Middle School Faculty

Meet the Middle School Faculty and Staff

At the Community School, Middle School students don’t have one teacher, they have six: two homeroom teachers, a world language teacher, and instructors in music, art, and physical education work together as a team to help each student reach his or her potential. Meet our team.

Middle School Head

Sam Herrick joined Community School after spending a dozen years working at schools in California. He was Dean of Student Life at the Live Oak School in San Francisco and served on the Board of Trustees for the East Bay School for Boys, helping to usher the school from its inception to a thriving and unique middle school dedicated to boys’ learning.

Prior to his work at Live Oak, Sam was Middle School Admission Director and Dean of Students at Prospect Sierra School, located in El Cerrito, California. During his four years there, Sam increased the enrollment of mission-supportive students, including the expansion of students through the collaboration with a local enrichment program. Sam also chaired the diversity committee, coached volleyball, and started an annual bike-to-school event. Sam spent his first years in California teaching Life Sciences and environmental stewardship at an experiential education program just outside Yosemite National Park.

Sam holds a BA from Syracuse University and a MA from Columbia University.

Sam believes in middle school students. He finds them capable, thoughtful, creative, energetic, and funny. He moved to the Wood River Valley with his wife Elizabeth, son, August, and daughter, Grayson. He loves to hike, bike, and ski with his heels free.

Sixth Grade Team

Toni Coleman

Toni Coleman joined Community School in 2010 and currently teaches sixth grade math and science, as a member of the Sixth Grade Team.

Prior to joining Community School, Toni taught fifth grade at Hailey Elementary for twelve years.

Toni holds a BA from Hampshire College and a MA from Columbia University Teachers College. Her son, Cole Miller, graduated form Community School in 2016.

Tizz Miller

Tizz Miller joined Community School in 2012 and currently teaches humanities and writing as a member of the Sixth Grade Team and coaches Middle School soccer

Tizz holds a BA in history from Middlebury College and MA degrees in education and history from Boise State University.

Prior to joining Community School, she taught English, history, and government at Wood River High School.

In her role at Community School, Tizz appreciates the close relationship that develop between faculty and students at the school, as well as the focus on experiential education and the Outdoor Program. Each day when she enters the classroom or takes kids into the field, Tizz says, she is "inspired by the energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity that sixth graders bring to school each day." She loves to see kids work through challenges and earn confidence, whether academic, athletic, or in the outdoors: "My favorite experiences are when students have breakthroughs after struggling with new skills: when a new soccer player dribbles around an opponent, a reluctant climber makes it to the top of the rope, or a writer has found the perfect word to make her poem 'just right,'" Tizz says.

When she's not teaching, Tizz can often be found on local trails—running, biking, or cross country skiing—and spending time outside with her family. Tizz and her husband, Scott, are parents to three Cutthroats: Owen '20, Calvin '23, and Wyatt '25.

Seventh Grade Team

Joel Vilinsky

Joel Vilinsky joined Community School in 2000, and currently teaches the humanities curriculum for seventh grade, directs the Middle School drama department, and teaches Creative Writing, Play Writing, Acting, Improvisation, and Beach Volleyball. He is a past chair of the English Department.

Joel holds a BS in psychology and a BA in English from the University of Albany, an MEd in secondary English education from Tufts University, and completed an Eastern Virginia Writing Fellowship at College of William and Mary.

In his work in the classroom and in the theatre, Joel appreciates his students' engagement. "They're always teaching me what I don't know, and pointing out what I didn't see," he says. He also loves to see the learning that happens when students are able to challenge themselves to step beyond their comfort zone. "Edging students from the nest, whether it be exploring new talents or taking academic risks during discussions and projects, is what's most inspiring every day," he notes.

An experienced actor, Joel appears regularly in productions for Hailey's Company of Fools theater and enjoys writing, playing volleyball, and spending time with his wife, Jeanne.

Annie DeAngelo

Annie DeAngelo initially joined Community School as a Teacher Training Academy intern in 2013 and currently teaches math and science as a member of the Seventh Grade Team and also leads a STREAM class. Annie also serves as an Outdoor Leadership Academy advisor and as the Middle School Sustainability Coordinator.

Annie holds a BA from Harvard University in government, with a minor in environmental science and public policy.

Prior to joining Community School, Annie spent a year as a Teaching Fellow for marine biology classes at Harvard, led trips for National Geographic and National Outdoor Leadership School, and interned with Idaho Conservation League.

In choosing to teach at Community School, Annie was drawn to the school's intentional focus on community and to the Outdoor Program and Outdoor Leadership Academy. In her daily work, Annie says she is "inspired by the people I spend my days with. The school is a collection of learners, teachers, outdoors people, family members, community members, athletes, artists, and environmentalists who make each day dynamic and meaningful."

Annie also notes the connections faculty and students build at Community School is unique. "Our school is characterized by meaningful and somewhat non-traditional relationships between students and faculty in which we learn from on another. Teaching is by no means a one-way, linear street."

When she's not teaching, Annie loves to backcountry ski and spend time in the outdoors.

Eighth Grade Team

Naomi Goldberg

Naomi Goldberg joined Community School in 2006 and currently teaches eighth grade humanities, serves as Middle School humanities department head, is faculty advisor to the Middle School yearbook, and coordinates all community service programming in Middle School.

Naomi holds a BA from Duke University in psychology and English and is pursuing a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from University of Scranton.

With prior experience as an outdoor trip leader, Naomi was initially attracted to Community School by the Outdoor Program. "I knew that any school that believed in the value of taking students into the backcountry three or four times a year would be in line with my philosophical beliefs about teaching and learning," she says. Since joining the school as a faculty member, she has consistently seen the value of outdoor experiences in building meaningful relationships that enhance learning and has also come to appreciate the team/theme model of teaching in the Middle School. The team approach, she notes, "allows us to integrate all subject areas the way that students will encounter them in the 'real world.'"

When she's not teaching, Naomi can be found skate skiing in the winter, mountain biking in the summer, or camping with friends and family. "I also love to read and share books with students, colleagues, and friends," she says.

Travis Vandenburgh

Travis Vandenburgh joined Community School in 2008 and currently teaches math and science as a member of the Eighth Grade Team. He also serves as Middle School soccer coach and as an Outdoor Leadership Academy Advisor.

Travis holds a BS in biological sciences and a MSSE from Montana State University. Prior to joining Community School, Travis taught middle school math and science at Jackson Hole Middle School in Jackson, Wyoming, the Barstow School in Kansas City, Missouri, and Riverstone International School in Boise, Idaho.

At Community School, Travis appreciates "the freedom that all community members have to express and act on their philosophies and goals surrounding their personal and professional lives."

When he's not teaching or leading Outdoor Program trips, Travis likes to spend time running local trails and digging in his garden. He and his wife, Cortney, are parents to two Cutthroats: Anika '23 and Torin '27.

Language

Alex Nicoll

Alex Nicoll joined Community School in 2013 and currently teaches Middle School Spanish an serves as a member of the Sixth Grade Team, Middle School soccer coach, and Upper School Track and Field Coach.

Alex holds a BA in modern foreign languages with a double concentration in Russian and Spanish from James Madison University.

Prior to joining Community School, Alex served as Middle School Head at Colegio Madison, in Torreón, Mexico; before assuming that role, he taught Elementary Language Arts, Middle School Humanities and French at the same school.

Alex says he truly appreciates the students he works with each day at Community School. "They are some of the most earnest, enthusiastic, and genuine group of kids that I have ever had the pleasure of working with," he says. "They are always up for a challenge and for pushing themselves and me out of our respective comfort zones, and I believe this is where some of the best and most meaningful learning occurs."

When Alex isn't teaching, he might be found indulging his love for soccer. "I enjoy everything to do with the beautiful game," he says, noting, "I'm still waiting for Idaho to get its own professional soccer team!"

Nancy Parsons-Brown

Nancy Parsons-Brown initially taught French at Community School from 1983-85; she returned to Community School in 1994 as a part-time faculty member and eventually took on a full-time position. Nancy currently teaches Middle School French and serves as Co-Director of Residential Life with her husband, David Brown.

Nancy holds a BA from University of Colorado in French literature and a MA in teaching from Graceland University.

In her long tenure at Community School, Nancy has held many roles, including: Middle School soccer coach, girls' varsity volleyball coach, Elementary School art and drama teacher, Middle School musical choreographer, and Teacher Training Academy Coordinator.

Throughout her time at the school, Nancy has been inspired by the spirit of community that characterizes Community School. "The school is a big family," she says. "My colleagues are phenomenal, and the students are engaged, personable, and often hilarious."

When Nancy is not teaching or overseeing dorm life, she enjoys running, skiing, hiking, playing hockey, reading and spending time with her family. She and David are parents to three Cutthroat alums: Finn ’04, Connor ’08, and Nellie ’10.

Art

Cara Frost joined Community School in 2011 and currently teaches kindergarten through eighth grade art, serves as a seventh grade advisor, leads the Art Club, and coaches Middle School volleyball.

Cara attended San Jose State on a Division 1 volleyball scholarship and went on to earn a BFA in art and art education at the University of Arizona.

Prior to joining Community School, Cara taught sixth through twelfth grade in Tucson, Arizona, where she also coached varsity volleyball.

Cara appreciates "the freedom to question the process and the trust encouraged by the administration, the faculty, and the students" at Community School, and, she says, "I love to watch the students and their passions grow. Mark making, storytelling, imagination, and innovation are all expressed within their creations, in their voice. It is beyond powerful."

When Cara is not teaching, she finds inspiration for her own art in the outdoors, her dogs, and books.

Physical Education

Erika Connelly joined Community School in 2008 and currently teaches Middle School P.E. and Middle School Enhancement and serves as Upper School girls' soccer coach, Middle School girls' basketball coach, and as an Outdoor Leadership Academy advisor.

Erika is a 2003 graduate of Community School and holds a BSBA in business management and psychology from University of Denver.

Erika appreciates the opportunity her varied roles provide to engage with students across many years of growth and development. "I work with students from sixth grade through to their graduation day, which is really fulfilling," she says. Also inspiring, she notes, are her fellow faculty members: "I get to work with the most amazing group of colleagues. I love working with them everyday."

When she's not on campus, you might find Erika kayaking and rafting on local rivers in the summer or backcountry skiing in the winter.

Music

Megan Mahoney joined Community School in 2017 and currently teaches Middle School music and Elementary School performing arts.

She holds a BA in theatre management from University of Massachusetts and a training certificate in musical theatre from CAP21 Conservatory in New York City.

A professional singer and actress, before joining Community School, Megan appeared in local, regional, and national theatre productions was involved, as a performer, choreographer, director, and teacher, in Wood River Valley productions through The Spot, St. Thomas Playhouse, and NexStage Theatre.


Megan is thrilled to be teaching at Community School. "In all of my years spent in New York City, I’d most look forward to summer, when I would work with kids in theatre. Passing on my love of theatre and music to a younger generation is the most inspiring work I could possibly do," she says. "I had some incredible mentors as a young actress that shaped me into the person I am today and I hope to be that to someone."

In her free time, Megan loves spending time with her dogs, reading, cooking, and being outside in the mountains.

Life Skills

Nira Campbell joined Community School in 2012 and serves as the kindergarten through twelfth grade Counselor and coordinates the Life Skills and Wellness program at the school.

She holds a BA from Western Washington University in secondary education/English and a MEd from Lewis and Clark College in school counseling.

Prior to joining Community School, Nira worked as a school counselor in Oregon; before that, she spent four years teaching language arts/English at schools in Washington and California.

In her work at Community School, Nira is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside inspiring faculty and is honored by the trust of our community. "I appreciate students, staff, and parents trusting me with vulnerable information about aspects of themselves, so that I can better understand and support them in uncovering their own internal and external resources while in the face of sometimes extraordinary challenges," she says.

When she's not at school, Nira enjoys paddle boarding, yoga, and running—or, as she says, "trotting—I wouldn't call myself a runner yet!"

Technology

Meghan Gunn

Meghan Gunn joined Community School in 2015 and currently teaches Educational Technology: Intro to Computer Science, Programming, Electronics, Robotics, 3D Printing, and Digital Citizenship and hosts Tech Time for kindergarten through fifth graders; she also leads the Makers’ Lab Club and coaches Middle School soccer.

Meghan holds a BA in computer science from University of San Diego.

Prior to joining Community School, Meghan held roles as a Special Education Paraprofessional and as a math and SAT tutor.

In her daily interaction with Community School students, Megan loves to see "the excitement and enthusiasm they have to pursue their individual passions, with the support and encouragement from faculty."

She also values the commitment she observes among students who find challenge in their academic work. "Especially with Math and Computer Science, intellectual struggle is a pretty predictable and common part of the learning process," she notes. "I really appreciate students who decide to persist through the challenge and become more confident learners."

When Meghan is not in the classroom, she enjoys "taking in all the natural beauty that the Sun Valley and surrounding areas have to offer." She and her husband, Justin, especially enjoy snowboarding and hiking on Baldy and paddling and camping in the Sawtooths.

Gabby Rafford

Gabby Rafford joined Community School in 2008 as a fifth grade teacher and currently serves as Director of Educational Technology.

She holds a BS in business administration and a MEd, both from University of New Hampshire.

Prior to joining Community School, Gabby worked in nonprofit and government contracting positions in Washington D.C. and taught elementary grades at schools in Colorado, Vermont, and Maine. She also served as Director of the Eighth Grade Winter Term and taught math at Gould Academy.

Gabby was drawn to Community School's commitment to supporting students' interests, as well as to the Outdoor Program, the school's beautiful mountain setting, and the faculty and staff.

"The students keep me smiling and challenge me to think outside the box every day," Gabby says. "They are a very cool group of kids with diverse interests and a passion to learn something new constantly. They are definitely why I am here and why I enjoy working here so much."

When she's not on campus, Gabby loves to ski, hike, camp, and mountain bike. In the summer, she likes to indulge her love for reading: "I am an avid reader—in the summer I can read three books in one week!" Gabby and her husband, Kyle, are parents to two Cutthroats: Addison '19 and Toby '21.

Learning Specialist

Jill Perkins, Learning Specialist Department Director

Jill Perkins joined Community School in 1989 and currently serves as Learning Specialist Department Director.

Jill holds a BS in education from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.

Prior to her current position at Community School, Jill taught in schools in Wisconsin for five years.

At Community School, Jill finds inspiration in the students and in her colleagues. "The students inspire me every day with their perseverance through a challenging curriculum, their spontaneity, and their joy," she says, "and my colleagues inspire me to seek continued growth as an educator—and make me laugh when a laugh is needed."

For Jill, time away from school is dedicated to her family. "My biggest passion is to love life with my husband, Don, and my daughter, Hope. They are my world beyond school, and time with them means everything to me," she says. She also enjoys listening to audio books, hiking local trails with her husband and her shelter dog, Cosmos, and spending time in her garden.

Jill and Don's daughter, Hope, is a 2016 graduate of Community School.

The Middle School in particular is designed around creating learning opportunities that are student-led, inquiry- and problem-based, and that are therefore relevant to students' lives and exciting to dive into. I love the team/theme model that we use in the Middle School, as it allows us to integrate all subject areas the way that students will encounter them in the "real world."

Naomi Goldberg, Eighth Grade Team