCT
Bachelor of Science in Marketing, Arizona State University 

Zane became enamored with world citizenship after studying a semester abroad in Granada, Spain while in University. He then decided to purchase a Eurail pass and backpack around Europe and Southwestern Asia. After returning to the USA he worked as a Vice President before deciding to join the Peace Corps working and learning alongside the Miskito people to help create the first international butterfly farm with a focus on ecotourism in Honduras. Zane then worked as a Director of IT for a nonprofit while studying International Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia before moving abroad to teach a plethora of subject areas such as the IB Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay, World Studies, Humanities, Spanish, HS Health, MYP PHE, and HS English. He was also a College Counselor, AP Coordinator, MUN advisor, Global Health Issues Advisor, Basketball Coach, and  helped arrange trips for students to UK, Singapore, Italy, China, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, and South Africa.

Zane has had the privilege to live, work, and travel internationally with his family for 16 years in Indonesia, Mali, Senegal, and Madagascar. Zane has always been attracted to Verde Valley School because of its guiding principles, open mindedness, close knit community, experiential education, and its unique IB+Dirt program. 

His favorite quote about VVS comes from a recent graduate who stated: “The people at VVS have the smartest minds and the kindest hearts.” Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a place with so much goodness? Zane is a National Board Certified Teacher and joins VVS with his wife Vanessa, and his two boys, Zee and Teo, and their champagne labrador retriever, Leo. 

Verde Valley School is an International Baccalaureate boarding and day high school for students in grades 9-12.