Upper School Faculty
Reflections from students and faculty following Kevin’s visit to our school describe an educator and leader with a thoughtful, intelligent approach that led to easy connections with both faculty and students. His genuine interest in the ideas and experiences of others, deep appreciation for outdoor education, understanding of equity and inclusion issues, and values that align with the mission and vision of our community were all evident in his interactions during the search process and in his time on campus.
Kevin and his wife, Thecla, have two children, Freya (4) and Lowen (1).
Rachel Aanestad ’94 joined Sun Valley 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 the 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 Sun Valley 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, 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.
Kevin Wade joined Sun Valley Community School in 2017 and currently teaches 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 the 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 Sun Valley 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 Sun Valley 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 the 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 Sun Valley Community School in 2017 and currently teaches Upper School English and directs The Blue Notes, Community School's new Upper School choir.
Prior to joining the school's faculty, Hannah taught Upper School English at International School Nido De Aguilas in Santiago, Chile.
Hannah holds a BA in English (with a concentration in creative writing – poetry) from Yale University and an MFA in creative writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. Her poetry has appeared in the literary magazines Sequestrum, Booth, American Chordata, and Prodigal, among others.
Hannah says, of her experience at our school: "I love teaching at Sun Valley Community School because it's vibrant. Vibrant the snowflaked lawn; vibrant the students' doubts and tendernesses; vibrant the yearly schedule, with its wild lacunae; vibrant the force of the faculty's ambition to improve ceaselessly. Reading Virginia Woolf's own vibrant prose alongside my students in English 10, watching them come alive at the perception of her unparalleled perception, I feel so grateful that I can live a life which feeds me more life, give a learning that learns me more—and that's our school."
Gary Brendel joined Sun Valley 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 the 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.
Eric Covington joined Sun Valley Community School in 2017 as a Learning Specialist. He transitioned to Upper School history in the fall of 2018. Eric has extensive teaching experience across elementary, middle, and high school, as well as at the university level. He holds a BA in philosophy and religion from Barton College, a MA in religious studies and Western philosophy from the University of Georgia, and is working to complete his PhD in the history of education and curricular design from Montana State University.
Prior to serving as a Learning Specialist, Eric was Head of School at Early College of Arvada in Denver, Colorado, from 2011-2016. In a recommendation letter written on Eric’s behalf, Jeremy Collins, Dean of Humanities at Early College of Arvada, wrote: “Passionate. Engaged. Curious. These are the first three words that strike me when I reflect on my professional experience working for and with Eric Covington. Not once in my fifteen years of teaching, have I encountered a single individual who is as dynamically focused on the well-being and education of students than Mr. Covington.” We are so happy to see Eric transition to an Upper School teaching role.
Eric and his wife, Dana (Sun Valley Community School fifth grade teacher), are the parents to Caleb (6).
J. Drennan Wesley joined Sun Valley 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 the 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.
Sun Valley 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 the 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 Cutthroat family and love calling the Wood River Valley our home."
Aaron Duphily joined Sun Valley Community School as a member of the Upper School maths faculty in the fall of 2018. Aaron taught Upper School math at Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine, where he also served as a dorm parent and coached girls’ soccer and cross country skiing. Prior to his role at Fryeburg Academy, Aaron taught math and computer science at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, from 2010-17, and served as Head Cross Country Ski Coach at Portland High School during the same period. Aaron holds a B.S. in civil engineering from Cornell University.
In the cover letter Aaron submitted as part of his application for the Upper School maths teaching position, he wrote, “I value the cohesiveness of a small residential community and consider myself both an advocate for and practitioner of holistic education and student-centered learning.”
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 Sun Valley 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 Sun Valley 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 the 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.
Sarah Forzley joined the Cutthroat community as an Upper School French teacher in 2018.
Prior to Sun Valley Community School, Sarah taught college-level French at University of Wisconsin-Madison, while earning her Ph.D in French literature with minors in gender studies and African studies. She also holds a M.A. in French literature from University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned her B.A. in French and francophone cultural studies, with a minor in cognitive science, at Carleton College. In addition to her recent role at University of Wisconsin, Sarah’s teaching experience includes private tutoring and service with AmeriCorps, where she was a volunteer at Bellevue Elementary School in Santa Rosa, California and The Youth Garden Project in Moab, Utah where she taught hands-on lessons in garden classrooms.
In references provided for Sarah during the hiring process, we were told, “Sarah is open-minded, respectful, and has a strong sense of community," and “Sarah is constantly on an upward trajectory. She is always looking to improve, and I can't over-emphasize her incredible work ethic."
Pilar Lindahl joined Sun Valley 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 the 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.
Paige McNeil came to Sun Valley Community School from Episcopal Day School in Augusta, Georgia, where she served as a World Language Department Chair and Spanish Teacher. Paige is passionate about languages, other cultures, and learning. Prior to her position at Episcopal Day School, Paige taught Spanish at St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. She holds a BA in Spanish from University of Georgia and a MA in Spanish from Middlebury College.
Paige is excited to share her passion for world language in the Spanish classroom and is equally motivated be a part of the school as an advisor and Outdoor Trip leader and to connect with students through any number of other contributions she can make.
Tyler Hill joined Sun Valley Community School's Upper School science faculty in 2018l Upper School physics teacher. Tyler, a graduate of Macalester College, holds a B.A. in physics and educational studies.
Tyler joined the Cutthroat faculty from Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, where he held teaching, coaching, and residential roles since 2014. Prior to his appointment at Wayland Academy, Tyler served as an educator and counselor at The Leadership School at Kieve in Nobleboro, Maine, leading outdoor and leadership programming for adolescents.
In a recommendation letter written on Tyler’s behalf, Wayland Academy’s Dean of Students, Linda Tyranski, wrote, “I have seen firsthand [Tyler’s] passion for education, work ethic, and role modeling. Students and faculty recognize Tyler as a great listener and supporter. He is young and fun, but his professionalism and relaxed demeanor earn him the respect of those around him. He is quick with encouragement and holds his students, his colleagues, and himself to a high standard of excellence.”
Scott Runkel joined Sun Valley 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 the faculty, 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 Sun Valley 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 Cutthroat gradates: Sarah '15 and Erik '12.
Hannes Thum graduated from Sun Valley 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 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.
Meghan Gunn joined Sun Valley 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 the school's faculty, Meghan held roles as a Special Education Paraprofessional and as a math and SAT tutor.
In her daily interaction with 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 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's faculty, 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.
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.
Upper School History Faculty Member