Upper School Faculty
Matt Barnes joined Community School as Upper School Head in 2015.
Prior to joining Community School, Matt served as principal of El Dorado High School in Placerville, California. During his 13 years at the school, he also worked as an English teacher and as Assistant Principal. Matt began his career as an English teacher at East Anchorage High School in Alaska.
In addition to his extensive classroom and administrative experience, Matt arrived at Community School with a strong appreciation for outdoor education and athletics: he guided and taught kayaking trips and classes in both Alaska and California and served as an alpine ski and snowboard coach for El Dorado High School.
Matt holds a BA in history from University of California, Berkeley, a MAT from Lewis & Clark College with secondary endorsements in language arts and social studies, and a MEd in educational leadership from the University of Alaska.
When Matt, an avid distance runner and cyclist, leaves campus for the day, you might catch him running or biking on local trails and spending time with his three kids: Jackson '22, Molly '25, and Elliot '28.
Rachel Aanestad ’94 joined Community School in 2013 as Assistant Director of Development and currently serves as the school librarian and also teaches Architecture in the Upper School.
Rachel holds a BA in architecture and a BA in theatre, both from University of Oregon.
Rachel’s decision to return to Community School as a faculty and staff member was a result of her love for the school community and the approach to education that guides learning here. “I appreciate the independent thought, genuine love of natural places, creativity, and uniqueness that are still foundations of this incredible place,” she says. In her teaching role, Rachel is inspired by her students’ love for learning and by her colleagues. “I am constantly amazed by the students capacity to create, absorb, and learn, and by the incredibly inspired and talented faculty with whom I work.”
When she’s not at school, Rachel loves to spend time with her two young daughters and enjoys hiking and doodling.
Anne Aganon joined Community School in 2008 and currently serves as the Creative Arts Department Chair; she also teaches Studio Art, Ceramics, Photography, and History of the Creative Arts, supervises the Upper School Yearbook, and is a member of the Creative Arts Academy faculty.
Anne holds a BA in political science from Wesleyan University and a BFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute.
In her teaching role at Community School, Anne finds inspiration in her students: "They often come up with unexpected projects and creative ideas, and I love to watch them grow and explore their own creativity," she says. "I also appreciate that the people I work with are professionals and care about what they do here, whether it is their teaching, the outdoor trips, the arts, or other aspects of school life."
When she's not teaching, Anne can often be found on horseback; she owns three horses and participates in endurance riding events.
Brad Hershey joined Community School in 2006 and is currently teaches Upper School music courses.
Brad studied music at the University of Puget Sound and received his Bachelor of Music in instrumental performance from the University of Idaho in 2002.
A professional musician, Brad played double bass for three seasons with the Washington-Idaho Symphony, followed by six seasons as a performer for the Boise Philharmonic for six seasons. Over the years, he has performed with numerous local musicians and ensembles including the Sun Valley Jazz Trio, Joe Fos, Paul Tillotson, Bossa Rhumba and Dewey, Pickette & Howe.
Brad has filled the role of music director for several musical productions in the Valley and also teaches at the Sun Valley Summer Symphony Workshops. He has directed the Wood River Orchestra since 2011.
Kevin Wade joined Community School in 2017 and currently teaches in Theatre in the Upper School and serves as Co-Director of the Creative Arts Academy (CAA), Upper School advisor, and Outdoor Program trip leader.
Kevin is a 2006 graduate of Community School, holds a BFA in Drama/Musical Theater from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, and earned a MFA in acting from the American Repertory Theatre/Moscow Art Theatre Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.
Kevin is an accomplished professional actor, director, and educator, having performed in off-Broadway, international, and regional/summer theatre productions, taught and mentored high school and college students, directed and produced a wide range of theatre productions, and created innovative programming and curriculum in a variety of educational settings.
Since 2009, Kevin has served as resident director at the Summer Theater Project for St. Thomas Playhouse; in 2014 he cofounded The Spot, an acting studio in Ketchum, offering classes and lessons in vocal performance, modern American drama, and Shakespeare.
Phil Huss joined Community School in 2000 and currently teaches a variety of literature and writing classes in the Upper School, including: Interpretations in Law and Literature, American Environmental Literature, Moral Philosophy and Literature, Writing Across the Curriculum, and Hemingway. He also teaches Fly Fishing as an elective course in the Outdoor Leadership Academy curriculum and coaches varsity tennis.
Phil holds a BA in English from Amherst College and a MA in English from Boston College.
Phil has served as Upper School Head, Department Head of English, Summer School Director, and currently holds the post of Upper School Teaching and Learning Coordinator. Inspired by "the high level of academic work students produce," Phil appreciates the opportunity to observe his students progress through their years at Community School and witness them flourish in college and in life. He also feels "the quality of teaching and the faculty's ability to lead in the classroom and the outdoors," set the school apart.
When Phil is not in the classroom, he can often be found with a fly rod in hand: "I am happiest standing in an eddy and fly fishing with a trout that is feeding ten feet above me," he says.
Phil and his wife, Chrissie, are parents to two Cutthroats: Nils '21 and Gretel '23.
Elliot Jacobs joined Community School in 2008 and currently teaches a variety of Upper School English courses, including: English Nine, Multicultural Literature, Revisions in Literature and Science, and Nature Writing.
He holds a BA from Bowdoin College, a MA in English from University of Montana, and a MEd from University of Montana.
Elliot appreciates his connections with students and colleagues at Community School and says he is inspired by "the opportunity to pair literature and writing with students' experiences in the Outdoor Program and to draw on our culture of inclusion to encourage students to take risks."
Elliot spends his time outside the classroom reading, writing, running, and sliding on dance floors and ski hills. He and his wife, Kate, are parents to one of our youngest Cutthroats, Cecily, a student in the Early Childhood Center.
Hannah Loeb joined Community School in 2017 and currently teaches Upper School English and contributes to performing arts programming in the Middle and Upper Schools.
Hannah holds a BA in English (with a concentration in creative writing – poetry) from Yale University and a MFA in creative writing from University of Iowa.
Prior to joining Community School, Hannah taught Upper School English at International School Nido De Aguilas in Santiago, Chile.
Gary Brendel joined Community School in 2009 and currently teaches Ancient and Modern World History, American History, Psychology, International Relations, and Thesis and Research Methodology. He also serves as an advisor for Rec Skiing, oversees the mining-history component of the Sawtooth Outdoor Trip, and is a Trip Leader for the ninth grade spring Community Service trip to Salt Lake City.
Gary holds a BA in religion and history from Union College, a MA in European history and education from University of Denver, and an EdD in counseling psychology from University of Denver.
Gary’s wide-ranging professional experience has included roles as an independent educational consultant, Senior Advisor for Human Resource Development, Academic Dean and Director of Affiliations for Southeast Asia College, and Professor of Education and Psychology at Walla Walla University.
In his work at Community School, Gary appreciates the support and feedback he receives from students and from parents. “Daily I am told that attitudes, values, and beliefs of students have been changed,” he says. And, he notes, he is inspired by former students who have gone on to become educators themselves, reflecting the impact of their own education. “Their choice may stem from times sitting in the hot springs at the edge of the Salmon River, reflecting on the historic transition that brought us to this place,” Gary notes, citing an example of “class time” Community School students benefit from. “They get history when they sit in it,” he says.
When he’s not teaching, Gary pursues his own passion for international education, serving as a consultant for international collegiate and graduate education at the community level and for adult literacy.
George Heinrichs joined Community School in 2015. George currently teaches ninth grade Ancient World History, Islamic Fundamentalism and Modern Middle Eastern Politics, and Persuasion and Rhetoric. He also serves as faculty advisor for the Model United Nations Club team, and is Assistant Head of residential life.
George earned a BA in religious studies from Middlebury College and is currently pursuing a MA in military history at Norwich University.
Prior to joining Community School, George was a Teaching Fellow at Phillips Academy Andover and taught at Andover Summer Session.
George appreciates the deep connections that develop between teachers and students at Community School. "The bond we create with the students through the many different opportunities we have to get to know them—in plays, on the field, in the outdoors, and most important, in the classroom—is unique," he says.
When George isn't teaching or working toward his master's degree, you might find him running or Nordic skiing on local trails.
J. Drennan Wesley joined Community School in 2015 and currently teaches Upper School World History, American Government, and History of the Holocaust, among others.
Drennan also co-coaches the Upper School track and field teams, is active in the Outdoor Program, and serves on the Outdoor Leadership Academy staff.
Drennan holds a BA in history from University of Michigan and a MA in the Art of Teaching from Pacific University.
Prior to his position at Community School, Drennan spent nine years teaching and coaching at Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove, Oregon and was an adjunct professor in Pacific University's Outdoor Leadership program.
Drennan says he feels most successful in the classroom when students bring themselves to question their own understanding of themes and events of the past that then allow them to develop more insight in to the world they live in today. "This motivates them to be more mindful, kind, and thoughtful world citizens," he says.
Community School's commitment to student-teacher relationships through small class sizes and the Outdoor Program were powerful inspirations for Drennan to find a home at Community School. He values and admires "the school's commitment to utilizing the outdoors to encourage students to push beyond comfort zones, find confidence in leading and working with others, and strive to be stewards of wild places," he says. "The transference of soft skills, relationships, and confidently facing challenges from the outdoors to the classroom is impressive."
When not in the classroom, Drennan's passions are his family and the outdoors. He and his wife, Heather, are parents to two Cutthroats: Mikayla '25 and Amarah '28. The family loves to "explore wild places, strive to serve others, and aspire to learn about the world around them," he says. "We feel more than blessed to be a part of the Community School family and love calling the Wood River Valley our home."
Johanna (Jo) Edwards joined the Upper School Mathematics Department in the fall of 2016, where she currently teaches Geometry and Pre-calculus.
A graduate of the University of Oxford, where she earned both a BA and a MA in mathematics, she most recently worked at Alton Convent School in Hampshire, U.K. as the Head of Mathematics for grades six through twelve. Prior to this position, Jo was Head of the Upper School Mathematics Department at Rowland Hall St. Mark's in Salt Lake City.
Jo initially came to the U.S. in 1996, when she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. Her desire to return to the mountains and the wide open spaces of the American West and to work at a school that incorporates a academic setting with a standard-setting Outdoor Program brought her to Community School.
When she's not teaching, Jo, an avid distance runner, spends time running local trails and competes in distance events.
A Sun Valley native and Community School alum, Connor Wade returned to the Valley and to Community School after graduating from Boston College with a BA in psychology.
Connor joined Community School as a summer term faculty member in 2009; he was accepted as a Teacher Training Academy intern and Residential Advisor in 2012, and he was hired as a full-time faculty member to teach Upper School mathematics and assist the Upper School boys' basketball team in August 2013.
Mike Wade joined Community School in 1983 and currently teaches Calculus, Statistics, Algebra 2, and Economics. He also serves as Director of Summer Operations, Theatre Manager, and Provost for Graduation.
Mike holds a BS from Carnegie Mellon University, where he double majored in computer science and English, and a MBA in finance and economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prior to joining Community School, Mike held positions as Chief Financial Officer and VP of Operations for two businesses in the Wood River Valley. Before he moved to the Valley, he served four-and-a-half years of active duty service in the U.S. Army: first as an Infantry Platoon Leader and then as a Military Intelligence Officer at the National Security Agency. He also served as a member of the Army Reserve Pentathlon Team and as a Reserve Attaché to Greece.
In his years at Community School, Mike has enjoyed the variety of his work and the many opportunities for connection: "This place is so alive with activity, and there are so many fun, interesting, and hard-working people who show up here everyday," he says. "Sharing all the experiences I have had, both in and out of the classroom, with a different group of remarkable kids every year and with a wise and caring group of colleagues has kept me motivated and inspired to work hard and give my best."
Mike and his wife, Carol, are parents to two Cutthroats: Connor '05, who currently teaches math and coaches basketball in the Upper School, and Kevin '06, who teaches Upper School Theatre at the school. When not at school, Mike loves to travel with Carol.
"The daily variety since I started in 1983 has made for an exciting, challenging, and rewarding work life, allowing me to truly be a 'life long learner.'"
Chauncy Gardner came to Community School in 2004. She currently teaches Upper School French and Upper School English; and serves as College Counselor, Senior Projects Coordinator, and coordinator of Community School’s Brazil Exchange.
Prior to joining Community School, Chauncy taught Upper School French and English at Drew School in San Francisco and college-level French at New York University
As a faculty member Chauncy appreciates Community School's strong academic program and a culture that fosters independence and innovation and the school's many unique programs. Chauncy says she is inspired each day by her "wonderful colleagues, inspiring students, and many new professional opportunities." I learn something new everyday.
Chauncy holds a BA in French and English from Colgate University and a MA in French literature from New York University. She is mother of two Cutthroats, Lily ’21 and Colin ’23, and she loves to travel, hike, and spend time in the mountains.
Pilar Lindahl joined Community School in 1988 and currently teaches Upper School Spanish, Film for Spanish Conversation, and Spanish Literature; she previously held the position of World Languages Department Chair for 26 years. Pilar also serves as an Outdoor Program trip leader in the Upper School throughout the year, leads the tenth grade trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, and chaperones the Model U.N. trip to Washington, D.C.
Pilar holds a BA in modern philology (English language) from Complutense University in Madrid, Spain and a MA in Hispanic studies (literature and culture) from University of California, Santa Barbara.
For Pilar, the opportunity to work with colleagues who share a commitment to their students and to teach students who are truly engaged in and appreciative of their learning is a highlight of her work at Community School. "So many of our students really appreciate the education they are receiving, and they are thankful every day. It's not at every school that students leave the classroom saying 'thank you!'"
In addition, Pilar notes that her long tenure at the school has allowed her to maintain relationships with past students over many years, which is very fulfilling. "Many of my former students have continued studying Spanish and have gone on to teach Spanish or use it professionally, which is very rewarding—several of my current colleagues are actually past students, which is wonderful," she says. And, she adds, "there's nothing better than having students return and share stories of their lives and introduce me to their families."
When she's not teaching, Pilar loves to cook and share meals with family and friends. She and her husband, Patrick, are parents to Cutthroat alum Zachary '13.
Calysta Phillips joined Community School in 2012 and currently teaches Upper School French and Spanish, serves as faculty sponsor of Spirit Club and Freestyle Fellowship Rap Club, and is a Zumba instructor and Outdoor Leadership Academy advisor.
Calysta holds a BA from Harvard University and an MA from Middlebury College.
Prior to her position at Community School, she taught French and Spanish and was an Outdoor Education Facilitator at Kent Denver School in Denver, Colorado. Calysta also served as Bilingual Community Outreach Coordinator for St. Luke's Health System here in the Wood River Valley.
Calysta appreciates the relationships she develops with students and with her colleagues at Community School through the Outdoor Program. "I love the outdoor trips and getting to have such meaningful life experiences with my students and colleagues. I have such deeper relationships with my colleagues from having spent time with them in the outdoors."
When she's not teaching, Calysta is happiest in the kitchen, preparing food for friends and family. She and her husband, Matt, are parents to two Cutthroats: Isabelle '26 and Sebastian '29.
Paul Hart joined Community School in 1996 and currently teaches Physics, AstroPhysics, Geology, Flight Physics, Planetary Astronomy, Wave Physics, and Senior Science Seminar; he also serves as director of the Rec Skiing program.
Paul holds a BA in geology from Western Washington University, a BS in recording engineering from the University of Washington, a MSc in Geology from the University of California Davis, and a PhD from the University of California San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Paul says the most inspiring aspect of his work at Community School is "working closely with young people, helping them discover the physical world that is our universe and the largely unseen and unappreciated rules that govern it.—the Laws of Physics." He also appreciates the opportunity to help students learn "how to think like a scientist—that is, critically, skeptically, and unafraid to apply logic and mathematics in pursuit of answers."
When Paul isn't teaching, he enjoys playing the oboe, something he has pursued for many years. "I am a classical music fanatic and originally entered college as an oboe performance major," he says. "I have performed in many orchestras, including for seven years as principal oboist of the La Jolla/UCSD Community-University orchestra. I still play, and I have performed in several area churches, as a member of the Wood River Community Orchestra, and even a few times with members of the Boise Philharmonic when they came to the Wood River Valley to perform."
Scott Runkel joined Community School in 1994 and currently teaches Chemistry and Environmental Science in the Upper School and serves as Science Department Chair, Sustainability Coordinator, leads the Green Team, and coaches the Ultimate Frisbee team.
Scott holds a BS in natural resources from Cornell University.
Prior to joining Community School, Scott taught middle and upper school science courses at Knox School on Long Island and at Mission Hill School and St. Sebastian's School, both in Boston.
At Community School, Scott appreciates the fact that learning happens everywhere. "I enjoy the value that the school community her places on authentic learning outside the bounds of a traditional classroom—through the Outdoor Program, of course, but also in a million other ways as students engage with learning through real-world projects and connections with the greater community and environment," he says. "The school supports this kind of learning and the students get excited by it."
Scott's life outside of school mirrors much of what he does on campus, which, he says, is a good thing: "I get to pursue so many of the things I love in my work, which is actually the reason I love teaching here—environmental work, fly fishing, ultimate frisbee, gardening and growing food, and all things to do with creating a sustainable way of life."
Scott and his wife, Naomi, are parents to two Community School gradates: Sarah '15 and Erik '12.
Hannes Thum graduated from Community School in 2003 and returned to the school in 2009 as a member of the science faculty. He currently teaches Introduction to Biology, Advanced Biology, Sensing Place (an interdisciplinary course he co-teaches with English faculty member Elliot Jacobs), Wildlife Ecology, This is Your Brain, Human Physiology, and Field Biology. He also serves as an OLA advisor.
Hannes holds a BA in environmental earth sciences from Dartmouth College and a MS in science education from Montana State University.
Prior to coming home to Community School to teach, Hannes taught for two years at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, where he was also a ski coach.
Hannes says his colleagues at Community School "inspire me every day," and he appreciates "the community, the support, and the relationships" here at school—as well as the incredible location. He has especially loved the opportunity to teach summer field courses, which allow him to take small classes into the field for a day or a week at a time, providing the group the opportunity to "learn, camp, hike, and collect data all side-by-side."
When he's not teaching, Hannes enjoys being outdoors and enjoying other activities that help him find balance in life.
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 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.
The bond we create with the students through the many different opportunities we have to get to know them—in plays, on the field, in the outdoors, and most important, in the classroom—is unique.George Heinrichs, Upper School History Faculty