VFS STAFF

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BEKAH AND DERRICK QUIRIN

Owners and Directors

Forest Names- Mrs. Luna and Mr. Mountain Goat

Derrick and Bekah met in 2008 and spent their first few dates hiking the local trails in Roanoke. Their mutual love for the outdoors expanded beyond dating and in 2014, Derrick and Bekah completed their college degrees in Outdoor Leadership at North Greenville University. They fully immersed their daughter outdoors shortly after her first birthday as she rode on Derrick and Bekah's back for 6 months on the Appalachian Trail as the first baby to thru hike the AT in 2017. In 2018, the family immersed Ellie outdoors again on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. From Canada to Mexico they pulled Ellie through the mountains, valleys, and deserts. Bekah and Derrick are trained in Wilderness First Aid. Combined, they have 12 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 and Derrick have over 1,000 logged days and nights of backcountry travel, and more than 600 of those are with children. 

Bekah opened Valley Forest School in Roanoke, VA fall of 2019 with hopes to fill 8 spots two days per week. One year later, there were nearly 100 students enrolled Monday-Friday and a second location in Greenville, SC on the way. 

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AMY HELMS

Interim Program Coordinator- Greenville

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. She’s thrilled to be a teacher at Valley Forest School in Greenville, SC.

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BETH NIENKE

Teacher- Roanoke

Forest Name- Mrs. Blossom
Beth has over 30 years of experience working with children in a professional setting. Between working at St. Anne's Preschool in Salem, VA to working for the children's ministry at Fellowship Community Church, her love for children has only grown stronger. She is gentle and patient with the youngest of students, giving them time to stop and smell the flowers. Younger students call Beth "Mawmaw", as she's the grandmother of two preschoolers. Beth is trained and certified in Wilderness First Aid and Adult/Child CPR.

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CASSIE CARTER

Teacher- Roanoke

Forest Name- Mrs. Moonswallow
According to “Blue Ridge Outdoors” magazine, Roanoke was the top “place to raise an outdoor family," and now we have a 100% outdoor school! As a Roanoker, born and raised, I am so proud to be a part of this amazing growth in the valley. For almost a decade I have been working with and alongside kids. From tutoring, guiding greenhouse or garden tours, teaching swim lessons, to story-time at a local library, I have always thoroughly enjoyed being in the company of children. I’m a mom to two awesome gals, one of which will be in forest preschool! Apart from being a mom, I recently became certified to be a community herbalist through Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine in Asheville, NC. Through the herbal program, I obtained a good foundation on how to forage, properly identify plants, make medicine, and perform herbal first aid. I am also trained and certified in Wilderness First Aid and child/adult CPR. It has been a long term goal of mine to incorporate my love for a natural lifestyle with my love for working with kids, and well, what better way than through Valley Forest School!

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GABBIE RHODES

Teacher- Roanoke

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 in her free time. For the last 4 years, Gabbie has been working with children as a a nanny and as a Montessori preschool teacher. Supporting children as they learn and grow is very rewarding to Gabbie and she loves working for Valley Forest School.

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JULIA FRYER

Teacher- Greenville

Julia is originally from South Africa and has been living in Greenville for the last 12 years. She has been working with children for 10+ years through starting as a “mommy’s helper” to babysitting, nannying, lifeguarding, YMCA childcare, and being an au pair in Australia. She grew up loving the outdoors, running around barefoot, traveling, and believes that more growth happens outside of classroom walls! She’s excited and honored to be a part of VFS Greenville.

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KRISTA HARRISON

Teacher- Roanoke

Forest Name: Mrs. Sunshine
Krista graduated with a BS in Special Education: Interdisciplinary Studies from Liberty University. Since then Krista has worked in public schools as a therapeutic day treatment counselor where she quickly recognized the importance of outdoor education for academic and mental health well-being. Krista values wonder, beauty, and curiosity in all education. She believes, given the proper environment, all children can flourish beautifully through exercising their natural abilities to learn and love learning. Krista developed a love for the outdoors as she grew up hiking, camping, and biking with her family. She was a lifeguard for four years and taught swimming lessons for three. Krista is also trained and certified in Wilderness First And and adult/child CPR. Krista is married and has two boys. She has been homeschooling for three years and tutoring for two. Krista and her boys are ecstatic about embarking on this exciting new adventure!

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OLIVIA NIENKE

Teacher- Roanoke

Forest Name- Mrs. Rainbow
Olivia recently moved back to Roanoke after living in Leesburg and Colorado for the last 4 years. Prior to moving to Roanoke, Olivia worked with children as a swim instructor. She enjoys working with children in settings where the children are encouraged to learn, grow, and build resilience through doing hard things. Olivia and her husband have a 3 year old son, Newt, who has been splashing in puddles since he was a baby!

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KACEY BOWMAN

Teacher- Roanoke

As soon as I was old enough to work, I started working with kids. I have spent the last ten years working in the summer camp industry on a seasonal and year round basis. Working in the summer camp industry allowed me to see first hand how much of a positive impact the outdoors can have on a person. At summer camps, I had the privilege of leading backpacking trips and rock climbing trips. I have also spent the last six years teaching guitar lessons to ages 4+. I am excited to be on the team of teachers at VFS!