Jessica Kiley, Ed.S.

Founding Director & Lead Instructor

  • Jessica grew up in Michigan and moved to Virginia to attend graduate school. She and her husband have been calling Charlottesville home since 2011, and they have two daughters. She worked as a school psychologist for Williamsburg/James City County and Charlottesville City Schools. You can read more about her journey to Blue Ridge Forest School here.


  • Jessica has an Ed.S. degree in School Psychology from the College of William & Mary (and additional doctoral-level credits). School Psychologists are highly trained in both psychology and education, including: Child development, social-emotional development, cognitive development, learning theories, best practice teaching methods, behavior/self-regulation, counseling methods, play therapy, special needs, gifted education, parent collaboration, and resiliency. 

  • She has bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Child Development, with a minor in Art.

  • She completed the nature-based teaching certification course in 2018 through the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS), a 9-month-long Living Earth Adult Foundations (LEAF) naturalist and survivalist skills program 2018-19, is certified in CPR/First-Aid (infant through adult), certified in wilderness first aid through MEDIC SOLO WFA, and the Virginia Master Naturalist training is also on the agenda. She was asked to be a workgroup leader for the spring 2019 Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) cohort to support local entrepreneurs as they grow their business. She is also a founding director of the Forest School League, and a co-chair for the Virginia Chapter of ERAFANS.

  • Her love of the natural world was sparked by growing up with a forest for a backyard, Sir David Attenborough BBC nature documentaries, and a family that loved to camp and canoe all over Michigan.


Dana Pauly


Dana joined Village Playschool in 2016, is the mother of three girls, and a professional gardener with training in biodynamic and organic gardening. She has a BA in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Agroecology from Prescott College. When her two older daughters were young she ran a Waldorf-inspired outdoor-based nursery program out of her home for three years. She is currently the gardening teacher at the Charlottesville Waldorf School, and has taught at Village Playschool’s home-based and forest-based programs the past few years. She also co-runs a Traditional Living Skills camp over the summer.

Jennifer Varshavsky


Jennifer has been a parent in our program since 2017. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Master of Science degree in library and information studies from Florida State University, along with previous certifications in Pre-K-6, media specialist, gifted and talented, and ESOL (English as a second language). She has eight years of experience teaching students ages 4 through 14, and five years of experience working with infants through preschoolers as a Tinkergarten teacher, providing young children with sensory-rich, playful, nature-based learning environments. She will also complete the Living Earth Adult Foundations (LEAF) 9-month program throughout the 2019/20 school year!


Jessica's Educational and Professional Background:

Primary Education 

Ed.S. The College of William & Mary: School Psychology (NASP-Accredited Program), 2011

M.Ed. The College of William & Mary: School Psychology (NASP-Accredited Program), 2009

B.S. Central Michigan University: Psychology (Major), Child Development (Major), Art (Minor), 2007

Additional Education & Certification 

CPR/First Aid Certification Infant-Adult through AHA

Wilderness First Aid Certification through MEDIC SOLO 

Nature-Based Teacher Certification through the Easter Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS), 2018
Topics covered over 36 hours of coursework: Best practices, Coyote Mentoring core routines, directional teaching, naturalist skills (fort building, friction fire, cordage), community, risk management, the art of questioning, assessment, emergent curriculum, forest games, nature-based preschool tours, mindfulness practices for children, and more.

Charlottesville's Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) Spring 16-Week Entrepreneurial Workshop, 2018

Indiana University of Pennsylvania: 12 credits in doctorate-level School Psychology coursework (NASP-Accredited Program), 2011  

(After having children and launching my entrepreneurial work, I decided not to finalize this degree as my professional goals have since changed)

Study Abroad: Japan Center for Michigan Universities, Hikone, Japan, Anthropological studies, 2003

Honors and Recognition 

• Asked to be a workgroup leader for the spring 2019 Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) cohort to support local entrepreneurs as they grow their business. Read more about this honor here.  
• Selected to be 1 of 10 entrepreneurs to present at the Tom Tom Founders Festival Pitch Night 2018 out of 60+ applicants, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2018 (video below)
• Nominated for the Outstanding Graduate Award, Central Michigan University, 2007​
• Graduated Cum Laude, Central Michigan University, 2007
• President’s List, Central Michigan University, 2002 & 2006
• Dean’s List, Central Michigan University, 2002-2007

Leadership Experience 


Founding Co-Director, Forest School League, Virginia, 2019-

• Nonprofit organization with a mission to support whole-child development by upholding best practices in recreational, outdoor, nature-based programming for young children, and by creating community and collaboration between forest schools in Virginia and across North America.

Founding Director & Teacher, Blue Ridge Forest School, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2018-
• Founded Blue Ridge Forest School (forest-based preschool program), director responsibilities, curriculum development, co-teaching children ages 3-6 in a forest-based setting. The program has an extensive waitlist that spans multiple school years in advance.

Founding Director & Teacher, Village Playschool's Waldkindergärten: Fall & Spring Forest Camp, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2017-2018
• Founded the forest camp and co-taught fall and spring sessions at Ivy Creek Natural Area for children ages 3-5. The program had an extensive waitlist.

Founding Director & Teacher, Village Playschool, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2014-2018
• Founded Village Playschool and taught preschool-aged children in a nature-based setting, inspired by the educational philosophies of Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and European Forest Schools/Waldkindergartens. Co-taught with a trained Waldorf teacher for 3 years. The program had an extensive waitlist every year, and a high retention of students from year to year.

Assistant Teacher, Babies By the Blue Ridge, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2015-2016
• Taught toddler-aged children in a Montessori-inspired, home-based setting, under the leadership of Cynthia Jordan Fisher, AMI certified Montessori teacher.


Co-Chair, Virginia Chapter of the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS), Virginia, 2019-

• Creating community and collaboration among nature-based preschool teachers and directors across the state.

School Psychology Experience 

School Psychologist, Charlottesville City Schools, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2011-2012
• Academic, behavioral, and mental health prevention and intervention; counseling; crisis intervention; psychological assessment; Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) assessment; teacher and parent consultation; classroom behavioral intervention; Special Education Eligibility Team member; AIMSweb benchmarking (literacy data collection and analysis), needs assessments.

School Psychology Full-time Intern, Pre-K through High School, Williamsburg/James City County Public Schools, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2010-2011
• Academic, behavioral, and mental health prevention and intervention across all grade levels; intensive individual counseling; crisis intervention; social skills group; psychological assessment; teacher consultation; classroom behavioral intervention; participation on Special Education Eligibility Team; parent education workshop presentations; skill-streaming/task analysis, in-home behavioral consultation; AIMSweb benchmarking, needs assessments.

Related Experiences 

Living Earth Adult Foundations (LEAF), Living Earth School, Afton, Virginia, Fall 2018-Spring 2019
• Naturalist, survivalist, and primitive skills intensive 9-month-long program (one weekend a month). Topics included: Tracking, plant and fungi identification, knife skills, fire-making, shelter-building, wild edibles, animal processing, bird calls, native animal knowledge, nature connection, and more.

Parent-Child Waldorf Class, Charlottesville Waldorf School, Charlottesville, Virginia, Spring 2014 & Fall 2018
• 6-week parent-child Waldorf education course for preschool-aged children

Observation of Montessori toddler classroom, Montessori School of Charlottesville, Spring 2014
• Professional full-day observation of a 2-3 year old classroom (Butterfly Room, Cutler Lane location)

Tutor for the America Reads Challenge at the College of William & Mary, Matoaka Elementary School, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2008-2009
• Reading intervention; progress monitoring

YMCA Day Camp Counselor, YMCA of Lansing, Lansing, Michigan, 2007
• Created lesson plans; lead children ages 4-12 in educational and recreational activities

Art Program Coordinator, Pioneer Alternative High School, Clare, Michigan, 2006
• Program development; coordinated student mural project for at-risk youth

Volunteer at Special Needs Camp, Fowler Center, Mayville, Michigan, 2006
• Assisted children with special needs participate in recreational activities

Hippotherapy Facilitator, Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center, Lansing, Michigan, 2003-2004
• Assisted with horseback riding for students with special needs

Graduate & Undergraduate Assistantships

Graduate Assistant for Professor of Education, The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2008 - 2009
• Positive Behavioral Support program research assistant; program design; data analysis.

Graduate Assistant for the Training & Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC), The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2007 - 2008
• Helped organize state-wide symposium on inclusive education; data-collection to sustain grant funding; created workshop materials; attended numerous professional development workshops.

Research Assistant for Professor of Psychology, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, 2006
• Administered psychological experiments; compiled data; statistical analysis (SPSS).

Professional Presentations 

Kiley, Jessica & Hubbard, Lanz. (2019, April). Forest School Rhythms & Routines. Professional development presentation to nature-based educators at the Virginia Outdoor Teacher Retreat through the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS). Wildrock, Crozet, Virginia.  

Kiley, Jessica (2018, April). Blue Ridge Forest School. Presentation to community members, educators and investors as part of the competitive Tom Tom Founders Festival Crowd-Funded Pitch Night 2018, Charlottesville, Virginia.

Kiley, Jessica & B., J. (2011, October). Effective Parenting Solutions. Three-week parent workshop presented at Rawls Byrd Elementary and J.B. Blayton Elementary, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Kiley, Jessica & C., K. (2008, October). Application of the Clinical Assessment of Behavior Scale. Presentation to aspiring counselors at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Professional Development Participation 

Wilderness First Aid Training (2019), Eastern Region Association of Forest & Nature Schools (ERAFANS) Virginia Outdoor Teacher Retreat (2019), Living Earth Adult Foundations (LEAF) 9-month-long naturalist training program (in progress 2018-2019), Eastern Region Association of Forest & Nature Schools (ERAFANS) Nature-Based Teacher Certification (2018), Community Investment Collaborative's 16-Week Spring Entrepreneurial Workshop (2018), Irvine Nature Preschool Conference (2015), ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observations Schedule) Training (2012), NASP (National Assoc. of School Psychologists) National Conference (2009), VPA/VASP (Virginia Psychological Assoc. & Virginia Assoc. of School Psychologists) Regional Conferences (2009-11), T/TAC Annual Symposiums on inclusive education and research-based classroom supports (2008-09), and numerous Response to Intervention, Instructional Support Team Training, Positive Behavior Support/Effective School-wide Discipline, Gifted Education, Self-Injury, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Inclusive Education, Cross-Battery Assessment between 2007-2012. 


Excerpt from a 2011 letter of recommendation from Jessica's internship supervisor (Steven Gallas, lead school psychologist for Williamsburg/James City Public Schools):

"Simply stated, [Jessica] is one of the finest interns I’ve supervised over the past thirty years at both the education specialist and doctoral level...She demonstrates great respect for the students she’s worked with and maintains the highest ethical standards...What impresses me most, however, is Jessica’s character. She is a person of integrity and conscience. There is a basic honesty that radiates from somewhere deep inside..." 

Watch Jessica pitch Blue Ridge Forest School during Charlottesville's Tom Tom Founders Festival Crowd-Funded Pitch Night 2018. Jessica was 1 of 10 local entrepreneurs chosen out of 60+ applicants:
First Video: Professional-quality snippet of Jessica's presentation--fast forward to 2:35
Second video: Lower-quality full presentation