top of page


Interested in working with children outdoors every week on the VFS team? Email Bekah for opportunities at



Executive Director

Forest Name- Mrs. Luna

Bekah started Valley Forest School in 2019 after developing a passion for immersing children of all ages in nature. Bekah has a bachelors degree in Outdoor Leadership from North Greenville University where she spent much of her time studying the psychology of children in the outdoors. Her desire to start a Forest School in America grew stronger after she and her husband spent 6 months thru hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2017 with their 1 year old daughter, Ellie. In 2018 they rode their bikes from Canada to Mexico. Bekah has been a Wilderness First Responder for 6 years. She has 13 years of outdoor guiding experience across the country serving youth to senior adults from the Carolinas, to the coast of Virginia, to the Pacific Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Bekah has over 1,000 logged days and nights of backcountry travel, and more than 600 of those are with children.

Contact Bekah:



Director of Operations

Forest Name- Mountain Goat

Derrick grew up in the Blue Ridge mountains where his love for the outdoors was fostered by his parents from a young age. From hiking to mountain biking to sailing, he gained thousands of hours of experience outdoors before reaching the age of 10! His passion for guiding children outdoors comes from his own experiences outdoors as a child. He graduated in 2014 from North Greenville University with a degree in Outdoor Leadership. His direct observations of the benefits of immersing children outdoors grew strong when he thru hiked the Appalachian Trail and rode his bike from Canada to Mexico with his family. He has 13 years of experience working across America as a summer camp counselor, mountaineering/rafting/climbing guide, and was the Outdoor Adventure Manager for all of The Cliffs locations in the Carolinas. He has been a Wilderness First Responder for 6 years.

Contact Derrick:



Program Coordinator- Fincastle Farm School

Forest Name- Mrs. Salamander

Anne Chappell is a Botetourt native who has lived on a farm in since she was 5 years old. She grew up raising cows, horses, sheep, ducks, and chickens. She has a huge heart for working with children and connecting them to their natural environment- the outdoors. In her free time, she spends her days outdoors hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking, and fishing. In addition to managing her farm, teaching horseback riding lessons, and instructing for VFS, Ann Chappell is a pediatric nurse.

Contact Anne Chappell:



Program Coordinator- Catawba

Forest Name- Miss Sage

Chrystal has been working closely with children and natural education for over 15 years. Born and raised in Germany, she moved to California to study Human Development at U.C. San Diego. Chrystal earned her certificate in early childhood education online through UCLA while teaching at several preschools, both in California and then back in Germany.

For the past 8 years, Chrystal has been living in Germany, teaching at bilingual preschools and kindergartens. She led frequent forest trips and used nature-based education as a focus for her curriculum. Chrystal was deeply inspired by the German's appreciation for 'Wald Kindergartens' (forest kindergartens)! In her free time, Chrystal enjoys gardening, crafting with herbs, and working with farm animals. She also has a soft spot for music and the circus arts. You can also find her hiking around the mountains any time of the year.



Program Coordinator- Travelers Rest

Forest name- Mr. Rootz

Owen originally hails from Maine where he first developed his love and interest for the natural world. After living on the Canadian border working at Acadia National Park as a Park Ranger, Owen traveled the country in pursuit of a diverse range of professional outdoor experience. Whether it was the Redwoods in California, deserts of Utah, or the Jungles and Volcanoes of Hawaii, Owen's experience is eclectic working as a ranger for the National Forest and National Parks. In 2014 Owen started developing and leading expedition and farm based programs for children. His longest expedition with students was over 400 miles all by canoes from the tributaries of the St Lawrence (Canada) all the way to NYC. Owen has worked with children for the last 7 years in expedition, ecology, and farm based programs between Canada and America. Owen has his B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Maine and is trained and certified as a Wilderness First Responder and Lifeguard in addition to numerous other certifications and training. When Owen is not adventuring outdoors you can find him playing chess, doing yoga or Tai Chi or simply reading a book.

Contact Owen:



Program Coordinator- Palmyra
Administrative Assistant

Forest Name- Mrs. Huckleberry
Regan came to VFS first as a parent of a VFS student and has been hooked ever since! She got her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Longwood University and spent five years in public education classrooms before making the transition to stay at home with her daughter. Her love of the outdoors has always been present, but it was really ignited when she moved to Alaska for her husband's first Air Force assignment. Regan is passionate not only about her own childrens' love of learning and love of the outdoors, but also sharing that with her students. When she isn't spending time outside with her family, she loves to learn new things, like spoon-carving, paper-making, or quilting! Regan is certified in Wilderness First And and adult/child CPR.



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Mrs. Monarch
Amy has over 15 years of experience working professionally with children.  As a Michigan native, she immediately fell in love with the Carolina outdoors when she moved to Greenville 8 years ago. Hiking and outdoor adventures became a new weekend must! After having her first daughter, Amy joined her local Hike it Baby community where she grew in her confidence taking children outdoors and learned how the outdoors helped her bond with children.  Alongside her husband and two girls, you can find them in the mountains most weekends forging for mushrooms and looking for squirrels. Amy believes the best way for kids to learn and grow is by experiencing the beauty and challenges of nature. Amy is trained in Wilderness First Aid.



Lead Instructor- Fincastle

Forest Name- Ms. Root

Asha has over 16 years of experience working in professional settings with children, but her passion for early childhood education and her love of the outdoors can be traced back to a very young age. She has a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech in English, a certificate in early childhood education from NRCC, as well as training in many areas of child development. She has worked with families as a babywearing educator, Family Nature Club leader, and ran a Waldorf and Forest School inspired in home program for several years. As a home educator with her own four children, she has been combining inspiration from Forest School models with other educational methods for the past ten years and is thrilled to get to spend her days at VFS now, bringing all of her training and experience together and connecting with the children. In her free time Asha enjoys reading, cooking, baking, gardening, and going on outdoor adventures with her children. 

Asha is trained in Wilderness First Aid. 



Lead Instructor- Fincastle

Forest Name: Mrs. Sunflower

Ashley grew up in Northern Virginia volunteering at 2 nature centers where she educated the public and cared for the animals housed there. She also rehabilitated injured and orphaned wildlife in her home. Ashley attended Virginia Tech and earned a BS in Animal Science and Biology and then went on to obtain a masters in Education at Hollins University.

Ashley has conducted Animal information classes, taught swim lessons and middle school science for a total of 28 years. She has been a resident of Botetourt County since 2009 where she lives in a log cabin with her husband, Sean, 4 kids, 3 dogs, 6 lizards, a snake, a tarantula, numerous chickens & ducks and an apiary full of honey bees.

Ashley enjoys hiking and kayaking, reading, & anything having to do with animals.

Ashley is also trained and certified in Wilderness First Aid.

BAAC0B7D-47C5-4810-8D60-97381B47DCA3 (1).jpeg


Lead Instructor- Fincastle

Forest Name- Mrs. Moss

Bethany grew up in rural West Virginia surrounded by woods and streams. The discoveries
made in the woods of her childhood sparked a curiosity and reverence for the natural world
that continues to fuel her learning today. She has over 15 years of experience working in a wide
variety of educational settings with students from pre-k to adult. She especially loves
witnessing the wonder of experiential learning unfold. She has developed and facilitated novel
programs connecting students to their communities, such as a local watershed study in
collaboration with her high school classroom and local elementary students as well as a
summer camp program engaging elementary students in citizen science. She has a Bachelor of
Science in Psychology as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching with certification in Biology
education. Being in the presence of children and in nature brings her great delight. You can find
her often exploring the mountains, hiking, foraging, gardening, and learning the names of the
flora popping up in her backyard, all along with her husband and young daughter.



Lead Instructor- Catawba

Forest Name- Ms. Bee
Brittany has over 20 years of experience working with children. She graduated from the University of South Carolina where she attended the Honors College. She has a B.S in Biology and a B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Environmental Studies. She studied abroad in the Amazon region of Brazil and spent six months backpacking, adventuring, and learning in an immersive experience that made a lasting impact on her life.
Brittany is passionate about fostering a love for learning as she had educated her three children at home for the past 13 years. Health and wellness plays an important role in Brittany's life and she is certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. She spends her free time reading, taking walks with her children, and connecting with friends.
Brittany is trained and certified in Wilderness First Aid and adult/child CPR.



Lead Instructor- Palmyra

Forest Name- Mrs. Rock

A born and raised West Virginian. Caitlin’s childhood exposed her to fishing, foraging, hunting, and other forms of seasonal outdoor recreation. Privileged to travel the continental United States in her adolescence, Caitlin was in awe of the landscape’s variety and vastness. These journeys and their cherished memories led her to receive a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Resources from West Virginia University. Caitlin finds the wonders of nature to be self humbling and appreciates its’ “fly by the seat of your pants” detours.

Her background with youth includes  prolonged internships with BOPARC in Morgantown, West Virginia where she designed and implemented nature education and recreational activities for camps, as well as partnering locally with FYSA to coach seasonally. Caitlin’s most rewarding job has been homeschooling her daughter.

Caitlin enjoys exploring with her husband, kiddo, and Australian Shepherds. These adventures usually include fauna and flora identification (“Mom, can I eat this?”), frequent fishing line repairs, and the occasional lost ore. True to her Mountaineer roots, Caitlin often has pepperoni rolls and a surplus of baked goods on hand. She adamantly believes dirty feet and tangly hair are a sign of a good day.

Caitlin is trained in Wilderness First Aid and CPR. 



Lead Instructor- Fincastle

Forest name- to be determined

Debbie has been a farm owner for 20 years in Fincastle, VA. She studied education at Radford University, and having 40 years of teaching experience, she have taught a wide variety of skills and subject matter to students ranging from 2 to 70+ years of age. Her outdoor education experience gained over the years includes foraging with the use of plant, leaf, and tree identification resources. Some of her favorite memories are time with family camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, sledding, snow walks, snow skiing/tubing, water skiing/tubing, white water rafting, forest bathing (aka nature walks), creek stomping, puddle jumping, mud pie, chocolate milk, and snow cream prep, and raising rainbow trout. Some of Debbie's passions are holistic personal health, sourdough baking, goat milk soap, and anything else natural minded!



Lead Instructor- Fincastle

Forest Name- Mrs. Morel
In 2016, Gabbie Rhodes graduated from Emory & Henry College, where she participated as a trip leader for the Emory & Henry Outdoor Program. She led hikes and backpacking trips throughout Southwest Virginia. She absolutely loves being outside and exploring mountains with friends and family. For the last 4 years, Gabbie has been working with children as a a nanny and as a preschool teacher. Supporting children as they learn and grow is very rewarding to Gabbie and she as been a teacher with VFS since 2020.



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Miss Sunset
Hailey has her B.S degree in Outdoor Leadership from North Greenville University where she fell in love with the Western Carolina Mountains. She has worked for many adventure summer camps as a counselor, trip leader, and outdoor program director where she enjoyed the opportunities to help kids and teens experience the wonder of wilderness and adventure. She worked a couple of seasons at the North Carolina Outward Bound School leading backpacking, climbing, and white water canoe expeditions in the beautiful Linville Gorge. She also worked for two expedition semesters with college aged students, worked in wilderness therapy as a wilderness field instructor, and worked at a Children's Home where she led recreation activities and retreats for youth in group foster care. Additionally she has worked as a middle school P.E teacher and does some raft guiding and hike guiding on the side. Hailey is passionate about the healing aspects of nature and community and the importance of positive outdoor experiences for kids and teens. She is a Certified Wilderness First Responder.



Lead Instructor- Catawba and Fincastle

Forest Name- Mrs. Chicory 
Hannah has been working with children in a variety of educational settings for 10+ years. She has certifications in K-12 education in the state of VA, adult/child CPR, and Wilderness First Aid. Most of her childhood was spent on the back of a horse, and her love for the great outdoors grew from there. As a home educator of her two children, she enjoys combining her love of animals, foraging, and camping with an experiential based, child-lead educational model. Nothing brings her greater joy than seeing children forge relationships with each other and with nature in an unstructured environment. At Forest and Farm school, you’ll likely find her greeting the day and your student with a cup of chicory coffee in hand!



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Mr. Sleepy Bear
Meet Joshua Runion: A new-to-teaching enthusiast. Joshua has been an entrepreneur since age 20. He established and later successfully sold North American Rain Systems—a rainwater collection company—in 2020. Valley Forest School marked his first venture into traditional employment after years of self-employment. Joshua's roles span wide: a homeschooling father, dedicated homestead farmer, avid outdoorsman, a passionate musician (listen to his nature recordings by searching for Oolenoy) and a staunch advocate for sustainability. His newly discovered passion for teaching has surprised him and humbled him. Each week at Valley, Joshua is excited to draw out the strengths of the students in his class as they delve deep into the wonders of the natural world.



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Mrs. Fire Fairy
Kara is from Georgia and has been drawn to the outdoors through many facets for as long as she can remember. Beginning with family camping, lifeguarding and Girl Scouts in her youth and continuing with backpacking, sailing, and mountain survival courses in her adulthood. She has been employed by the Georgia Forestry Commision and she earned a Basic Wildland Firefighter Certificate while living in Colorado. Connecting with young minds to watch nature teach its wonders is a growing joy of hers. Becoming a parent, 11 years ago, led her to a path of experiencing a collection of youth leadership roles, many of which had a focus on outdoor education. She holds an Aviation degree from Georgia State University and she tries to keep proficient at making bread, tap dancing, yoga, and herbology.



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Mrs. Kingfisher
Hello and Guten Tag, born and raised in Germany Kristin received her BA Degree in Elementary School Education there before moving to the USA. She has traveled all over Europe and the East Coast before settling in Travelers Rest, SC. There she is homeschooling her two children and working in the homestead farm with her husband Ryan. Kristin was introduced to true concept of Forest School in Germany and fell in love with the concept of teaching by and learning in the great outdoors. Over the past two decades she has been teaching in several educational settings from students aging preschool to middle school. Reading books, hiking, walking, exercising, rising bike, and eating nourishing foods are Kristin’s beloved hobbies.



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Mrs. Ginkgo

Born and raised in Michigan, Liz did not grow up exploring the outdoors. It wasn't until she went to college where she realized her love for being outside. After college she worked in Alaska for a summer which then led her to Vail, CO where she met her now husband, Nate. Together they took many adventures from canyoneering in Utah to hiking / backpacking, rafting, canoeing, snowboarding, and camping with some travel thrown in! 

Liz and Nate have lived in SC for 6 years now and are slowly passing on their love of the outdoors to both their kids, Charlie and Skyler in hopes of preserving their childhood for as long as possible! As a family they like to eat good food, travel, spend as much time outside as possible and keep bees!



Lead Instructor- Palmyra

Forest Name- Mrs. Willow

Maddie was raised in Palmyra, Virgnia, and she has always loved the farm life. She grew up horseback riding and tending to a variety of farm animals including chickens, goats, donkeys, bunnies to name a few. Getting married young and building a family here was absolute blessing, because she can continue to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle. She and her husband Nate have two beautiful girls, Sadie and Delaney, ages 5 and 3. Maddie has a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from Liberty University, and loves connecting with people through any and all creative means. She has been teaching art for kindergarten through high school at a homeschooling co-op for 3 years now, and she finds so much joy in seeing her students’ imagination come to life. Many times she will take her students outside with their sketchbooks to capture the beauty of nature. From a young age, fitness has always been a huge part of her life as well. Maddie is passionate about running, road cycling, and hiking! To her, it is always refreshing and rewarding to spend time breathing in the fresh air and connecting with nature by exercising outside.



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Mrs. Lupine
Mary Elise recently moved to Greenville from the the San Juan Mountains in a town of 400 people(the most remote county in the US)! She spent the last couple of years homeschooling her girls and exploring the area. Prior to homeschooling her girls, she was a teacher for adventure based education, lead wilderness trips, working in both traditional and untraditional education settings, and studied the benefits of experiential learning and the great outdoors.



Lead Instructor- Catawba

Forest Name- Mrs. Rhodie

Nicole has been embracing child lead education models for 20 years. Her experience developing a Montessori program has brought her countless hours hiking, observing, playing, and communing in the wilderness with children.  She quickly observed that routine communion with nature and comfort with safe and supported risk taking enhanced the children's social, emotional, and academic development. She has a BS in Elementary Education, an MS in Curriculum and Instruction,and the Montessori Elementary 1 credential. Outside of her experience in Montessori education, Nicole has lead children in nature exploration camps and culinary camp. 

Nicole has three children of her own and together they enjoy finding new trails and revisiting their favorite woodsy spaces in all seasons. She hopes to hike the entire AT one day.  Drawing, reading, yoga, and kayaking with her oldest daughter are other things that bring her joy. 



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Mrs. Magnolia
Mrs. Magnolia is a visual artist and teacher. She spent her childhood by the ocean in Coral Gables, Fl and all her summers at wilderness camp in North Carolina discovering Blue Ridge waterfalls and mountain tops. She earned her bachelor's degree in Film from Boston University and worked as a Writer’s Assistant and Set Dresser in Los Angeles. In search of a more genuine way to share her creative passions, she earned her Master’s in Teaching from the University of Southern California and worked as an Art Teacher in NYC at schools and museums for 10 years. Sarah and her family relocated to Greenville, SC in 2022 and are enjoying the familiar beauty of this area. She strives to smile her way through life, to create freely, and to stay fascinated and in awe of the natural world. Sarah can't wait to teach and learn in the great outdoors with Valley Forest kiddos this fall!



Lead Instructor- Fincastle and Catawba

Forest Name- Mrs. Cedar
After completing a Bachelor's degree in elementary education from Roanoke College, Stacy has been fortunate enough to work with children in some capacity for the past 17 years.  Beginning her career in a regular classroom setting, Stacy soon became curious about alternative methods of education which led her across the country with her family on a big adventure to Washington state where she discovered her love for forest school.  She can't wait to continue being a partner in pondering with children as they connect with the natural world at VFS.  In her spare time, Stacy loves hiking, riding her bike, baking, adventuring to new places, reading, and writing children's books.



Lead Instructor- Travelers Rest

Forest Name- Mrs. Ginger
Originally from Massachusetts, Victoria is a nature enthusiast! She studied Environmental Science and Education at Palm Beach Atlantic University; VFS is the perfect fit for her to express her multiple passions. Victoria started her professional career as a high school Biology, Chemistry, and Global Issues teacher in the Dominican Republic. She then went on to teach Sciences, Gardening, and Health & Wellness at a school in Hawaii. Being a Resident Supervisor at that school ignited Victoria’s enthusiasm to get kids outdoors. She brought her residents hiking, kayaking, foraging, and boogie boarding whenever she had a chance. Victoria and her husband, Boe, have a homestead in Belton where they aim to mimic earths patterns to regenerate soil, grow food and medicine, and create a fun, educational environment for their two young boys! 
Make sure to ask Victoria about her travels and low-waste living! In the past decade, she’s been to 30 different countries and has worked on farms in five of them. Over the course of three years, she fit all her plastic & landfill waste in a peanut butter jar. She loves sharing her appreciation for traveling and environmental justice!

Staff: Team
bottom of page