Middle School Faculty
- Middle School Head
- Sixth Grade Team
- Seventh Grade Team
- Eighth Grade Team
- Physical Education
- Life Skills
- Learning Specialist
- Science & Enhancement
Sam Herrick joined Sun Valley 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.
Tom Downey joined our Middle School faculty in August, 2019 as a 6th Grade STEM teacher. A beloved educator in the Wood River Valley, Tom was one of the founding faculty members at Pioneer Montessori, the Head of School there for two years, and their Elementary School Director for 14 years.
In the summers, Tom offered wildly popular science courses for elementary-aged children throughout the valley. Most recently, Tom has been teaching at Montessori International College in Australia. With over 20 years of experience teaching, a Masters in Education from Loyola University, and a Certificate of Distinction from the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence for grades K-8, Tom has the experience, knowledge base, and infectious passion to make an impact in our 6th grade STEM curriculum. His former students and the parents of his former students beam that Tom has a way of bringing science and math to life for kids of all ages. A former student describes Tom as having “a special way of talking to students, and celebrating their learning,”
Tizz Strachan 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 has three Cutthroats: Owen '20, Calvin '23, and Wyatt '25.
Joel Vilinsky joined Sun Valley 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. Prior to arriving at Sun Valley Community School, Joel taught for 14 years in Brooklyn, New York and Williamsburg, Virginia.
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.
Kira holds a BA in Biology from Carleton College, where she was the recipient of funding from The Initiative for Service Internships in International Development. She has her teaching license from the state of Colorado in Mathematics Education (7-12), Science Education (7-12), and Spanish (K-12). She is also a Red Cross-certified Wilderness First Aid Instructor. In her free time, enjoys traveling, playing the ukulele and guitar, and playing ultimate frisbee.
Naomi Goldberg joined Sun Valley Community School in 2006 and currently teaches eighth grade humanities, serves as faculty advisor to the Middle School yearbook, and coordinates the 8th Grade Moving-Up video.
Naomi holds a BA from Duke University in psychology and English and 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 the 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. Naomi is the mom to two young Cutthroats and is excited that they are part of the Sun Valley Community School experience.
Annie DeAngelo initially joined Community School as a Teacher Training Academy intern in 2013 and taught math and science as a full time member of the Seventh Grade Team since the 2015-16 school year. She joined the Eighth Grade Team teaching math and science for the 2020-21 school year. Annie also serves as the Middle School tennis coach, 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 Sun Valley Community School, Annie spent a year as a Teaching Fellow for marine biology classes at Harvard, led trips for the National Geographic and National Outdoor Leadership School, and interned with Idaho Conservation League.
In choosing to teach at Sun Valley 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 Sun Valley Community School is unique. "Our school is characterized by meaningful and somewhat non-traditional relationships between students and faculty in which we learn from one another. Teaching is by no means a one-way, linear street."
When she's not teaching, Annie loves to backcountry ski, play Spikeball, and spend time in the outdoors with friends.
Nancy Parsons-Brown initially taught French at Sun Valley Community School from 1983-85; she returned to the school in 1994 as a part-time faculty member and eventually took on a full-time position. Nancy currently teaches Middle School French.
Nancy holds a BA from University of Colorado in French literature and a MA in teaching from Graceland University.
In her long tenure at Sun Valley Community School, Nancy has held many roles. In addition to teaching French in the Middle School, she is World Language Department Chair, Co-Coordinator of the Teacher Training Academy, and Co-Coordinator of Teaching and Learning.
Throughout her time at the school, Nancy has been inspired by the spirit of community that characterizes the 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, 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.
Calysta Phillips teaches Middle School Spanish and is the Service Learning and Community Connections Coordinator. Additionally, she serves as faculty sponsor of the Community Service Club. Calysta joined Community School in 2012 and taught Upper School French and Spanish until 2017.
Calysta holds a BA from Harvard University and an MA in Spanish from Middlebury College.
Prior to her position at Sun Valley 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 the 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 them from having forged bonds together outside of the classroom."
When she's not teaching, Calysta is happiest in the kitchen, preparing food for friends and family. You might also find her dancing, teaching Zumba, rapping, mountain biking or cross country skiing. She and her husband, Matt, are parents to two Cutthroats: Isabelle '26 and Sebastian '29.
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 school's 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.
Erika Daly '03 joined Sun Valley 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 the school and holds a BSBA in business management and psychology from University of Denver and a Masters degree in Elementary Education.
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 on a local trail, alpine lake, or river in the summer or backcountry skiing in the winter.
Megan Mahoney joined Sun Valley Community School in 2017 and currently teaches Middle School music and Elementary School dance.
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.
In her free time, Megan creates theatre with the artists of the valley, runs and performs with her princess party company Pixie Dust Parties Idaho, and pampers her adorable dogs.
Nira Campbell joined Sun Valley 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 the school's faculty, 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 Sun Valley 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!"
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 joined Sun Valley 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 the 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 Sun Valley 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.
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.
Toni Coleman joined Sun Valley Community School in 2010 and taught sixth grade math and science as a member of the Sixth Grade Team. She transitioned to Science and Enhancement part-time in August, 2019.
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.
The Middle School in particular is designed around creating learning opportunities that are student-led, inquiry- and problem-based, and that are therefore exciting and relevant to students' lives. 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