Elementary School Faculty

A teacher and student reading together in a classroom

Meet the Elementary School Faculty and Staff

Elementary School Head

Janet Salvoni joined Sun Valley Community School in 2005 and was appointed Elementary School Head in 2011. Janet has extensive experience in the classroom, having taught pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades; she has also served as a Learning Specialist and as Early Childhood Coordinator. Currently, in addition to her role as Elementary School Head, she serves as Teacher Training Academy (TTA) Coordinator and Diversity and Inclusivity Committee Co-Chair.


Janet holds a BA in elementary education from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and an MA in education from Cambridge College.

In her daily work with students, parents, and colleagues at the school, Janet is continually inspired by the passion of the school's faculty. "They believe 100 percent in the work they are doing, both with students and behind the scenes," she says.

Janet and her husband, Frank, are parents of two Cutthroats: Tyler '23 and Cooper '27. When she's not at school or spending time with her family, Janet spends time on the ice pursuing her passion for ice hockey.

Kindergarten

Suzanne Buchanan joined Sun Valley Community School in 2009 as an Early Childhood Center teacher and has been teaching kindergarten since 2015. Prior to arriving in the Wood River Valley, Suzanne taught pre-school and kindergarten in schools in Arizona, Virginia, and Texas.

Suzanne earned a BS in elementary education from Gonzaga University and, since joining Community School, has attended Reggio Emilia-inspired workshops through the Opal School in Portland, Oregon, the Journey School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Lesley University in Boston.

Suzanne loves the educational philosophy that guides the school's educational philosophy and by the school's faculty: "We honor and empower the whole child," Suzanne says. "I am constantly inspired by everyone who works here—the knowledge, experiences, and passions of our faculty are amazing; all of us truly love teaching and have meaningful relationships with our students."

Suzanne and her husband, Patrick, have three children, all of whom are Cutthroats: Braden '22, Elise '24, and Will '26. When she's not teaching, Suzanne loves to spend time family biking, hiking, and digging in the garden.

Teaching Assistant: Cindy Hulbert

Cindy Hulbert joined Sun Valley Community School in 1988 and currently serves as a teaching assistant in kindergarten and as a learning specialist assistant specializing in reading intervention.

In her many years at the school, Cindy has served as teaching assistant across grade levels. She is continually inspired by the school's philosophy of self-discovery teaching and by the opportunity to instill in students a life-long love of learning.

"At the end of the year of teaching reading intervention, the most rewarding experience I have had is when my students leave my classroom with the love of reading and confidence to be a life-long reader," she says.

When Cindy is not teaching, she enjoys all types of outdoor recreation and spending time in her garden.

Grade 1

Hannah Young joined Sun Valley Community School in 2010 and currently teaches first grade.

Hannah earned a BA at New York University and a MAT at Lewis and Clark College.

Drawn to the progressive, hands-on learning community and standard-setting outdoor program at the school, Hannah appreciates the sense of community and commitment to learning she encounters every day as a teacher here and loves to share time outdoors with her class. "My love and respect for the outdoors is evident any time I venture outside with my students, and my wish is for them is to push beyond their comfort zone and try new things, as that's when meaningful learning often takes place."

When Hannah isn't teaching—in her classroom or in the outdoors—she loves to adventure with her husband, Sam, a Cutthroat alum, and her daughter, Theo, a student in the ECC.

Teaching Assistant: Dawn Webber

Dawn Webber joined Sun Valley Community School in 2010 and is currently a teaching assistant in first grade.

Dawn holds a BA from University of Arizona and a MEd from Ohio State University.

Dawn appreciates the close student-teacher relationships that develop at the school, as well as the outdoor program, traditions, and family atmosphere that are hallmarks of the school. She is inspired by her students every day: "Hearing the students’ perspectives, questions, and ideas on a daily basis is a privilege—and, of course, their sense of humor is priceless," she says. "Having a fantastic group of colleagues is quite a perk as well."

Dawn and her husband, Brian, are parents to Keegan '18.

Grade 2

Tricia St. George is a Sun Valley Community School graduate (Class of 1995) and returned in 2012 to teach second grade after having spent over ten years teaching a variety of elementary grade levels.

She holds a BA in communications from Western Washington University and a MA from City University in Seattle.

Tricia loves spending her days with seven and eight-year-old people. "Second graders are amazing and very capable," she says. "One of the aspects of our Elementary School program I love is that from early on children learn to be assertive and problem solve on their own; we are simply here as their guides. From this they have a strong sense of self and are confident little people."

As a graduate of the school, Tricia also appreciates the opportunity to be back on campus, paying the gift of her own education forward and watching her own children benefit from all the school offers: "When I was a student here, I had teachers who encouraged me, challenged me, and believed in me. Now, as a parent, I get to watch my own children build similar relationships with their teachers. It's these relationships that really make Sun Valley Community School such a special place."

When Tricia is not at school, you will find her with her family. She and her husband, Tony, are parents to two Cutthroats: Charlie '26 and Stella '29.

 

Grade 3

Gretchen Thoreen joined Sun Valley Community School in 2007 as kindergarten teacher and currently teaches third grade.

She holds a BA in communications from Washington State University, a Teaching Certificate from Central Washington University, and a MS in education with a specialty in Elementary Reading and Literacy from Walden University.

For Gretchen, observing transformational moments in a child's educational journey—and specifically in their growth as writers— is continually inspiring: "Each year at some point, there comes a point when kids feel that excitement and passion to write—when they truly realize they are authors. It is very special to watch kids passionately feel what they have learned and worked so hard to do."

When Gretchen steps away from school, she can be found on the hiking or skiing trails with her two dogs and spending time with friends.

Heather Cunningham joined Sun Valley Community School in 2018 and is currently a teaching assistant for 3rd grade. 

She holds a BA in Sociology from The University of Arizona. Originally from North County San Diego, she grew up as a young girl here in the valley enjoying summer and winter outdoor activities with her family.  She believes the Wood River Valley to be a unique place in the world with great resources that is excellent for raising children.

Heather truly appreciates the capacity for growth of young minds and their willingness to learn.  At this age, they are like little sponges, they just want to absorb and experience all they can at this stage in their young lives.  She feels blessed to be a part of such an amazing school community who appreciates both the importance of classroom based and outdoor education.    

When Heather is away from school, she loves to spend time with her family outdoors; snow or water skiing, boating and hiking.  She and her husband have two children, ages of 9 and 12.

 

Grade 4

Trent Herbst joined Sun Valley Community School in 2006 after teaching elementary grades in Wisconsin and at international schools in Argentina, Dominican Republic, Germany, and Switzerland.

Trent holds a BS in Elementary Education from the University of Wisconsin.

Trent’s hobbies and interests take him around the country and around the world when he's not teaching. He and his family—wife Candida and daughters Kali and Kire— regularly embark on adventures that see them climbing, camping, cycling (Trent once cycled completely across the U.S. in search of the best donut), and skiing.

Perhaps his most unique passion: Trent has competed eight times in the Iditarod sled dog race.

Teaching Assistant: Stacey Ward

Stacey Ward joined Sun Valley Community School in 1994. She currently teaches elementary P.E. and is a teaching assistant in fourth grade.

Stacey holds a BS in education from University of Wyoming.

Stacey was drawn to the school by the wide variety of programming the school offers students. She is inspired every day by the children she teaches, and says, "I strive to create a fun, inclusive, and safe environment for all my students."

When Stacey isn't teaching, you can find her on the ski hill or pursuing other outdoor adventures.

Stacey has two children: Taylor, who graduated from Sun Valley Community School in 2008, and Latner.

 

Grade 5

Dana Covington joined Sun Valley Community School as fifth grade teacher in 2016. Prior to her current role, Dana taught fourth and fifth grades at schools in Boulder, Colorado and taught Spanish, fourth grade, and eighth grade math and science at Community School between 2000-07.

She received her BA in communications and business from University of California, Los Angeles and a MEd from University of Colorado, Boulder.

Dana loves teaching at the school, where she has the opportunity to connect deeply with her students. "I thoroughly enjoy finding what makes a child tick and making the school experience as meaningful as possible for each student," she says.

When she's not teaching, Dana can be found embracing her love for her family and for the outdoors. She and her husband, Eric, and son, Caleb, make the most of the outdoor opportunities throughout the Valley—hiking, biking, and exploring.

Teaching Assistant: Elle Lucas

Teaching Assistant Elle Lucas originally joined Sun Valley Community School as a Teacher Training Academy (TTA) intern for the 2016-17 school year. As a teaching intern, Elle taught Upper and Middle School Spanish under the guidance of faculty members Calysta Phillips and Pilar Lindahl and former Middle School Spanish teacher Alex Nicoll. She also served as an advisor to the Upper School Cutthroat Underground newspaper club. Elle most recently worked as the 7th grade assistant teacher with team teachers Annie DiAngelo and Joel Vilinsky for the 2017-18 school year, where she focused her teaching efforts on Enhancement.

Elle is a 2016 graduate of St. Lawrence University and earned her BA in Spanish with minors in English and theater. Through her help with the Upper School plays and the Middle School musical, Elle is able to translate her passion for theater to students.  

Language

Nicole Kearney joined Sun Valley Community School in 2013 and currently teaches Spanish in the Elementary School.

Nicole earned BA degrees in Spanish and Comparative Literature from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a MEd in Bilingual Education from Boise State University.

Prior to joining the school, Nicole was a dual immersion teacher in first and second grades for Blaine County School District and worked as an ESL teacher for College of Southern Idaho. She also spent a year teaching at a primary school in Pisco Elqui, Chile.

Nicole says that she is "surrounded by an amazing group of knowledgeable educators and inquisitive students at Sun Valley Community School," and adds, "the educational philosophies, sense of community, and the fact that my own children are students at the school all enhance my experiences at the school."

When she’s not teaching, Nicole loves to spend time with her family, travel, read, and recreate in the outdoors.

Science

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.

Music

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.”

Art

Cara Frost joined Sun Valley 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 the Cutthroat faculty, 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 Sun Valley 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, books, and her daughter Tova.

Performing Arts

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 the school's faculty, 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.

Physical Education

Stacey Ward joined Sun Valley Community School in 1994. She currently teaches elementary P.E. and is a teaching assistant in fourth grade.

Stacey holds a BS in education from University of Wyoming.

Stacey was drawn to the school by the wide variety of programming the school offers students. She is inspired every day by the children she teaches. "I strive to create a fun, inclusive, and safe environment for all my students every day," Stacey says.

When she isn't teaching, you can find Stacey on the ski hill or pursuing other outdoor adventures. Stacey has two children: Taylor, who graduated from Sun Valley Community School in 2008, and Latner.

Learning Specialists

Reading Intervention Specialist: Cindy Hulbert

Cindy Hulbert joined Sun Valley Community School in 1988 and currently serves as a teaching assistant in kindergarten and as a learning specialist assistant specializing in reading intervention.

In her many years at the school, Cindy has served as teaching assistant across grade levels. She is continually inspired by the school's philosophy of self-discovery teaching and by the opportunity to instill in students a life-long love of learning.

"At the end of the year of teaching reading intervention, the most rewarding experience I have had is when my students leave my classroom with the love of reading and confidence to be a life-long reader," she says.

When Cindy is not teaching, she enjoys all types of outdoor recreation, spending time with here family, and gardening.

Jill Perkins, Learning Specialist Department Director

Jill Perkins joined Sun Valley 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 the school, Jill taught in schools in Wisconsin for five years.

At Sun Valley 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 the school.

Sarah Thompson, Learning Specialist

Sarah Thompson joined Sun Valley Community School in the winter of 2017 and serves as a learning specialist in the Elementary School.

Prior to joining the school's faculty, Sarah worked as a reading interventionist for the Carroll School in Waltham, Massachusetts. Before that, she taught fifth grade at Ross Elementary School in Ross, California and established her own private tutoring business for students in grades two through eight, including a summer writing camp.

Sarah holds a BA, summa cum laude, in elementary education and Spanish from Boston College Lynch School of Education and an EdM in language and literacy from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She is also an Orton-Gillingham associate. 

Of her work as a learning specialist, Sarah says, "I love being able to work with students one-on-one. It provides an amazing opportunity to connect on a more personal level and to help students develop a greater awareness of their learning strengths. Professionally, I appreciate being in a field that is constantly innovating; the brain research in this field is exploding and finding ways to put that research into practice with children is fascinating."

Sarah and her husband, Aaron, have three sons, two of whom attend Sun Valley Community School: Avery (K), James (age 2), and Brooks (age 1).

 

Heather Town, Learning Specialist

Heather Town transitioned to Elementary School Learning Specialist in the fall of 2018. She also serves as the school's Greenhouse Coordinator.

Heather has been a member of the Elementary School faculty since 2004, most recently serving as a classroom assistant. Prior, she also served as a substitute teacher for long-term absences.

As a certified Phono-Graphix instructor, Heather was instrumental in the implementation of the school’s phonics program four years ago. Her skill set, calm demeanor, magnetism, and creative approach to learning have proven invaluable to her students in the classroom and will transition to her role as a learning specialist. Her work has spanned grades Kindergarten through fifth.

Heather earned her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Western Governors University and is currently working toward her degree in Special Education. 

Technology

Sean McCollum, an experienced educator with an MS in Middle Childhood Special Education from Brooklyn College - City University of New York, joined our team as our Innovation + Technology teacher in 2019.

Sean, a former software developer, has been teaching at Brooklyn’s acclaimed Math and Science Exploratory School for nine years. He is a New York City Teaching Fellow who has taken every opportunity to incorporate innovation and technology into his classes. His commitment to extracurriculars is strong, too. Sean led his school’s Lego Robotics team to a 4th place finish in the NYC finals where the competition is fierce. He also launched and ran an after-school coding program for students called Think • Code • Build, which focuses on critical thinking, coding, and hands-on “fun stuff”—robots and drones and more.
 

Gabby Rafford, Director of Technology, says, “Sean’s experience and passion will be an integral part of moving our technology curriculum forward. Sean’s references from Brooklyn’s Math and Science Exploratory School tout him as a favorite colleague and teacher. According to his former supervisor, the students at his school begged for Sean to go on all field trips with them. He is going to fit right in here.”

 

Students swinging on a swing-set and playing in a playground

 

Sun Valley Community School's philosophy resonates with my teaching philosophy and my own personal philosophy. When I first visited the school, I knew immediately that this place was different. It is a special place for students and families—a place where the whole child is honored and empowered.

 

Suzanne Buchanan, Kindergarten Faculty