Our Valley Academy Team

Our Administrative Team

ZZ8QX7B8-00005   Kevin Dunkley, Director

Kevin Dunkley was born and raised in Logan, Utah. He attended Utah State University and graduated in Elementary Education, with a minor in Social Studies. Kevin began teaching in Cache County school district as a fourth grade teacher. After two years Kevin was asked to teach at Edith Bowen Laboratory School (Utah State University), which he did for the next two years. He taught 4th grade, and supervised student teachers and coordinated programs for the gifted and talented. Kevin moved his family to St. George in 1983 and began teaching at West Elementary. At West Elementary, Kevin taught fourth grade as well and was also the coordinator over the gifted program. Kevin has taught graduate classes, in Gifted Education through Utah State University Ext. and also taught as an adjunct professor at Dixie State College. Kevin retired in 2007 from Washington County School District. His last 12 years were spent teaching at Santa Clara Elementary School. While at Santa Clara, Kevin received the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Teacher of the Year Award in Technology in Education. Kevin was awarded a grant by USWest for the implementation of an Outdoor Classroom. The Outdoor Classroom was complete with a Native American Village, Green House, Grow boxes, Koi Fish Pond, and Native Plant Habitat. His fourth grade students were involved in the planning and the construction of the Outdoor Classroom. After four years at Dixie State Kevin began teaching at Valley Academy Charter School. He is married to Lisa Jenkins, they are the parents of six children, and fourteen grandchildren. He loves the students, faculty and staff at Valley Academy and is looking forward to another great year!



00318  Peggy Childs, Special Ed Director, Staff Developer

Peggy makes her home in St. George.  She attended Southern Utah University, graduating in Elementary Education and Special Education. At Utah State University, she received her Master of Education in Elementary Education and Administrative/Supervisory Endorsement. Since 2009, she worked with the Utah Personnel Development Center (UPDC) facilitating professional development activities for educators throughout Utah’s schools that help improve educational outcomes for students. There she facilitated the Utah Mentor Teacher Academy, a two-year academy for educators with a standards-based instructional and leadership focus. Prior to her employment with the UPDC, she worked in Washington County School District’s Special Education Department serving as a resource teacher at Pine View and Snow Canyon Middle Schools, and a professional development specialist on a district level. She has been a national trainer for Layered Curriculum©, a method for differentiating instruction in classrooms for all grade levels. Her workshops have appeared throughout Utah and other states. She looks forward to working with the staff and students at Valley Academy.





00323  Kelly Fausett, Registrar

Kelly is excited about her new role as the registrar at Valley Academy.  She is originally from South Weber, Utah but grew up in Boulder City, Nevada. She is always so excited and happy to see our kiddos as they walk through the doors, or even out in the community.   Kelly is the proud mom of three beautiful daughters, two of them who attended Valley, and one who helps run our Instagram page as part of the PR team.  Kelly does an amazing job keeping our student files in ship shape, and she is really the iconic face of Valley Academy.  Kelly has a new partner at the front desk, and she and McKel are going to keep everything running smoothly.

Need something at Valley?  Whose name comes up first on the list?  “Kelly”.  She knows it all and she’s the lady with all of the answers.  She keeps us organized and has taken on the duty of daily announcements with pep and style.  When Kelly talks, people listen.


McKel Cleveland, Secretary, McKel Cleveland was born and  raised in the Hurricane area. This is her first year at Valley Academy as a Secretary and is enjoying meeting the children and parents. She is married with 3 boys! McKel enjoys playing, watching and coaching sports. She is very excited to be part of Valley Academy.





00311  Brian Akins, Purchasing Agent

Brian enjoys being a member of the Valley Academy team as the Purchasing Agent. He works only two days a week and spends the remainder of his time as a real estate agent and has been for the last 23 years.

He lives in Santa Clara with his wife, three kids, and dog named Duke. He graduated from DSU with an Associates of Science degree and also from Southern Utah University with a Bachelors of Science in Accounting degree. He enjoys playing basketball, lifting weights and flying his powered parachute above the beautiful scenery of southern Utah.



Our Team of Teachers




Kaa_Nykell  Nykell Kaa, Kindergarten

I was born and raised in Washington, UT. I graduated Pineview High School. I attended Dixie State University and finished my Bachelors of Education with an Early Childhood endorsement at SUU.  I served an LDS mission in between schooling in Brisbane, Australia and there met my husband. I finished my degree and than was off to a little town in the outback of Australia. There I had the opportunity to learn about different cultures as I did substitute teaching.  I am a proud mom of  twins boys who where born while we lived in Australia.

 I am so excited to be teaching Kindergarten at Valley Academy!


Amanda Jennings, Kindergarten,


Stephanie Schmutz, Kindergarten,



00314  Crystal Brown, 1st Grade

Crystal Brown was born and raised in Hurricane.  She is the youngest of four children.  She has two brothers and one sister.  She is a graduate of HHS and Dixie State College.  She was a SEE Student at LaVerkin Elementary teaching fourth grade students. She has always enjoyed dance and music, and playing the guitar. She likes watching all sports, but her favorite sport would be football.

From an early age, she developed a love for the beauty of the Southern Utah scenery.  She loves the outdoors, camping, hiking, and especially off-roading with her family.   Her love of the area has kept her here.  She is the mother of six wonderful children, and she is married to the love of her life, Steve.  She has had a love of children her entire life. She worked in a day care and as a paraprofessional before having a family of her own. She then dedicated her life to her children for thirteen years, being a stay at home mother, and then she decided it was time to finish her education and become a teacher, something she dreamed of becoming all her life.  She loves to learn and wants others to have the same love, so striving to help her students, and pushing them to higher levels is her goal. Seeing students engaged in learning puts a smile on her face.

She is excited to be a part of our dynamic “Firsties” team, and can’t wait to see the progress her students will make.




Gates_Jessamine  Jessamine Gates, 1st Grade, Jessie was born and raised amidst the red rocks of southern Utah. After graduating from Pineview High School she moved to LaVerkin and has been there ever since. She is married to Brett, has an amazing son named Aidan, and a blue heeler named Nellie. She decided at 35 years old what she wanted to be when she grew up –a teacher- so she went back to school. While studying she worked as a kindergarten paraprofessional and a reading interventionist. She was a SEE student in a first grade classroom and graduated from Dixie State University with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education. Jessie loves teaching at Valley Academy. Yay First Grade!


Jessamine Gates is a wonderful gal.

00349  Nicole Simmons, 2nd grade

Nicole was born and raised in Las Vegas , NV. She graduated from UNLV with a degree in Elementary Education. She has taught in kindergarten, first grade and second grade. Nicole moved to Hurricane in 2010 and loves being in Southern Utah. She is married with seven children. In her spare time she enjoys movies, the great outdoors and spending time with her family. This lady runs a tight ship, and her students absolutely love her for it.  She teaches them with encouraging words and a belief that each one has it inside to be amazing every single day.  A pat on the back from Mrs. Simmons is gold.  She expects her students to work hard and learn all that they can.  She motivates them to do better every single day.  In getting to know them through their first grade experience in her class, she forms a bond with them that lasts forever.  They see her in the hallway, long after being in her first grade class, and they can’t help pulling her into a big hug.  They simply love this lady.  How lucky are we that we get to call Nicole Simmons “ours”?





00331  Tana Hall, 2nd Grade

Tana is originally from Utah.  She received her educational degree at Utah State University and her Masters degree from the University of Utah.  Tana has taught in both traditional school settings and also overseas teaching English.  She started her teaching career in Orem, where she taught first grade for three years. After that Tana moved to Austria to teach English at a public school.  Later she moved to Korea where she taught English in a Korean English school and then fifth grade on the military base in Seoul.  This world traveler took a break from teaching when she had her son Maxx.  When he was old enough for school, Tana got a job at LaVerkin Elementary teaching first grade for the next three years. She’s now excited to be here at Valley Academy!  She loves teaching, reading and writing, and she loves being with kids.
Her favorite things to do are to hang out with Maxx (he’s a great Monopoly player), to read and to run.







00354  Andria Vincent, 3rd Grade

Ms. Vincent’s favorite past time is spending time with her two daughters. She grew up in Sandy, and moved to Washington city three years ago. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a Minor in Special Education and a Minor in ESL from Westminster College of Salt Lake City. Her previous experience is with first, second, third, fourth and fifth grade students in Special Education. This year she feels very blessed to continue teaching as a part of our awesome third grade team here  at Valley Academy.

Give this lady an idea, and she’ll turn that idea into something incredible.  The walls outside her classroom are always displaying her students handiwork.  She’s a history buff, and she loves sharing ideas and concepts with her students.   She has a talent for taking  every day materials and incorporating them into hands on, fun lessons for her creative thinkers.  What a great teacher!



Nicole Shaw, 3rd Grade 


Amber Bain, 3rd Grade




00325  Tara Freiberg  4th Grade 

Tara Freiberg is a fourth grade teacher at Valley Academy. She graduated from Dixie State College on May 4, 2012 and spent the 2011/2012 school year in an internship at Springdale Elementary. It was there that she had the opportunity to teach in a multi-grade classroom, 3rd – 5th. She is very excited to teach at Valley Academy because of the schools emphasis on social and emotional intelligence, technology, and the arts which are all centered on academics and the belief that it is necessary to teach to the whole child. She feels that diversity should be celebrated and that our differences only make us stronger. She believes that learning is a lifelong process and that every child is capable of doing so. Tara is passionate about instilling a love of learning in her students. She feels that this is accomplished by sharing her own love of learning and meeting the needs of all of her students. Tara is married to Eric Freiberg. They have two daughters, Eden and Isis, who have been a part of our Valley family as well. They have lived in Hurricane for the past twelve years. They chose Hurricane originally because it is close to Zion National Park, a favorite spot for their family. Tara loves to be outdoors as much as possible.




P5Y2QFG2-00053  Kandis White, 4th  Grade

Kandis was born in Hawaii and spent most of her childhood in Southern California, but now calls Hurricane “home.” She enjoys sports (especially basketball), hiking, geocaching, writing, snowboarding, reading,  history, and anything that makes her laugh. The one thing that she enjoys above everything else is spending time with her three boys, Ryler, Gage, and Weston.  Being the youngest of eight children, Kandis has many great examples in life. With a mother as her teacher in jr. high, high school, and college, she couldn’t help but follow into teaching herself. Kandis received a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Health from Southern Utah University and is near completion of her Master in Sports Conditioning and Performance. She has been teaching since 2004 while continuing her education. She has taught English, History, Science, Math, Physical Education, Health, and a variety of other extracurricular classes.

Kandis has a great love for writing and reading that she hopes to share with her students. She also plans on creating an outstanding Health and Physical Education program at Valley Academy.




3IH2VMDQ-00037  Charlotte Potter, 5th Grade

I have loved, lOvEd, LOVED finally becoming an official part of the Valley Academy faculty in 2015.  We have the absolute best kiddos in the world here at our school.  I love their shiny, happy faces, and the enthusiasm they bring with them to school every single day.  Ever since my daughter started kindergarten with KJ in 2012, I have been an active part of this school.  Some say it’s denial in cutting the apron strings, and I say it’s wanting to be a part of something special that just happens to involve my own kiddo.  I was the PTO President for two years, and had to let that go when I became a part time 7th grade CTE teacher.  I’ve taught elementary students, middle schoolers, high school students, and college students, and I ‘m finding that my heart is truly with these amazing 5th grade humans.  I can’t wait to see them every day; they make my heart smile.  I enjoy teaching them about the zillions of possibilities that lie before them as their futures unfold, and we have some great experiences in 5th grade  I’m biased when I say that everyone should bring their kids to Valley Academy.  I’ve been lucky to have been a part of this school since the walls went up, through today, and into tomorrow.



00352  Dale Varga, 5th Grade

Dale is very excited to be a member of the Valley Academy team. He received his education from Southern Utah University. He received a B.A. in Construction Management and a B.S. in Elementary Education. Dale enjoys the outdoors and activities that include fishing, hunting, geocaching, hiking, etc… Dale lives in the Hurricane with his wife (who is also a teacher), and his three sons.  This guy is super “mathy”, and can fine tune almost any 5th grade lesson to include a math aspect.  He also teaches Social Studies, and gives his students chances every day to explore the history of our great nation.  Need something built?  Dale is seriously the most handy guy around.  He can build anything.  Really.  In truly.  He’s also a guy that can take an ordinary recipe and turn it into a culinary experience.  Sewing?  Bring it on!  He’s an uber-talented guy.

Dale looks forward, every day, to building quality relationships with parents, students, and VA staff. Favorite quote, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” ― Henry Ford.






26DBHVYQ-00049  Adrienne Jacobs, 6th Grade

Mrs. Jacobs was born and raised in Mountain View, Alberta, Canada. She has lived in Utah for the last five years. She likes to ride her motorcycle, golf, swim, travel, and play softball. She has two remarkable daughters and one busy one year old son.  She and her charismatic husband, Nick, love to take trips, have experiences, and spend time with them.

Mrs. Jacobs has a great love for science and mathematics. She has been very involved in education for the last eight years. She has had the opportunity to travel to many schools and learn from all of them. For the last five years she has been employed by the Washington County School District as a behavior specialist helping students with social/emotional difficulties. She has had a lot of great experiences working with students on many different levels and is excited to be involved in extracurricular activities here at Valley.  She started our Choir program, and is currently our Yearbook advisor.  Each day, her students check in with each other, so that everyone knows how everyone else is feeling.  She encourages patience, empathy and honesty.  Her classroom is a mini-family, and they appreciate and encourage each other daily.  Mrs. Jacobs is also a great mentor to other teachers, and regularly shares her ideas and activities with the faculty.



Dawn Holland, 6th Grade, 

I was born in Salt Lake City and lived there till I was 12. We then moved to Las Vegas where I graduated from Eldorado High School and then moved to St. George shortly after.  I married the most awesome man in the world, Joe, in the summer of 99′ and a year later we moved to Hurricane.  I am now the proud mom of 3 girls and 2 boys.  In 2014 I decided it was time to go back to college and get my Bachelors in Elementary Education.  I love learning, experiencing new things, spending time with my family, and traveling.  My kids have attended Valley Academy since it first opened it’s doors and I’m so excited to be a part of the team!


Tylar Laity, 7th Grade, 


Mr. Laity (pronounced- Light*e) was born and raised in the small town of Ely, Nevada. He recently moved to Southern Utah with his wife to follow her career as an Echo Technician at Dixie Regional Medical Center. After graduating from Southern Utah University with his Bachelors in Elementary Education, Tylar went back home to teach and was a math teacher at WPMS of 6th and 8th grade for four and half years. He has a great passion for mathematics and technology, and how we can learn new things with problem solving, gaming, and exploration.
Mr. Laity loves the outdoors, he is an avid hunter and enjoys fishing and camping with family and friends. He also is a sports fanatic, he can watch pretty much any sport but his favorites are baseball, basketball and soccer. He coached soccer and basketball for three years at his hometown high school and two years of basketball at the middles school before that, and would like to get back into coaching again someday.






Janelle Ruesch, Music



45JFNKQ8-00036  Terra Wade, Dance
Ms. Terra grew up in sunny Southern California. She attended colleges in San Diego, California and graduated from Ashford University with a degree in Liberal Arts. Terra has had a wide range of jobs in her life: a stay at home mom, a licensed concrete contractor, yoga and pilates instructor, esthetician, dental assistant, high school cheerleading coach, engineering assistant and concierge at a five star boutique resort. She’s got a ton of experience in a wide range of careers.  In 2010, she moved with her five children and husband to Hurricane to escape the declining education system in California. She is currently working on her Master’s in Education with emphasis on school administration. Besides dance Terra’s passions are reading, a good romantic movie, watching her children play sports and going to the Colorado River with her extended family.  Terra’s background in dance started when she was six years old. After watching the movie musical “Annie” she made her mom enroll her in Jazz, Ballet, Tap and Tumbling. She was a member of an award winning high school dance and cheer team. During college she enrolled in dance classes each semester to stay in shape. Never in her wildest dreams did she think she would get the opportunity to teach dance. “Twinkle Toes Terra” makes our dance classes fun and our bi-annual dance recitals amazingly colorful and upbeat.  She is very excited to continue as a member of the Valley Academy team.




Liberty Palfreyman, Visual Art




00342  Tazia Murie, Musical Theatre

Tazia Murie is originally from Las Vegas. She started taking voice lessons at UNLV when she was 10 years old through high school, which led her to study music in college. “Ms. Taz” has a bachelor’s degree in vocal music performance with a minor in dance. Her dance training started when she was 2 years old, but her main focus was with with Nevada Ballet Theater for 6 years and a dance team in college. Tazia has performed in numerous local musicals including Tuacahn’s Les Miserables (Fantine), St. George Muscial Theater’s Oklahoma (Laurie) and Singing in the Rain (Kathy). Most recently she was in Hurricane Valley Theatrical Company’s production of Beauty and the Beast (Belle). She also runs Adagio Performing Arts Studio here in Hurricane. Besides singing and dancing, Taz loves spending time with her husband and four children.



Our Special Education Team

00317  Margarita Castro, Special Education File Manager

Margarita graduated Summa Cum Laude from Southern Utah University with a BA degree in Special Education and Music Education, both in grades K-12, with a Utah’s Educator License. Her BA was earned in Music Performance with piano emphasis. While living in Chicago, she attended The American Conservatory of Music and The Chicago Conservatory of Music.  In addition, she earned an AAS Small Business Management and 1-year Business Clerical Technology Certificate from SUU. Margarita has continued her education by adding an ESL endorsement in her graduate studies. Currently, Margarita is pursuing her Masters in Special Education with a Severe Endorsement as part of the Liberty Program through the University of Utah. She has plans to complete endorsements in the Gifted & Talented, Math, and Reading programs. Upon completion of her Masters, Margarita hopes to be accepted into a doctorate program.  Her experience with accounting gives her an excellent background in doing the extensive paper work involved in special education. She is detail oriented with a flair for creativity and organizational skills. Margarita loves teaching and is excited to be a part of Valley Academy’s family. She believes in the dream that Valley offers to the families of the community. ¡Sí Se Puede!



  00357  Alicia Wiser, Special Education

Alicia graduated from Southern Utah University in Secondary Education with a Social Science Composite Degree.  She worked in Severe Special Ed. for five years as a para-professional and loved almost every minute working with fascinating students and staff who taught her a new life lesson every day. Perhaps the most important lesson learned working in SpEd- celebrate life’s littlest moments and achievements.  Alicia is an avid history nut.  She says “because as Lewis F. Powell, Jr. wrote, “History balances the frustration of “how far we have to go” with the satisfaction of “how far we have come.”  It teaches us tolerance for the human shortcoming and imperfections which are not uniquely of our generation, but of all time.””  Alicia LOVES teaching history to young adults because they are most interesting and amazing to work with as they grow and develop into their own person and character.  Alicia is an incredible asset to our SpecialEd department, and uses her keen ability to communicate clearly and effectively to help our kids grow, learn, and become better in their studies.  She truly helps them find it inside themselves to flourish.



00333  Shawna Iverson, Special Education

I was born in Kokomo Indiana and moved to Utah at age two. I grew up in Provo and moved to Hurricane seven years ago after marrying my best friend. I worked in physical therapy for a total of eight years and loved watching people come in broken and hurt and watch them transform into stronger healthier people. It was very rewarding. I became a stay at home mom after my first son was born, and enjoyed that very much. My oldest came to kindergarten at Valley and I fell in love with the school; I wanted to be part of its growing vision and team.  I starting working here in 2013. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful school and share the passion it has for the future of our kids. My hobbies include horse back riding and photography. I spend alot of time photographing people and love capturing wonderful memoriesfor them to have for a lifetime. I also love yoga and the balance and light it brings into life.





00330  Joan Hall, Special Education,


Joan Hall is a huge asset to our SpEd team, and her bright and encouraging smile helps our kiddos succeed through their struggles.  She is one busy lady, as she rushes from classroom to classroom to work with students.  Her contribution to her team is fantastic, and we’re lucky to have her on board here at Valley.



Our Title 1 Team

00324  Leeanna Fenn, Title 1 Coordinator

I was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and moved to the US when I was three. I was raised in Colorado and Utah, graduating from Lehi High School. I went to college in Idaho and earned my Associate Degree. I knew my husband in high school and later ran into him after college. We have two amazing children, both who attend Valley Academy. My husband is a lineman for Hurricane City, which is what brought us south. I have always loved working with kids and feel very blessed to be a part of Valley Academy.  It is so fun and rewarding helping the students gain a confidence and love for reading. If my nose isn’t buried in a book, I also enjoy hiking, crafting and spending time with family.



00345  Autumn Rowland, Title 1 Paraprofessional

Autumn Rowland was born in St. George, Utah. She grew up in the Hurricane/LaVerkin area.  She feels so thankful to be a part of Valley Academy.  This is her second year in the Title 1 department. She loves working with your children and teaching them the value of READING.  Her favorite quote is “The more you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” by Dr. Seuss.    She is the mother of five daughters.  She loves escaping with a good book, road biking, traveling, and spending time with her family.  Another favorite Dr. Seuss quote of hers is “You’re never too old, too wacky or wild, too pick up a book and read to a child.”



00329  Susan Gubler, Title 1 Paraprofessional



Neddy Keil, Title 1 Paraprofessional, 

Neddy is a new addition this year to Valley, you will see her helping out in various positions, She is an empowered mother of three. Born in Alajuela, Costa Rica, and adopted at 18 months. She is a dedicated and resourceful Humanitarian Aid Worker. Adept multitasker able to handle simultaneous high-pressure and volatile situations with professionalism and efficiency. Strong negotiation and presentation abilities in a variety of languages and cultural environments. Most important she makes you smile with her vivacious personality.

Our Food Service Team



00319  Jill Cotten, Food Service Director,

I grew up in Washington, Utah. I attended cosmetology school my senior year of high school. I worked in a few different hair salons until my husband Cody and I decided to start a family. I have 3 beautiful children and 2 of them attend Valley.

In 2012 I got the opportunity to help start Valley Academy’s lunch program. I had never thought of working in the lunch program before, but I absolutely love it and I love working with the kids. This year I will be returning for my 4th year at Valley.  I am looking forward to creating delicious and nutritious culinary experiences for our school.









Whitaker_Marcia  Marcia Whitaker, Food Service Assistant,

After working for 31 years as a television engineer for WNYT-TV13 in Albany, New York, my husband, Dave and I made the easy decision to pack up our belongings and move clear across the country. Born and raised in upstate New York, we arrived here in December of 2015, to make Hurricane, Utah our new home. I attended Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vermont, acquiring a degree in Television Production. I have 2 wonderful, grown boys…one in Syracuse, New York and the other in Denver, Colorado. I am in the process of writing a fiction romance titled “A Second Chance” in hopes of publishing it by Christmas 2016. Otherwise, you can find me with my head buried in some book or having fun playing guitar and piano. I am so grateful to Valley Academy for giving me the opportunity to ‘spread my wings’ in a new direction. The “Lunch Crew” rocks!

Johnson_NaomiNaomi Johnson, Lunch Aide,

 Wolsleger_JanJan Wolsleger, Lunch Aide,





***Parents have the right to request teacher qualifications at any time***



539 N 870 W | Hurricane, UT 84737 | Phone: 435.216.4311 435.635.0772 fax: 435.635.6966