Early Childhood Center Faculty
Jennifer earned a BS in Family and Human Services, Education from the University of Oregon where she was recognized as a Diversity Building Scholar. She also holds a MS in Early Intervention, Early Childhood and Oregon Licensure, Early Intervention/Early Childhood from University of Oregon where she studied early childhood philosophies including Reggio Emelia.
“I’m an advocate for child development and the path each individual child takes to grow in all areas," says Jennifer. "Working with young children has always been a passion of mine since I was young.” In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, being outside, hiking, camping, and reading. Jennifer and her husband have two young children.
Kindra Acker first joined Sun Valley Community School in 2017 as the school’s After-Care Coordinator, a role she continues to serve in addition to her role in the ECC 1 classroom.
Kindra has a passion for fostering the educational, social, and emotional development of youth combined with an exceptional work ethic. Says Kindra, "I strive to provide a safe, encouraging, and engaging space for students to explore, be creative, and discover their own capabilities." She holds a BS in Human Development from the University of California, Davis.
When not working, she enjoys crocheting, snowboarding, and camping and hiking with her husband and their 2 dogs.
Lisa Dirksmeier joined Sun Valley Community School in 2010.
Lisa has more than a decade of experience working with young children, nurturing and challenging both their minds and hearts. She has a passion for capturing the joy and wonder of early childhood discovery and deeply believes that early childhood is a unique and meaningful stage of life. She is committed to supporting the creative capacity of children and engaging them in rich experiences driven by their individual interests. Throughout the learning process she puts the utmost emphasis on ensuring positive, authentic relationships with each of her students.
Lisa and her husband, Brian, are parents to two Cutthroats: Huck '21 and Ridge '21. As a family, they enjoy many recreational activities together, especially weekend outings, with their pop-up camper and red canoe in tow.
Suzanne McCarthy, a Boston native, has been teaching pre-school for 20 years and has been an assistant in the ECC since 2010.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to work in early childhood education and to have children in my life on a daily basis," Suzanne says. "I learn from them every day!”
Prior to teaching at Sun Valley Community School, Suzanne co-operated a multicultural non-profit preschool in Boulder, Colorado for ten years, was a site observer for the Boulder Valley School District, and helped to launch a bilingual pre-school within University Hill Elementary School in Boulder.
Suzanne and her partner, Jimmy, live in Ketchum with their dog, Abby. In her spare time, Suzanne loves to hike, bike, swim, travel, and watch Jimmy perform acoustic guitar in the Wood River Valley.
Katharine Weekes is a teacher in the ECC and the ECC Department Chair. She joined Sun Valley Community School in 1994, drawn to the school's culture and traditions, the dynamic Outdoor Program, and the Reggio-inspired early childhood center. Katharine is continually inspired in her role by students who feel secure enough to take risks and challenge themselves. "I love watching students evolve and come into their own," she says. "To see a tentative child, blossom and find their voice, is so powerful."
In the ECC, Katharine says, "We foster close relationships with our families and create a classroom environment that feels safe and nurturing, thus allowing our students push themselves out of their comfort zone, to grow and learn."
When she's not teaching, Katharine loves to ski with her family (husband Jack, Sun Valley Community School class of '85, son John '20, and daughter Lucy '25 and hike with the family's black lab, Minnow.
Charlie Lewallen joined the ECC 3 classroom in August 2019. Charlie is not new to Sun Valley Community School, having worked in After-Care and the ECC from 2013-2016. During the 2018-19 school year, Charlie served as a substitute art teacher and assistant in the ECC.
She holds an Art Associates Degree from the College of Southern Idaho (Twin Falls) and a BFA in Art Education K-12 from Boise State University.
Joshua Stone, an accomplished professional composer, conductor, and musician, joined Sun Valley Community School in 2019. In his role, Joshua leads our Elementary School’s music program.
Joshua has composed music for film and television, and his clients have included CBS News, The Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian, The Guggenheim, ABC Television, 20th Century Fox, The Discovery Channel, MTV, and more. He is also an experienced music educator having taught at a number of notable elementary, middle, secondary, and collegiate-level schools.
Throughout his career as an educator, Joshua has found ways to engage and inspire students through unique courses and programming. He taught “History of Music on Earth,” an interactive journey through time for the New York Public schools and a created a city-wide interdisciplinary song project in Syracuse, New York. This project involved schools, libraries, churches, and civic organizations and rallied them behind a collective musical experiment.
Elementary School Head Janet Salvoni says, “We are thrilled to have a musician and teacher as accomplished as Joshua join our team. With his experience, excitement, and passion our Elementary music program will thrive and, most importantly, so will our students.”
Megan Mahoney joined Sun Valley 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.
Riley Mott is an ECC Atelierista in the primary room. A former fifth-grade teacher at Hailey Elementary School, Riley brings both experience and a passion for teaching to the classroom. Riley knows Sun Valley Community School well: in addition to attending Community School through eighth grade, she served as a regular substitute teacher and after care program specialist before she took on her current role in the ECC. Riley holds a BA in sociology and elementary education from Whitman College. She and her husband, Tim, have two sons, both students at the school: Jasper '20 and Koa '23.
Hannes Thum graduated from Sun Valley Community School in 2003 and returned to the school in 2009 as a member of the Upper School science faculty. Before joining the Elementary School faculty in 2019, Hannes taught 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.
He was known in the Upper School for his curiosity, love of science, his commitment to his students, and his approachable nature. These are traits that will continue to serve his students well. Janet Salvoni, Elementary School Head, says, “I am excited to work with Hannes as a member of our ES faculty. The entire hiring committee was deeply impressed during the search process, not only by Hannes’s vast science knowledge, but also by his commitment to always putting children first, learning from them, and helping them to develop a sense of self.” While it’s difficult to leave behind what he loves about teaching Upper Schoolers, Hannes says he is looking forward to exploring science and education through this new lens within the school.
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 the Cutthroat campus to teach, Hannes taught for two years at Colorado Rocky Mountain School, where he was also a ski coach.
Hannes says his colleagues at Sun Valley 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.
The ECC is a place where we foster trusting partnerships with our families. If you ask our parents, they will tell you that we truly know their children. Our program offers an unique environment where children are inspired to play and explore. When kids feel nurtured, they will take risks, learn and grow. Whether building with recycled materials, writing a collaborative class book, or snowshoeing around our campus, our students are engaged and intrinsically motivated. Most importantly, we like to have fun!
Katharine Weekes, ECC 3 Class Faculty and Current Parent