Who We Are

Meet our team!

Shara (left) and Jess

Executive Director & Lead Teacher

Shara Coughlin

Shara Coughlin

Hello! I am Shara Coughlin, a passionate educator and lifelong learner originally from Hershey, Pennsylvania. I had a career in school nursing prior to moving to a position in special education. I eventually found my calling in early childhood learning. In my most recent Director position, I was Lead Teacher at the Big Park Community Integrated Preschool. I spent 6 years in the classroom teaching a diverse population of 3-5 year olds, including those with special needs. When I became director of that program, I was trained as an International Baccalaureate (IB) preschool teacher in the Primary Years Program.

As you will learn, I am a champion of the importance of early childhood education. I am deeply committed to providing the highest quality program for the children and families in the Verde Valley. I believe in the importance of developing a love for learning in every child, and strive to foster their sense of curiosity and wonder of the world around them.

I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Pennsylvania State University and attended Ashworth College for my Child Development Associate certification.

Jess Sweeney

Hi! I’m Jess. I am honored to be a part of your child’s learning journey.

As parents and educators, it is our sacred duty to plan beyond each child’s current developmental phase and work to scaffold learning opportunities for anticipated “cognitive leaps” to come. In other words, we support the child in the moment and prepare for his or her evolving independence in the months ahead. Along the way, the child provides clues as to who they are as individuals and how they learn best. The structure of our forest program supports all learning styles and as research has shown, nature itself relieves stress and anxiety which are anathema to the learning process.

My background as an educator includes early childhood education, program development for young children, Montessori certification, and a M.Ed in Integrative Learning. Combining my skills with those of Executive Director, Shara Coughlin, we have created a challenging curriculum with state learning standards as our guide. Your child will not only be prepared to succeed in future learning environments, he or she will be supported through their current developmental stage with love, respect, and hands-on learning opportunities each day. I look forward to creating a strong partnership with you as we work to support your child’s overall development. Here’s to many adventures ahead!

Sedona Village Foundation

Our school is operated by 501(c)(3) non-profit parent organization, Sedona Village Foundation.


As a collaborative and supportive learning community, we challenge students to reach their potential within a safe, diverse and inclusive child-centered education. 


  • InnovationWe are imaginative risk takers who believe that wonder leads to discovery. In our learning process, we use an inquiry-based curriculum via multiple disciplines to meet each child where they are and advance them individually.   “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Oh, the Places You’ll Go! – Dr. Seuss
  • Transparency—We act with openness and clarity. We act with integrity, respect and trust with students, parents and the community. “Always let your conscience be your guide”- Pinocchio
  • Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity—We provide high-quality education regardless of income or background. Our commitment is to advocate for policies, practices, and systems that promote social equality and inclusion. We disable biases that create barriers and limit the potential of children, families, and our staff.  “Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better, It’s not”- The Lorax – Dr. Seuss
  • Collaborative Relationships We are committed to building strong, healthy relationships with each other, our children & families, and the community through communication and understanding of the cultures around us. “The ability of people to do remarkable things hinges on how well those people can pull together as a team.”- Together is Better – Simon Sinek


Inspiring a love of lifelong learning 

Why this structure?

SVLC is formed as an LLC in order to be licensed by the Arizona Department of Economic Security to operate as a preschool. The program is operated as a non-profit by Sedona Village Foundation, which is a charitable organization. The school operates seamlessly as a non-profit because the 501(c)(3) Foundation board oversees its activities for Executive Director, Shara Coughlin who is listed on the LLC.

Board Members

Joanna Horton McPherson, Founder & Chair

Joanna came to Sedona in 2014 to serve as the dean at Verde Valley School, an international boarding school, where I currently serve on the board. I founded SVLC in 2019 with a small group of committed citizens to change the future of our community for the better: bringing quality education for young people in the Verde Valley. I want to impact lives and stand for important values that will empower our children to connect, make good choices and create important things in our world.

My background is in the arts, specifically theatre and teaching. I received my Master’s in Education from Harvard University with a concentration in the Arts.

Our school aims to bring strong early childhood education to the Verde Valley so this area can thrive. Seeking diverse of ways to discover the world around us enriches our lives for years to come.

Jan Groves, Vice Chair

Carolyn Fisher

Nikki Ramagli, Secretary

Pastor Jim Cunningham

Dr. Don Groves